"The NCHA promotes and celebrates the cutting horse, whose origin on Western ranches allows us to support ranching and its western heritage. By establishing rules for the conduct of cutting horse shows, NCHA strives to give cutters a level playing field and a progressive class structure, which accommodates everyone from the beginner to the advanced competitor. NCHA draws on the diverse talents and background of its members, and encourages their participation in helping it achieve these goals."
-- NCHA mission statement
In 1898 the first cutting contest was held in Haskell, Texas, with 11 horse/rider teams and 1,500 spectators. $150 in prize money went to team of Sam Graves and his 22-year-old horse, Hub.
In 1946 the National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) was formed by a group of 13 cowboys and ranchers who wanted to promote competition, standardize rules and preserve the cutting horses’ Western heritage. Then, the first NCHA cutting was held in September of 1946 in Dublin, Texas.
The rider selects one cow from the herd of 60, separates cow from the herd and prevents the cow from returning. The cow’s instinct is to return to the herd. Trained cutting horses are incredibly intelligent and instinctive athletes. The competition is judged based on difficulty and how well the horse anticipates and reacts. This is the only equine competition where the horse is required to think.
NCHA fans enjoy the sport of cutting across the globe in North and South America, Australia and Europe, with love of the Western lifestyle and horses in common.
NCHA is composed of more than 15,000 affluent, rural horsemen and women with large, close families, who lead a very active Western lifestyle focused on the cutting horse.
NCHA member demographics compare strongly with other equine sport groups associated with the luxury lifestyle, such as polo and thoroughbred racing.
There are more than 15,000 members of the NCHA that occupy 50 states and 20 countries.
Trainers originally were employed by ranchers and, over time, progressed into the professional trainers of today. Today, trainers have various backgrounds with one thing in common: love for the horse. Professional trainers develop intelligent, agile and athletic horses and are the experts in:
- Equine health care
- Cutting and training techniques
- Equine nutrition
Top earners in the NCHA have earned nearly 50% more than the top earning athletes in associations such as PRCA or PBR.
The heart and soul of the NCHA are our affiliates, who create the first impression with cutting horse fans. There are 103 Affiliates globally, producing over 1,300 weekend NCHA events annually and operate progressive competition classes so everyone has a level playing field. They have one-on-one relationships with prospective new members as well as current members and fans.
NCHA also has a youth division, which is designed to provide an engaging western lifestyle experience through two strategies: COMPETITION - Western sports competition opportunities: local, regional and national NCHA events. LIFE EXPERIENCE - Life experience foundation to include: leadership, social interaction, lifelong friendships, family, education, community involvement, sportsmanship and responsibility of caring for their horse. NCHA also offers $200,000 in scholarships each year while also recognizing the riders in a Youth Hall of Fame.
Events and Prizes
Over 1,300 NCHA events are held annually with over 130,000 entrants paying in excess of $36m in prize money. There are 20 National NCHA-produced events annually.
- $10,000,000+ in prize money
- 7,700+ entrants
- 30,000+ spectators
- Over 110 days of competition
- 10 sold-out spectator days
- In excess of $119,000,000 in local economic impact
Some of the people you may recognize in the cutting horse industry are Kix Brooks of the country duo “Brooks and Dunn”, Tanya Tucker, Pro Golfer Tom Watson, film producer, Charles Roven, Exxon Mobil’s Rex Tillerson, Nike’s Phil Knight, Walmart owner, Alice Walton and Pro Football Hall of Famer, Mel Blount.
We have Amateur and Non-pro classes. Amateurs must have eligibility earnings of $100,000 ($50,000 Weekend/$50,000 Limited Age) or less at the beginning of the point year. In addition there are several other criteria for Amateur status. An Amateur must not:
- have ridden or trained horses for remuneration
- have assisted in training horses or riders for remuneration within the last 10 years
- have been married to or lived with a professional trainer in the last 10 years
- have resided on the premises with a parent, step-parent or foster parent who was, while living there, a professional.
- be directly or indirectly employed by a professional trainer or work at a horse training operation
- have been an apprentice trainer at any time.
- see complete Amateur Rules
NCHA rules define a professional as anyone who has trained horses astride in any equine discipline for direct or indirect remuneration.
Non-professionals are those who have not received direct or indirect remuneration to show, train, or assist in training a cutting horse or cutting horse rider. Non-professionals may not train horses in any equine discipline. However, NCHA does not consider professional cutting horse trainers’ spouses or employees who do not teach cutting horse riders or train cutting horses on cattle to receive indirect remuneration. Those individuals can show as Non-Professionals.