The Illinois High School Rodeo is taking place Wednesday through Saturday at Altamont, but the cutting finals were in Shelby County on Wednesday at Syfert’s Arena in Clarksburg.
The high schoolers and their specially bred cutting horses took a few go-arounds. In the event, the horse and rider select and separate a calf out of a small group. The calf then tries to return to its herd; the rider loosens the reins (”puts his hand down” in the parlance) and leaves it entirely to the horse to keep the calf separated, a job the best horses do with relish, savvy, and style. A contestant has 2 ½ minutes to show the horse; typically three cows are cut during a run, although working only two cows is acceptable. A judge awards points to the cutter based on a scale that ranges from 60 to 80, with 70 being considered average.
Official scorers and winners of the cutting competition will be revealed this weekend at the rodeo in Altamont. There were eight finalists from all around the state of Illinois in the cutting finals.