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.