By Tara Vreeland, The News On 6
TULSA, OK -- The Breeder's Invitational Derby started Wednesday at Expo Square.
This is Tulsa's first year to host the world-class cutting horse event.
It's an elite sport that has evolved out of America's western heritage, a sport where the top athletes are 4 to 6 years old, and a sport where the coach literally hangs on for the ride and lets the athlete get to work.
"The cow is trying as hard as it can to get back to the herd and the horse prevents him from doing that," said Bob O'Bannon, executive director of Breeder's Invitational Derby.
Cutting is a competition originating from traditional cattle ranches where it was the cutting horse's job to separate cows from the herd for veterinary work and sorting.
The horse and rider are judged on their ability to separate a calf away from the herd.
"The characteristics of the horse to work a cow -- its athleticism, its intelligence and its style makes a good horse," said competitor Phil Rapp. "It is all based on the horse. It's the National Cutting Horse Association. But good riders can help enhance the horse."
Competitors have 2 1/2 minutes to cut two calves from the herd. Judges award the horse points ranging from 60 to 80 with 70 being an average score.
"Just like your athletes when you go watch a basketball, high school basketball team and there will be one or two athletes that stand out," Rapp said. "Well, that's the way our horses are, too."
Tulsa's location is ideal for the Breeder's Invitational. More than 1,000 horse and rider teams from across the country will compete for big money.
"We will pay out over $1.5 million in the next 11 days," O'Bannon said.
A piece of the purse that Rapp is likely to see. He's cutting's all-time earnings leader, winning more than $6 million.
"These riders that we have here and these horses are the best in the world actually at cutting," O'Bannon said.
The Breeder's Invitational runs 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. most days through May 23.
Jim Glover's daughter, Kristen, is the event's spokeswoman and will compete next week.