The Augusta Futurity is a cutting-horse show where horse and rider try to "cut" a cow out of a herd of cattle and prevent its return to the herd.
The rider has 2 1/2 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 each 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 highest score in the 22-year history of the Augusta Futurity is 227. Any score of 220 or above is considered exceptional. Last year's highest score was 222 by Sam Shepard and Deborah Kelley Bartlett.
Basically, a cutting-horse competition is a one-on-one battle between the horse and the cow that has been cut from the herd. Cows that fail to respect the horse run back to the herd, bringing the highest penalty from the judges (five points from each judge). It is said that a horse "lost a cow" when it fails to hold it.