Roping and cutting are both Western horse riding sports. Some aspects of the two events are alike; others are specific to one event or the other. For instance, each discipline has a different type of saddle. Roping riders need different saddle support than cutting riders do. Their respective saddles have distinct differences in design as well as in styling.
Cutting Versus Roping
Cutting is separating a single cow from a herd. Rider and horse serve as a team, but the horse does all but the holding on. The horse must anticipate and control the individual bovine's actions; the horse's instinct and athleticism are paramount. A cutting rider's saddle needs to promote agility and communication. Roping involves taking down an animal, so roping horses are bred to be muscular and sturdy to assist in bringing down a steer. A roping rider needs a saddle to support the stress of a live animal being dallied to the horn.
Cutting saddles are designed for agility and contact between the rider and horse. These specially designed saddles feature a long, flat seat with a low cantle and a slight rise just before a high pommel. It is normal for a cutting saddle to use rough-out leather on the sections of the saddle where the rider's legs go when the rider is in the seat, such as the fenders and the jockeys.
Roping saddles are built to take a lot of abuse. They feature a heavy-duty saddle tree and equally sturdy rigging. The cantle on a roping saddle may be high or low, but the pommel is almost always fairly high and the horn will be thick and sturdy. The seat of a roping saddle is shaped to help keep the rider in position and normally made out of suede to help give the rider extra traction when in the saddle.
The Importance of Having the Right Saddle
Going into an event without the right equipment to do the job is an automatic disadvantage for a rider. While both cutting and roping saddles are sturdy, each are specifically designed to provide an edge in the specific job. Some variation exists even within the saddle types. For example, some roping saddles have a much higher cantle than others. Learn what features serve you best as a rider before going saddle-shopping.
Jen Davis has been writing since 2004. She has served as a newspaper reporter and her freelance articles have appeared in magazines such as "Horses Incorporated," "The Paisley Pony" and "Alabama Living." Davis earned her Bachelor of Arts in communication with a concentration in journalism from Berry College in Rome, Ga.