ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – To the untrained eye, any event with horses and ranchers riding around an arena might seem like a rodeo, but horse cutting is anything but wild. This competition is more of an intricate dance for three partners chasing down one goal.

Dave Sheen, Veterinarian, is one of many competitors this years Abilene Winter Circuit Cutting competition. He shared what, or rather who, is involved in each round.

“A human and an animal that’s highly trained, and a cow that doesn’t have a clue what’s going on,” Sheen explained.

Coleta Rosson, event coordinator, shared what the goal is in a ranch cutting competition.

“The person riding the horse wants to cut one cow away from the herd. They have two and a half minutes to demonstrate their horses ability. Once they get a cow cut away, they’re not allowed to visibly cue the horse,” Rosson explained.

Rosson is the daughter of Pat and Caroline Gully, the couple that along with Junior and Carolyn Grey, started the ‘Abilene Winter Circuit’ and ‘Abilene Spectacular’ horse cutting competitions 41 years ago.

“The Gully’s who have run this thing for years really know how to do this,” Sheen expressed.

Sheen and his wife Stephanie have been competing in cutting competitions since the early 90s. He says it’s a time-honored tradition that he loves to take part in.

“It goes back to the old ranching days, before there were helicopters and four wheel drives and all of that stuff. It’s such a reflection of that old west lifestyle,” Sheen said.

This year has been different with entries down about ten percent, according to Rosson. She believes this is due to inflation that has affected most things in the ranching world from the cost of hay to diesel.

“Even when you win a substantial amount of money, it’s costing more to go down the road, so I do think people are picking and choosing a little more carefully on where they go,” Rosson shared.

But for folks like Rosson and the Sheens, money isn’t the only motivator. Their love of the sport comes before any cash prize.

“When you feel a horses confidence take over and you know they’re having fun. And they really are, it’s kind of extraordinary,” Sheen expressed.

The Abilene Winter Circuit wraps up on January 3. The second event, the Abilene Spectacular, will begin on January 5. Admission at the Taylor County Expo Center is free to all.