Cutting and Ranch Mule Use Rules

  1. Using/Ranch Mule(Rule 233)
  2. Obstacles(Rule 234)
  3. Course(Rule 235)
  4. Cutting(Rule 236)
  5. The Following Rules(Rule 237)
  6. Some Points On Showing and Judging the Cutting Mule(Rule 238)
  7. Method of Conducting a Contest(Rule 239)

233. Using/Ranch Mule – Bridled, Green, and Donkey

  1. Using mule class shows the versatility of the mule in everyday ranch type work. Showing sensible, well-mannered, free and easy moving ranch mule that can manage a number of ranch type chores (working gate, cattle, over obstacles, etc.).

234. Obstacles – may include gate, bridge, trailer, catch pen, slicker, cattle, side pass pole, sack of cans, jump not to exceed 2 feet high, leading a pack animal, saddling or bridling, or any other obstacles listed in western trail class.

  1. Optional obstacles – Lead a pack mule, obstacles listed in the western trail.
  2. Judged on response to the rider, manners, and intelligence.
  3. Bridled mules to be shown in regulation bit. Green mules in a regulation snaffle or bosal.

235. Course – The following is a suggested course only and may be adjusted depending on what obstacles are used. The rider has 5 minutes to complete the course. Course will consist of gate, holding pen, bridge, slicker, jump not to exceed 2 feet in height, stock trailer, side pass pole, sack of cans and cattle.

  1. Time starts – The time will start when rider crosses the start line. Go to gate and work, then proceed to catch pen, unsaddle and unbridle your animal, go to fence to show that animal is loose. Return to animal, saddle and bridle and mount and go to the cattle, pull one out of the herd and move it past the barrel and return it to the herd. Ride to the trailer, dismount, load the animal and unload. Mount on the opposite side from which you dismounted. Ride over the bridge, go to the side pass, side pass to slicker put over shoulders to show that animal will tolerate and return it to fence, side pass back, go to cans and shake the sack and return to barrel, then go over jump. Lope a figure eight, changing leads in the center. Time ends when you cross finish line.
  2. Scoring – Each obstacle is scored; deductions taken for faults. Rider with the most points in 5 minutes is the winner. Time will be tie breaker when points are tied.

236. Cutting – Bridled and Green.

  1. Mules must be shown in approved bit.
    1. Free hand may hold horn in cutting only.
    2. Bridled mules to be shown in one hand only.
    3. Green mules must use approved snaffles or bosal, but may show one hand or two handed in Cutting or Roping ONLY.
  2. The AMA has, with permission, adopted the rules of the NCHA. (National Cutting Horse Association)
  3. Rules that follow are from the NCHA rulebook, sections of “Judging Cutting Horse Contests”, “Some Points of Showing and Judging the Cutting Horse” and “Suggestions for Show Management – II Methods of Conducting Contests”.
  4. For further understanding, the “Judging Casebook” in the NCHA rulebook is helpful on clarification of rules. NCHA rulebook may be obtained by going here.

237. The Following Rules for CUTTING have been altered only to pertain to mules and the AMA. Specific rules referring only to the NCHA or its specific penalties and fines have been omitted.

  1. Rules for judging cutting mule contests.
    1. Each mule is required to enter the herd sufficiently deep enough to show his ability to make a cut. Failure to satisfy this requirement will result in a 3 point penalty.
      1. A mule will be given credit for his ability to enter the herd quietly with very little disturbance to the herd or to the one brought out.
    2. When an animal is cut from the herd, it is more desirable that it be taken toward the center of the arena, and credit will be given for the same.
    3. Credit will be given for riding with a loose rein throughout the performance.
    4. Credit will be given for setting a cow and holding it in a working position as near the center of the arena as possible.
    5. If the cutting mule or his rider creates a disturbance at any time throughout his working period, he will be penalized: into the herd, scatters the herd while working or picks up cattle through fault of the mule, he will be penalized three (3) points.
      1. The judge shall stop any work because of training or abuse of his mule by the contestant or disturbance of the cattle.
    6. A mule will be penalized three (3) points each time the back fence actually stops or turns the animal being worked within one step (three feet) of the fence. The back fence to be agreed on and designated by the judge(s) before the contest starts; meaning the actual fence only, no imaginary line from point to point to be considered. If any of the contestants voice an objection before the contest starts, the judge shall take a vote of the contestants, and a “back fence” acceptable to the majority shall be designated and used.
    7. If a mule turns the wrong way with tail toward animal being worked, an automatic score of sixty (60) points will be given.
    8. While working, a mule will be penalized one (1) point each time the reins are used to control or direct (to rein) the mule, regardless of whether the reins are held high or low. A one (1) point penalty shall also be charged whenever a mule is visibly cued in any manner. If the reins are tight enough that the bit is bumped at anytime, he shall be penalized one (1) point each time even though the hand of the rider does not move.
      1. A mule must be released as soon as the desired animal is clear of the other cattle. Additional reining, cueing or positioning will result in a one (1) point penalty for each occurrence.
      2. The rider shall hold the bridle reins in one hand (except green mules may use two). A three (3) point penalty shall be charged if the second hand touches the reins for any purpose except to straighten them.
      3. Spurring behind the shoulder shall not be considered a visible cue. A three (3) point penalty shall be assessed each time a mule is spurred in the shoulder.
      4. A toe, foot, or stirrup on the mule’s shoulder is considered a visible cue. A one (1) point penalty will be charged for each occurrence.
    9. If mule lets an animal that he is working get back to the herd, he will be penalized five (5) points.
    10. If a rider changes cattle after visibly committing to a specific cow a five (5) point penalty will be assessed.
    11. When a mule goes past an animal to the degree he loses his working advantage, he will be penalized one (1) point each time he does so.
    12. Unnecessary roughness, such as a mule actually pawing, biting or kicking cattle, will be penalized three (3) points.
    13. A contestant may quit an animal when it is obviously stopped, obviously turned away or is obviously behind the turnback helpers and the turnback helpers are behind the time line. A penalty of three (3) points must be charged if the animal is quit under any other circumstances.
    14. If the mule quits a cow, a penalty of five (5) points will be assessed.
    15. If a mule clears the herd with two or more cattle and fails to separate a single animal before quitting, a five (5) point penalty will be charged. There is no penalty if time expires.
    16. Mules must be ridden with a bridle having a bit in the mouth, or for green mules, with a bosal hackamore or snaffle. Bridle shall have no nose band. A judge must be able to freely pass two fingers between the bosal and muzzle, completely around the mule’s nose. Choke ropes, tiedowns, or wire around the mule’s neck, nose, or brow band, tight nose band, quirt, bat or mechanical device giving the rider undue control over the mule will not be permitted in the arena. Wire of any kind and on any part of the curb device is not permissible. Chaps and spurs may be worn. Any time a contestant is guilty of an infraction of this rule or any part therein, he shall be disqualified. A judge has the right to have a contestant report to him if he is suspicious of any infraction of Rule 237.A.16 above.
      1. All mules must comply with Rule 237.A.16 above, while in arena.
      2. Any person in the arena after the start of the cutting must wear appropriate attire.
      3. Rule 237.A.16 shall become effective one hour prior to published start time of champion and jackpot cuttings.
      4. Rule 237.A.16 may be set aside by show management for an official practice session provided that the practice session ends at least one hour prior to the start of any contest.
      5. Contestants are limited to maximum of four (4) helpers.
      6. If a violation of Rule 237.A.16 is witnessed, it should be reported to the AMA Show Representative.
      7. Violations of Rule 237.A.16 shall cause disqualification.
    17. When a contestant is thrown from a mule or mule falls to ground, an automatic score of sixty (60) points will be given.
    18. Any rider who allows his mule to quit working or leave the working area before his allotted time is up will be disqualified for that go around with no score.
    19. A contestant will be awarded a complete rework if, in the judge’s opinion, two and one-half (2 1/2) minutes time was not allotted for the work or if excessive disturbances had been created by factors other than those caused by the contestants or their helpers and the judge has stopped the time. Such factors would include, but not limited to: gates coming open, fences falling down and objects interfering or falling into the working portion of the arena, but would not apply to cattle scattering through wildness or normal arena activities. Any rework must take place within the group of cattle drawn by the contestant and must occur before a change of cattle is executed. At the contestant’s option, the rework may occur immediately or as the last work in that set of cattle. No rework shall be granted if the contestant involved has incurred a three (3) or five (5) point (major) penalty prior to a disturbance. After the cutter has completed his 2 1/2 minutes work, if in his/her opinion a situation has occurred of sufficient seriousness so as to warrant a re-run, he may immediately make a request for the same to the show representative or other designated official who shall report this fact to show management before the next mule is called to work. Show management shall make such facts as are available to the judge (s) and if they are unanimous in agreement that due cause did exist, a rerun may be granted provided the original work was free of a three (3) or five (5) point (major) infraction.
    20. A judge marks from sixty (60) to eighty (80) points. One-half (1/2) points are permissible. A zero (0) score shall not place.
    21. When the judge is in doubt about a penalty the benefit always goes to the contestant.

238. Some Points On Showing and Judging the Cutting Mule

  1. The following questions and answers are included as an aid to clearer understanding of the rules for judging cutting mules.
  2. The opinions expressed are based on surveys and judging clinics conducted by the NCHA and have their endorsement.
    1. What is the desired number of cattle to work? Not over three of fresh cattle in the 2 1/2 minute time limit. If a cutter can do as much on two head as another can do on three, the cutter with two head should have a higher score because he has not spent as much time in the herd.
    2. Approaching the herd. Mule should never be set down hard approaching the herd. Walking or trotting to the herd is acceptable, providing the mule is taken up very easily before getting close enough to disturb the cattle. The mule should display no hesitation, weaving or reluctance to approach and enter the herd.
    3. Entering and working the herd. The true cutting mule enters the herd with ease, concentrating on the job to be done; not looking over the back fence or biting; alert, but quiet, making no unnecessary movements that might disturb the cattle. Specific points on herd work are:
      1. The mule should go deep enough into the herd to show his ability to get a cow out.
      2. It is all right to enter the middle of the herd on either side and go to the middle or back side to get the one wanted.
      3. It is all right to go behind the herd and bring out the one wanted.
    4. When should a mule be turned loose? A rider entering the herd may have a light rein contact with the mule, and maintain this contact while he is in the herd and while he is in the process of cutting the animal free from the remaining cattle. When the animal has been cut, he should let his mule alone, and the mule should be given enough slack so that it would be obvious to the judge that the mule was on his own.
    5. Bringing the cow from the herd. The cutting mule should stay a reasonable distance from the cow if possible, showing a great deal of expression but no illness toward the animal being cut. Illness is defined as biting, trying to bite, pawing, kicking or charging. Facial expression and ear position should not be considered as a sign of illness. He should be on his toes, making counter movements to the cow regardless of the distance separating them. The mule should not rush or push cattle excessively in bringing one from the herd unless the cow turns around and tries to get back at the edge of the herd. The mule should bring a cow a sufficient distance from the herd toward the center of the arena, so the herd will not be disturbed while working, and set the cow up.
    6. When is the cow set up (in working position)? The cow should be in the middle of the arena or as near this point as possible with the mule making movements to counteract movements of the cow. This does not mean that the mule should be moving while the cow is standing still. When the cow moves, the mule should make a faster move so that he will hold the cow, not only from returning to the herd but also from going from side to side (wall to wall), without excessive help from his turnback riders.
    7. When is the mule out of position? The loss of working advantage (being out of position) is not determined by the distance that a mule goes by a cow; it is determined by the response of the mule to the action of the cow. A mule should have no difficulty maintaining working advantage over a slow moving cow. The mule which can maintain working advantage over a cow which presents a severe challenge shall receive credit. No penalty should be charged the mule which immediately regains position after going sufficiently past a cow to cause it to turn.
    8. Picking up cattle. No penalty shall be assessed for cattle that leave the herd so long as it is not caused by the contesting mule.
    9. What is not a satisfactory way of quitting a cow? A contestant may quit an animal when it is obviously stopped, obviously turned away, or is obviously behind the turnback helpers and the turnback helpers are behind the time line. A penalty of three (3) points must be charged if the animal is quit under any other circumstances.
    10. The duty of the herd holders. A herd holder’s duty is to assist the cutter in containing the herd and group of cattle the cutter is trying to cut from. This gives the cutter ample opportunity to demonstrate to the judges his ability to work the herd, drive a cow, and set a cow up in the middle of the pen. These conditions allow a judge to give credit to the cutter under the Rules 237.A.1, 2, and 4. After assisting the cutter in making a cut, the herd holder should move to a position toward the arena wall that will enable him to contain the herd, but not distract from the run. Any excessive noise or action by the herd holder will be considered unsportsmanlike conduct. Although there is no penalty for this action, it does hinder the cutter’s mule from showing his full potential.

239. Method of Conducting a Contest

  1. Show management should take the following into consideration when holding a cutting competition:
    1. The cattle should be held in one end of the arena by two riders who do not let any cattle pass them until the contestant has the animal he wants to work cut off by itself. After this animal has been driven past the riders holding the herd, it will have to be turned back so the contestant will have a chance to show the mule’s ability to keep it from returning to the herd. The turning back is usually done by two riders selected by the contestant.
    2. Usually cattle on the yearling or two-year old order give a mule enough play to put on a good show. Selecting cattle that will work is important. No mule, regardless of how good he may be, can put on a good performance unless the animal he cuts out tries to get back in the herd.
    3. The number of cattle needed for a contest depends on the number of mules entered and the number of go-rounds to be worked. The minimum number of cattle recommended by NCHA for any approved contest is at least two and one half head of stock per mule per go-round should be provided. In a one go-round contest with ten (10) mules, twenty five (25) cattle would be needed. Before the draw is made for working order, the number of mules to work in each group of cattle should be determined with a maximum of fifteen (15) recommended. The cattle should then be separated in direct proportion to the number of mules to be worked. (i.e. 12 mules, 30 cattle minimum; 15 mules, 37 cattle minimum) Where finals are held, additional cattle should be provided in the same ratio.
    4. Whenever possible, show management is urged to provide a means of announcing the score for each mule immediately after its’ work.
    5. The judge may be provided a stand outside the arena for large contests. Or the judge can be mounted on horseback or in a pickup to assure them a good view.
    6. It is very important to be ready when putting on a cutting contest. Get in the arena, put on the cutting and get out as quickly as possible. Have every detail worked out beforehand, and be sure everyone concerned knows what he is supposed to do. Never wait until you are in the arena to decide how something should be done.
    7. Have the cattle ready and enough men there to push them into the arena. Be sure contestants, their helpers and the judges are ready.