Riders have 2½ minutes in each ride to show the ability of the horse to control a cow once the cow is cut. At least two cows must be cut at different times during the ride. Some riders cut three.
Five judges rank a ride on a scale between 60 and 80 points, with half-points being allowed. The final score is reached by dropping the high and low scores and taking the total of the remaining three scores. The highest possible score is 240.
The rider guides the horse to prevent the cow from returning to the herd. Cows that return to the herd bring the highest penalty from the judges (five-point deduction from each judge). It is said a horse “lost a cow” when it fails to hold it.
The highest score in the 33-year history of the Augusta Futurity is 231, set by Phil Rapp and Dont Look Twice in the 2012 Mercuria Open finals. The pair eclipsed the previous high mark set by Chiquita Pistol and Tag Rice in the 2003 Futurity Open finals – 230.5. Any score above 220 is considered exceptional.