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Cutting Horse Training News

Get Your Barn Humming – Work Flow Tips For 2019

January 14th, 2019 by Nevada Huffman


Duncan interviewing Kellee

 Does every step you take around the barn have purpose? Do you have an efficient work flow? Does your staff know what they should be doing at any time of the day? Do you have a maintenance schedule, a vet schedule, an organized work space? Do things get put back after use? These are simple questions that can have a huge impact on how efficient your day to day operation is! 

We recently visited Slate River Ranch in Weatherford, Texas. Slate River is one of the most recognized cutting operations in our industry. Barn manager 

Kellee Clarke has been with Slate River for 9 years. She walked us through her routines that help keep everything organized and everyone on track. 

Staying Organized & Keeping Everyone On Track: 

One of her key tools was the use of whiteboards. “I love whiteboards. You write everything on whiteboard and everybody can go check the whiteboard and see what’s coming up for the day,” Kellee stated. 

The key to a successful day actually starts the night before at Slate River. Kellee updates the whiteboards and plans out the following day. Everyone knows when walking in that morning exactly which horse is going to be exercised, what vet care it needs if any and what else needs to be done with each horse for that day. 

Kellee also lists the working order for the day set by trainer John Mitchell so the staff can anticipate when he needs the right horse, tack and whatever else he needs. 

“We try to eliminate all the miscommunications that can happen when you have a lot of people in a barn,” Kellee explained. 

Kellee showing her routine and whiteboards.

A good tip Kellee mentioned was numbering the saddle racks when new employees join the team. She places a corresponding number next to the horse’s name on the whiteboard so that they know exactly which saddle goes on each horse. 

Another whiteboard is placed out by the arena. There Kellee lists each horse and the date that the farrier last worked on them, to keep everyone on the same page. She also keeps an up to date walker list for their Sunday routines and turn out schedule for whoever is in charge that Sunday. Every time a horse is placed on the walker, their name is written on the board, followed by the time to keep a precise walker schedule for each horse.

 Feeding Routines & Nutrition: 

“Our horses as we know, are in a hard training 

program. So they are athletes, and we treat them as such,” Kellee said. 

Slate River has used the same feed for 7 years. “We’ve recently changed supplements, which I think are very important,” Kellee said. 

Their supplements are all pretty standard. Each horse receives the same supplement regimen, unless they have a particular issue that needs to be addressed. If a horse is receiving a special supplement, Kellee usually places that supplement directly in front of the stall. 

The feed bin is refilled everyday to ensure that the feed isn’t sitting out in the open for too long. Within that feed bin is a measuring cup for each supplement so that every horse receives the exact amount needed without any variation. They use a long stick-like tool to mix up the feed and supplements evenly to ensure that the horse is receiving an even mixture, rather than having the supplements fall to the bottom of their bucket and not being consumed. 

Kellee uses the stall card method to document each horse’s nutritional needs. She personally goes through and determines each horse’s ration to ensure they are getting what they need. That ration is placed on the stall card on the front of the horse’s stall for everyone to see and know what to feed each horse. 

Keeping An Organized Vet Room: 

Kellee said, “I try to keep this as organized as possible so that anyone can walk in and find what they need.”

Kellee showing Duncan around the vet room


“In certain situations you need to be able to come to the medicine cabinet and [say to yourself] I need this right now,” Kellee explained. Kellee organizes most things in drawers and labels the front of them so that anyone can go straight to what they need, or return something where it needs to go. 

One important thing she practices is safe needle usage. Kellee never uses the same needle that she draws the medicine up with, to administer to the horse. “Needles are one of the most important things,” Kellee said. She uses a larger needle to draw the medicine into the syringe, disposes of it, and places a new, smaller needle on the syringe to administer the medicine. “This keeps from using a blunt needle. No horse likes this process so I try to keep it as easy and painless as possible,” Kellee said. 

Gloves are also a really important thing to keep in stock in your vet room. A lot of the drugs and treatments used are not good to get on your skin. Kellee highly recommends keeping gloves in bulk supply and easy to find and access. 

Another whiteboard is used to keep up with the doctoring routine in the Slate River barns. On this board is also the worming schedule. Kellee keeps this so that anyone can come to the board and see which horse needs to be doctored and taken care of. 

For more amazing tips and insight to a high-functioning busy cutting program like Slate River Ranch, watch the full video with Kellee under the general video category or Outside The Arena category at 

Climbing To The Top – Kody Porterfield

December 18th, 2018 by Nevada Huffman

Kody during his winning run at the Futurity. Photo Credit: Quarter Horse News

He’s a gentle giant making a name for himself in the hallowed Will Rogers Coliseum! Kody Porterfield won his second Limited Open Futurity title in Fort Worth when he rode Cat Gethr and marked a 223.

“It feels great. It feels real good,” he said humbly.

It’s been a big year for trainer Kody Porterfield. He notched up a win in the PCCHA Intermediate Open Classic Challenge, purchased his own training facility near Weatherford TX and of course capped off the year with his Limited Futurity buckle. He also made the Open Futurity Semi Finals on the same horse.

Kody won his first Limited Futurity title in 2015 aboard This Isa Third with a 222. To put Kody’s success into perspective, he more than doubled his earnings with his first win in the Will Rogers three years ago taking home almost $17,000. Since then, the 29 year old trainer has earned approximately $265,000.

He said his training and showing has come a long way in that time. “Definitely getting to show more and have more under my belt since then, so I have a little more confidence under my belt going down there. When I first won it I hadn’t showed very much. We actually watched the video not very long ago and it was two totally different runs. It’s still hard to go down there and show but doing it more now helped, having more experience helps,” he said.

Kody said he always felt good about his mare Cat Gethr despite some challenges times with her training. The mare is owned by Jack and Diane Jackman. “She’s always felt smart about a cow to me and maybe not the easiest to train but always no matter what went back to the cow, so I’ve always liked that about her,” Kody said.

Kody said the most important thing about training a futurity horse is building their confidence to be able to handle the pressure of competition. “I think you have to have those horses confident and trained enough to where they can get through the hard situations in there.”

He said he’s also learned to be strategic. “Just try to advance and try to have as less a penalties as you can have throughout each go round.”

Kody reflected on the difference purchasing his own training facility has made to his program. He and his wife Cheyenne bought John Mitchell’s ranch west of Weatherford, TX earlier this year. “There’s a lot of pressure, you know we have to make the payments and keep it running so we have to win and do good but also the sense of waking up and know that we don’t have to leave and the comfort of that has been by far the most unbelievable thing that I’ve felt. I can do anything I want so that helps,” he said.

Kody said owning his place has also encouraged more owners to send him horses. “Here we can grow to the number [of horses] that I want to be at, you know. So that does help. And it gives our owners more of a mind frame of stability that they know I’m going to be there and I’m not going anywhere,” he added. Kody’s cutting tourney began in 2006 when Georgia Welch put him on his first cutter. “I didn’t even know what it was. We got together for the All-Around High School Rodeos and I was very competitive in the other events and I had a buddy that cut…we pretty much moved out to Buster Welch’s with Dawson Burns his grandson and just loved it.”

In 2011, he moved to North Texas and began working for Cory Pounds and then Tarin Rice before going out on his own.

Kody said while his goal is win any of the major Triple crown titles, he is inspired be in the company of such great trainers he looks up to as great people as well. “Of course winning, but at the same time we all love horses and if I think If I could grow up to be like them and have that reputation of being a winner and also just a great person would be the top of my list,” Kody said.

Member Spotlight – Justin Cox

December 18th, 2018 by Nevada Huffman

Justin Cox

Justin is a Utah native. Horses haven’t always been apart of his life.

A friendly neighbor got him “hooked on a cow.” For the last three years Cutting has been a part of Justin’s life.

This past year has been especially exciting for Justin. He was awarded the Rookie of the year award in Montana. He was also the end of the year $2,000 limited rider Champion in Utah.

He credits a horse that he bought at the beginning of this year named Rocky. He has gotten him to where he’s at in his career today.

Why Justin Uses CHTO: “I can always go home after a live lesson and research tips I was given. I don’t have to ask questions, I feel like I can always find the answers on here.”

In The Judge’s Seat – Grooming The Next Generation

December 18th, 2018 by Nevada Huffman

Judging Contestants Judge a Live Class – Photo Credit: NCHA

While most cutters were focused on the exciting horseversus- cow action in the Will Rogers Coliseum at the Futurity, the NCHA was also working to hone the skills and knowledge of the next generation of judges and competitors at the annual Judging Contest. This is the third year that the NCHA has hosted this contest, but the first year that the organization opened it up to more than just collegiate teams, with many high school students also competing. Colleges, FFA teams, and 4-H teams traveled from all over the US to show off their judging prowess. Each judging contestant is required to complete a rule book test, a penalty clip test, and score two sets of 10 cutting runs.

The top 10 individuals in each division were placed in a designated area and allowed to judge one day of the World Finals. They scored them just as a regular judge would, and were awarded points based on how close they were to the official scores given by the actual judges.

Prior to the contest, Beth Hughes, NCHA Marketing Specialist, spoke with Russell McCord, Director of Judges for the NCHA. He said, “This event will not only provide a more in-depth educational aspect of cutting horse events, it will help the younger generation of equine enthusiasts understand how to recognize a well-rounded performance in the arena, as well as outside of one.”

Hughes included in an NCHA blog post: “It is the goal of the NCHA that, by making these judging competitions available, to make this event an investment in younger generations so they may be able to, one day, thrive from this experience and gain more knowledge of their own abilities as well as those from their equine counterparts. The future of the NCHA fully rests in the hands of those who will take on the legacies that will be left behind.”

Contestants Being Welcomed -Photo Credit: NCHA

Nancy Crawford-Hall, owner of Holy Cow Performance Horses is the sponsor of this event. She welcomed the judging contestants by stating, “I am proud to be able to support the future of our industry and this contest. Knowing that some of you will be judging one of my horses one day is a wonderful feeling.”

This year there were ten colleges that came to compete, bringing 60 individuals. Josh Briggs who is a freshman North Central Texas College (NCTC) was this year’s Champion Individual at the collegiate level.

Josh said he wasn’t originally a member of the NCTC Horse Judging team, “I started practicing with them because of my interest in the NCHA Judging Contest and wanting to compete there with the team.”

A few of his teammates had competed in this contest in the previous year, but were mostly unfamiliar with scoring a cutting horse.

Briggs explained that leading up to the contest, he and the team met with judges to prepare and became educated on how to properly score a cutting run.

His coach also talked them through cutting videos in preparation.

“When we worked with the judges prior to the contest, we were getting a lot of information given to us. It got a little confusing. Russell did a really good job of smoothing things out and clarifying things for us at the clinic, and had us pretty confident going through the [judging] videos.

Because of the college’s close proximity to Fort Worth, the team was driving back and forth to the competition. They were under the impression that if they made the Top 10 and needed to come back the next day to judge the live class, they would be notified in early afternoon.

“We were already home and it was pretty late in the evening,” Briggs said. “My coach hadn’t heard anything so we didn’t think that we had done any good. Around 7:30 that night my coach called me and let me know that we had made the Top 10. It was really exciting!”

“The live judging was really hard for me. It was the Novice class and all the riders were solid and knew what they were doing, but the horses were kind of average. There weren’t any bad runs but there was nothing spectacular, so all the scores were really tight,” Briggs explained.

Briggs After Being Crowned Champion Judger – Photo Credit: NCTC

He was given the opportunity to sit in the arena and judge the Open World Finals, as well as the Non-Pro World Finals right along side of the NCHA official judges.

When asked to describe it, Briggs said, “Oh that was amazing, for the view more than anything! Getting to sit down there and watch those great horses go was a lot of fun. There were some pretty great runs, especially Hashtags. That was a great run to get to watch from down there.”

“My team really enjoyed the experience and getting to get to come down and watch all of the cutting. I would tell anyone to come to this contest. It is great!” Briggs explained.

Briggs was awarded a $750 Scholarship for receiving the highest individual score in the collegiate division. His team finished 4th overall. Due to NCHA rules, judging champions are not allowed to return to compete in the contest.

Hauling A Horse? The Mandate That May Require You To Get A Commercial Drivers License!

May 16th, 2018 by Simone Cobb

You thought you were involved in the horse industry? It seems the Federal Government may actually define you as a commercial truck driver.

According to the Commercial Drivers License law written in 1986, anyone driving a vehicle weighing 26,001 pounds and above is required to carry a CDL whether it’s for recreational or agricultural purposes. So you might have to go sit for your commercial license test just to haul your horses to a show!

Protect The Harvest Representative, Shawn Burtenshaw

Shawn Burtenshaw, a Representative for Protect the Harvest, explains how the CDL law requirements plus a 2012 Electronic Logging Device (ELD) Mandate could affect how you travel, but is here to educate and help you!

“The law that was implemented [in 2012], which would be referred to as the ‘ELD Mandate,’ is an electronic device put in your vehicle to monitor your drive times between point A and point B and throughout the day,” Burtenshaw said. “So if you’re in a pickup and horse trailer traveling, hauling horses to shows it’s your business… it puts you as a commercial driver to where you’d have to have an electronic logging device in your pickup to haul your horses to shows.”

SO not only would you be required to carry a commercial drivers license, but you would also be required to log your trips and abide by ELD rules. However, advancements in vehicles and the hauling industry have changed vastly since these were written, creating a few complicated issues.

“The problem is this law was written in 1986, when a one-ton pickup was 8600 pounds,” Burtenshaw said. “It was never intended to umbrella over pickups and trailers but today when this is enforced through, the ELD really brought attention to these weights because the law is still at 26,001 pounds; which in 1986 was a Class 7 truck, today it’s a pickup. Gross vehicle weight ratings since 1986 to 2018 have increased 60% but the law stayed the same so that’s where people get caught in it with a pickup and horse truck.”

Adding to the complexity are states that have different regulations and classifications of a CDL, where in some states it’s a simple process, while in others it is extremely difficult.

“We’d like to see that not happen because these people are not commercial drivers, they’re horse trainers, they’re rodeo cowboys, they’re ranchers, they’re farmers, they’re not a commercial driver,” Burtenshaw said. “So why should they need to go get a CDL and be monitored the same as a over-the-road truck driver when they’re just driving their horse to a horse show?”

Another issue that will place an onerous burden on drivers is the tracking and monitoring that o

Electronic Logging Devices (above) required for commercial drivers to log all stops and track drive times, and requires breaks after certain amounts of driving.

ccurs with the electronic logging device.

“It is extreme inconvenience,” Burtenshaw said. “It becomes a personal issue of privacy to tell you the truth, I don’t want to be monitored how fast I’m going, where I’ve stopped, how long I’ve stopped. I don’t want to be told when I need to stop and use the restroom, I don’t need to be told when I need to stop and eat, I don’t need to be told when I stop and sleep. The hours of service that you have to comply by when you have an electronic logging device in your pickup and you have live animals on your trailer, you can’t stop for ten hours consecutively, you have to keep going.”

From December of 2017, there is a 12-month exemption to the rule for agriculture when live animals are being transported.

“So that means that hopefully within the coming year that maybe different hours of service can be written,” Burtenshaw said. “These laws need review because it’s not 1986 anymore. The biggest thing I’m trying to do right now at Protect The Harvest are get people engaged and get them educated to where they’re going to fall in this mandate or these CDL requirements, what classifies them as a commercial motor vehicle.”

On the Protect The Harvest website it also states that a “Not For Hire” sign on your rig will not protect you if it is determined that your truck and trailer fit into the commercial category or are being used for commercial purposes. Nor will it protect you if you are driving a vehicle and trailer that requires a commercial license. The law also affects young drivers and will put the brakes on anyone under 18 hauling a horse or anyone under 21 crossing state lines to go a rodeo or show.

“To be intrastate (within your state) you have to be 18 years-old to get a commercial drivers license and to go interstate (to cross state lines) you have to be 21 years old. 87% of the college rodeo kids are under the age of 21 and every college rodeo around the United States kids have to cross across state lines,” he said.

If the mandate alarms you, Burtneshaw said go to and read the highlighted version of the 200 page mandate, which has been narrowed down to the key points. Another suggestion is to spread the word and lobby your local representatives.

“Call your congressman, get a hold of your senator, get everybody in government whose connected to you, because those government officials work for you,” Burtenshaw said. “Let them know where you stand on these issues, let them know that these need review. The more people who write their letters, call their representatives, make some noise about it to get this changed.”

“It’s laws like this that keep restricting our industry. Usually it happens and nobody knew about this..well we’re gonna tell you right now it’s happening,” Burtenshaw said. “Please take action, get involved, become engaged, voice your opinion, and help us move forward with getting this rewritten.”

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