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NCHA Tunica Futurity and Classic
The encouraging calls from fellow competitors echoed throughout the Paul Battle Expo Center in Tunica, MS as each horse and rider locked onto their calf and went to work at the 19th Annual National Cutting Horse Association Tunica Futurity and Classic. Presented by Sam's Town Hotel and Casino, the event ran from January 28th through March 4th and boasted $162,000.00 to be won. Divided into classes designated for Amateurs, Non-Professional and Open Riders, the futurity featured horses aged four through six years old that have won no money prior to the NCHA World Championship Futurity held at the end of each year in Ft. Worth, Texas.
The Cutting Horse sport is one that originated on cattle ranches in the American West. According to former competitor, Nancy Clayton of Weatherford, TX, it was the horse's job to cut the calf out of the herd that needed to be branded. The practice of this chore eventually evolved into its own sport with the foundation of the National Cutting Horse Association in 1946. Although the sport is dominated by the American Quarter Horse, the most important qualities in a prospective cutter, according to Clayton, is that the horse is naturally “cowy” with big stops.
Each division began with a new herd of cattle being brought in. The herd would then be settled, with horses and riders moving them all around so as to get them used to being cut out and worked. Competitors only have 2 minutes and 30 seconds to show a panel of judges what they and their horse can do; therefore, they strive to make every one of those seconds count. While the herd is being settled, riders can be found watching intently other competitors who go before them, often making notes, determining which calves they think would work the best with their horse. A minimum of two calves must be cut during each run, but as many as three may be cut if time allows. According to Clayton, the ultimate goal is for the horse to match each of the calves moves so as to create a “mirror image” of one another. This is where the “cowy” nature of the horse comes into play. Although the rider may use his or her reins while initially cutting their calf from the herd, once their selected calf is cut out, they are no longer allowed to move their hands, relying solely on leg cues and the horse's natural ability.
Although there were many different classes, here are the big winners in each of the main divisions. In the 4 Year Old Open Finals, Travelin Smooth, owned by Karen and Brian Murray of Mission Hills, KS and ridden by Michael Cooper took home the purse with a score of 224. In the 5/6 Year Old Open Finals, the top spot was taken by Cat Mom Do, owned by Reata Cutting Horses, LLC of Los Olivios, CA and ridden by Matt Gaines with a score of 225. GS Counting on Kitty, owned and ridden by Kelsey Weeks of Cotulla, TX dominated the 4 Year Old Non-Pro Finals scoring 222, while Woodys Wildest Cat, owned and ridden by Mandy R. Chisum of Atascadero, CA, also scored 222 to win the 5/6 Year Old Non-Pro Finals. The Amateur Finals rounded out the Classic with Ichin to Dance, owned by Terry and Catherine Pigg of Collinsville, AL and ridden by Aubrey Pigg, winning the 4 Year Old Amateur Finals with a 216, and A Cat be Nimble, owned and ridden by Mandy R. Chisum of Atascadero, CA, taking top place in the 5/6 Year Old Amateur Finals with a 222. The full schedule of events and results can be found at www.nchadella.com/tunica/schedule.htm.
Born out of necessity for a working cattle farmer, the Cutting Horse sport has become an exciting and beautiful demonstration of a horse's natural ability. For more information on the NCHA and its upcoming sanctioned events, visit www. nchacutting.com.
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