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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 

Member Spotlight: Julie Clarke

January 14th, 2019 by Nevada Huffman


Julie Clarke

Julie Clarke is the owner of Clarke Butte Ranch of Bend, Oregon. She has always had a passion for horses, which is what she claims to be the foundation for her breedingsuccess at Clark Butte Ranch. 

Julie reitred from a corperate career and found her fascination with the cutting discipline. She was trained by NCHA Hall of Fame Member Phil Hanson Jr., who was also the trainer to some of her most succesfull horses that stand at Clarke Butte Ranch. Little Silver Belles with an LTE of $200,431.68 was one of those, along with Pounce who has an LTE of $217,585.59. 

She continues to show cutting horses in the non pro division and trains with Morgan Cromer and Eric Wisenhart. 

 Why Julie likes CHTO: “CHTO is a great, quick resource to find training and showing tips from respected professionals in our industry who have similar but different points of views. It’s my go to gift for fellow cutters!

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.

Man On Fire – Clay Volmer

November 19th, 2018 by Nevada Huffman

After just four years of competing in the Snaffle Bit Futurity, Clay Volmer sent the crowd wild with his scorching fence run that saw him take out the 2018 Intermediate Championship at the Will Rogers, Fort Worth on SDP HY Rey Bound.

“I had told people for months, if I get into the finals, it’s going to look like my hair is going to be on fire because we are going to go fast,” he said.

Clay Volmer

“I knew it was good when I got done. It was one of those deals when you’re in the moment and you’re going as fast as you can possibly go and be as accurate as you can possibly be. It was fun and being in the Will Rogers where everybody was just screaming. After the first turn I couldn’t hear anything, it was so loud,” he said reliving the moment.

Clay, who has spent most of his career training cutters, made the transition to working cow horses after a family member asked him to train a horse for that event in 2015.

“It was a big learning curve for me coming straight from cutting. It was real hard but she was a nice horse,” said Clay. With help from cow horse trainers Chris Dawson and Boyd Rice, Clay made the Limited Finals in his first year at the Snaffle Bit Futurity in Reno. Then in 2016, he won the Limited Snaffle Bit title on Hesa Royalena.

“That was completely mind-blowing you know. I didn’t have any idea that was a possibility even,” he said of his win. He then won all three levels (open, int and limited) at the Pre Futurity in 2017.

Originally from South Dakota, Clay started out rodeoing as a bareback rider. He then moved into starting colts for Larry Gonzalez in Texas which were cutting horses. Clay said he didn’t know anything about cutting but soon got a quick introduction. “It was the only place in the world that I felt like I can get paid to ride super nice horses. I feel like it was a plan you know.”

He went on to work for Greg Wright, Tom Lyons, Brody Whitman and Chad Bushaw before spending five years working at Rick Smith’s in Paradise Tx and training outside horses. “Getting to see horses broke to a whole new level than what I’d ever seen, that was real fun for me,” he said of the trainers he spent time with.

Clay Volmer – Snaffle Bit Futurity

Clay agreed that his relatively fast success in the cow horse industry was mainly due to his foundation in cutting. He said he was glad his journey led him to cutting first. “I feel like if I hadn’t been through the cutting deal first, I would have been extremely lost in that [working cow horse industry] so I feel like going through the cutting horse world was a brilliant beginning,” Clay said.

Working cow horses must compete in three events, reining, snaffle bit cutting and fence work.

Clay rides about 25-30 horses a day. He still has some cutting horses, but said he has to limit the number of horses in his barn to ensure he gets enough time to ride them. “I created a business model where a certain number of horses is where I feel I can do the best job possible for the client and the horse.” “It’s a very long day and very demanding,” he added.

Besides the obvious differences in the events, Clay said the biggest change he needed to make from cutting was the way he approached competition.

“In the cow horse deal, the first thing those guys taught me is to never give up. In the cutting, if your horse misses a cut in the aged events you’re probably out, it’s time to go home you know…in the cow horse, you have maybe a little hiccup in one event and still be extremely successful in another and can still make the finals, then it’s a clean slate,” said Clay. When it comes to horses, Clay said cow horses have got to be allrounders, they’ve got to have all the attributes of cutters and be able to run. It’s a combination Hy Rey Bound has he said. Owned by Buffalo Ranch, the horse was in Paul Hansma’s barn, who called Clay and said he needed to look at Hy Rey Bound for the snaffle bit.

“He’s an athlete, I mean he’s an extreme athlete. He doesn’t care. The horse loves it. You can run that horse as fast as he can possibly go and he will stop so hard, like he tries to fling you over his head. There’s nothing not to like,” Clay said glowingly. Clay said he had a good feeling going into the final.

“I kind of called on him and I knew that he would be there for me and I just really wanted to show everybody what kind of cool horse he is.”

Clay said he now has his sights set on winning the Open Snaffle Bit Futurity.

Member Spotlight – Carlos Webster

November 19th, 2018 by Nevada Huffman

Carlos Webster

Carlos Webster has always owned a horse. He grew up in the Houston area where he regularly attended the Houston Live-stock Show and Rodeo. It was there that he found his love for cutting horses.

He was just given the opportunity to purchase his own cutting horse 5 years ago. He started training with Mark Mills and now with Alvin Turner. He credits them both for his advancement of skills in the show pen.

His most memorable show moment is when he marked a 70 in Belton, Texas riding Countin Checks Is My Thing. Carlos said, “There wasn’t any feeling like finally marking a 70. I was so excited.”

WHY CARLOS USES CHTO: “I like all the different trainers they offer. Each trainer has different techniques so it is nice to see all their different techniques and choose what works best for you.”

Want to enjoy more success in cutting? Get access to the best trainers and showmen/women in the business. It’s the best dollar you’ll ever spend in cutting! So if you’re not a member yet – Click HERE to get a free week and access our entire video library!!!

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You can cancel anytime. If you decide to continue with the membership past 7 days, your card will be charged on the 8th day for your convenience, you don’t need to take any action. To cancel, just email us at least two days before your bill date.

You Don’t Have To Be Born A Champion

November 19th, 2018 by Nevada Huffman

Cutting hasn’t always been a way of life for the Patillo family. In fact, they had never even owned a horse until a few years ago. Even that was a spur of the
moment decision that they had no idea would
completely change their lives.

While traveling through the “Cutting Horse Capital of the World” during a family holiday, Blake decided his Illinois-based family needed a horse.

Simone & Blake & Lori Patillo

Amazed at all the training facilities around Weatherford, Blake, his wife Lori and their four kids drove around the area, when an arena off FM 1885 that caught their eye. Not knowing who it belonged to or what they were looking for, they decided to drive in.
“If we pull in here and tell them we want to buy a horse they’ll let us in,” he told his wife confidently at the time.

It was Pedro Ornales who met them just inside the gate. With neither parties knowing what they were getting themselves into, Pedro put them on a turn-back horse and the Patillo family was hooked! They soon became fast friends. The Patillos hooked their RV up at the facility and spent weeks there learning the ropes from the back of that one turn-back horse. When asked what her thoughts were, Lori responded “I was just along for the ride at this point.”

Just three months later, with no intentions of owning a cutting horse, and no place to keep one, Blake was soon won over by a horse Pedro had found them.

The horse stayed in Texas and the Patillo family made monthly trips from Illinois to ride their horse. Blake’s goal was to find something that his kids could compete in as a family and learn how to win and lose. But despite all Blake’s efforts, their eldest son Langston didn’t have much interest in riding a horse.

In 2013 they purchased their first cutting horse at the NCHA Summer Spectacular, Defiant Cat. Shortly after Blake was invited to his first show by a neighbor where they boarded a horse. To say Blake was green, would be understatement. He didn’t even know how to properly saddle a horse.

Blake still didn’t think there was any problem. “Finally they started yelling at me asking if I needed any help,” he said.“No I’ve got it,” he replied confidently. The trainers tried to explain to him that he really did need help, that everyone did in cutting. Blake then gave in and said, “alright come on then.”

After a messy run, he quickly realized he needed more horse power and a whole lot of practice. Since then, Blake has won $100,000. But he now focuses on helping his kids develop their riding and cutting skills.

Blake Patillo On High Stylin CD

His son Langston has since caught the cutting bug and won an impressive three major titles in the famed Will Rogers Coliseum by the age of 16! Many riders dream of winning one in a lifetime. You could say Blake’s real talent has been to make some smart decisions with buying horses and as a parent-coach!

So what is his secret? What is the magic that has seen Blake go from knowing nothing about horses or cutting to helping create champions with Langston and their horses in just a few short years? It’s simpler than you would think: studying those who have gone before!

Blake said he watches the winners to see what they do to excel. He strives to be able to pick horses on his own.

“The more you learn about this sport, the more you become more addicted to the sport,” he said.

Lori said her role is more on the sidelines. The family relocated from Illinois to Weatherford, TX to focus on riding and cutting. Lori is kept busy homeschooling the kids. The family still travels frequently to Illinois where their business is based.

Blake complimented Langston on being a good student, how he listens to and applies what his mentors have taught him and how hard he works at it. He added his son has a lot of natural athletic talent but also makes smart decisions on the cow and they way he works his horse. He said those attributes are what makes Langston so competitive in the sport.

Since purchasing their Weatherford ranch, both parents said they love their lifestyle. Lori said the industry has had a great influence on shaping her family. The work that comes with cutting, taking care of horses and their ranch, she said has really made their family come together as a team.

Just watch this space for the rest of the young Patillos rising through the ranks!

Member Spotlight – Pam Crouch

October 22nd, 2018 by Simone Cobb
Pam Crouch

Pam Crouch

Pam Crouch grew up in East Texas, and always had a love for horses. Her family didn’t own any horses, but her aunt would always to take her to ride when time would permit.

In her adult years, she was finally able to have horses of her own. Around 1995 she fell in love with the cutting horse industry just by watching it. Pam credits her horse Dualin Dalton for her confidence in the show pen.

“He won a lot of money and allowed me to have great success in the show pen,” said Pam. She has spent the last 18 years as a member of the NCHA.

With a demanding job as an ER nurse, she hasn’t been able to haul to anything other than aged events until the last 6 years.

A few life changing events led her to the outskirts of the Cutting Capital of the World in 2012. Pam says she didn’t have any intentions of ending up there, but she loves it because of how convenient it is to make the shows. She plans to start hauling in the aged events in 2019 with a new horse now that she is able to focus more on her cutting career, with Ben Roberson as her trainer.

WHY PAM CROUCH USES CHTO: “In my downtime, if I can’t make it to a trainer’s house, CHTO makes it convenient for me to be able to learn from right here at home from top trainers. It never goes away. I am able to rewind it as many times as I need to and apply it to my runs.”

Want to enjoy more success in cutting? Get access to the best trainers and showmen/women in the business. It’s the best dollar you’ll ever spend in cutting! So if you’re not a member yet – Click HERE to get a free week and access our entire video library!!!

Get 7 Days Free!

You can cancel anytime. If you decide to continue with the membership past 7 days, your card will be charged on the 8th day for your convenience, you don’t need to take any action. To cancel, just email us at least two days before your bill date.


You Can’t Pick ‘Em – Winston Hansma

October 22nd, 2018 by Simone Cobb


Legendary Bar H trainers and brothers, Winston Hansma and Paul Hansma have always had a wicked sense of humor. In fact, we’re reported previously in our newsletter another prank Paul pulled on Duncan Steele-Park with pistachios. This time Paul and others had Winston in their sights. As Winston tells it below, even trainers sometimes can’t remember their cows!

“We were at Steamboat Springs, Colorado. We always had a lot of fun at those shows. It was first thing in the morning and somebody came up to me asked me if I’d settle their cattle for them. It wasn’t somebody I normally would have or didn’t even help, so I was a little surprised they asked me but you know they said who ever they got to usually settle the cows was having to work a horse at 8 o’clock so I said, “alright””, said Winston Hasma.

“The shows that Bobby Pigeon put on were a lot of fun but the cows weren’t necessarily really good all the time. Unbeknownst to me, they had taken the cattle from the practice pen that had been worked the day before, used in the practice pen and they put those in the show pen for me to settle,” he said.


“So I ride in and these darn things wouldn’t hardly get off the back fence. And like I said, sometimes those cattle they had at Bobby’s cuttings were not necessarily really good. So I mean I’m working real hard to get these cattle off the back wall.”

“And I finally get them up off the back wall and Paul (Winston’s brother), he’s standing there and he just walks up there and knocks them right back over top of me. And I’m like looking at him thinking “what are you doing?” “I spent five minutes trying to get these darn things off the back fence and you’re just knocking them back over the top of me!””

“Paul just looks at me and he goes “Don’t you recognize these cows?” He said, ‘they’ve been in the practice pen!’” “They got me” Winston good-naturedly admitted!

Watch Winston Hansma on CHTO. His fantastic videos on how to use your feet on cattle and the flag can be found on CHTO by clicking here!

If you’re not a member yet, get Free Access for 7-Days by clicking here now.

You can cancel anytime by emailing us at least two days before your  bill date. If you decide to continue with your membership, you don’t need to do anything as your card will be automatically processed on the 8th day for your convenience.

Record Entries At Cotton Stakes Following New Leveling System

October 22nd, 2018 by Simone Cobb

The new class leveling system was a much-needed shot in the arm of the once-ailing Cotton Stakes. That was the overwhelming feedback to come out of the recent cutting show that saw entries up by nearly 150 percent.

The Cotton Stakes in West Monroe, Louisiana, produced by Robert Charles Brown, was the first show to trial the new class leveling system. Ora Diehl and Denise Seiz originally proposed the concept to the NCHA at the 2018 Convention.

Denise described the show as “a family reunion.” They both agreed that they felt like they were at a cutting in the 70’s because of the large turnout, and the positive atmosphere and the return of familiar faces. They said the excitement brought by the people who entered was indescribable.

Ora Diehl

Ora Diehl

Prior to the Cotton Stakes, there was concern the added levels would reduce the entries, and not pay enough. But the entries almost tripled (see the statistics below). The show producer’s income also almost trebled, and the two women said everyone felt like they had a level playing field when walking into the show arena.

Denise said this was the Cotton Stake’s last hope because of the money lost in prior years hosting the show. Robert Charles decided to take a chance on their idea. Because of the increase in entries, he was able to make back all the money lost in previous years, as well as make a profit during this year’s show.

Ora said that Robert will now implement the new classes going forward and that he didn’t have one negative thing to say about it. He also told her that other show producers had been in contact with him as they are now interested in trialing the concept.

Denise Seiz

Denise Seiz

Both ladies said everyone seemed pleased and happy with the outcome except for some of the open riders. While not completely against the idea because they agree that change is needed, many trainers were concerned about payouts being reduced.

Trainer Jonathan Rogers said, “It didn’t pay well and it was very tough to make the finals. You have to have a good horse no matter what. For example, the same horse won the Intermediate and the Open which shows that it has a lot to do with the horse rather than the rider.”

He said the new system seemed to work great for the amateur and non pro classes, but that the open was a different ball game. He suggested creating levels based on the horse’s earnings and not the riders as a better alternative for the Open class.

Photo of Jonathan Rogers, Cutting Horse Trainer

Jonathan Rogers

“We need a change or there isn’t going to be an NCHA in the next 5 years. This just isn’t the change we need. When I was a loper in this industry cutting was fun and everyone encouraged each other. Now it isn’t like that, now it is all about the money and it isn’t exciting until Futurity time because [it is the one show] no one knows what they’re going to see,” said Jonathan.

On a post-show survey and Denise stated, “I had 86 who all had positive feed-back and a yes vote on the system, and 1 maybe. I didn’t have anyone tell me no on this new system, which made us feel pretty optimistic and speaks for itself.”

Denise and Ora said the only difficulty they encountered with the new levels was entering it into the software. While it wasn’t impossible, they said it did take a few extra steps. They both agreed the software can be re-tuned if more show producers and the NCHA decide to go forward with this format.

Non pro rider James Hooper admitted that he was going into the Cotton Stakes thinking that the new leveling system was too much of a drastic transition. Once he got to the show however, he was blown away by the optimistic atmosphere. He said there were several people that made the finals that he had never seen before.

James Hooper on CR Heart Attac

The Senior Division Champion in the Intermediate Derby Amateur, James Hooper on Cr Heart Attac at Cotton Stakes

“The NCHA is in trouble if we don’t do something. A level playing field like this will encourage people to get involved and stay involved. Trainers are running people off because they dominate the finals,” James said.

He agreed that this may dilute the purse, or make the open not pay as much, but that the organization needed to do what benefited the most people.

While there was some difference of opinion in the way the new system was implemented, the need for change was unanimous.

“We’ve lost so many people and the change in atmosphere at West Monroe proved that change is what we need,” said Jonathan.


Member Spotlight – Reagan Box

September 19th, 2018 by Simone Cobb

Reagan Box grew up in the city where horses weren’t a part of life for her and her family.

Reagan Box

Reagan Box

She later found herself breaking colts in Northern Georgia. At that time, Reagan was specializing in problem horses. After a few cutting bred horses came her way, she fell in love with the industry because their quality.

Her passion for horses and cow work brought her to Texas. She worked under a few trainers and then went out on her own.

Reagan was working for a trainer that had a horse they didn’t think was going to make the cut in the show pen. They told Reagan they were going to sell her for $500. She asked them if they would let her try to get her through a few runs before they completely gave up on her. Little did she know this horse would provide her with her most memorable moment in the show pen. Reagan took Quiejannas Winning Streak to Sweetwater, Texas and marked a 75.

Her plans are to keep improving as a trainer with hopes of becoming one of the top trainers in the industry.


“I’ve always worked for trainers or trained horses for myself in remote areas that didn’t have easy access to advise [from] other trainers. Cutting Horse Training Online provides me with a learning tool without having to travel by providing information from some of the top trainers.”

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Why Cutters Are Helping To “Protect The Harvest”

September 19th, 2018 by Simone Cobb

It is there at every Triple Crown show. If you’ve visited the Exhibit Hall at the Will Rogers Coliseum in Fort Worth, you’ve probably seen the “Protect The Harvest” (PTH) booth and wondered what it was all about? But what, you may ask, does farming and protecting it, have to do with cutters?
No, it is not an insurance scheme for crops ruined by flood, hail, or drought, or a lobby group for farming subsidies as it may sound like. It is, in fact, a metaphorical name to apply to all of agriculture, horses included, about protecting a way of life.
“At Protect The Harvest we promote responsible animal ownership and that’s like these events here,” said Shawn Burtenshaw referring to the NCHA Super Stakes that was underway.

Shawn Burtenshaw - Protect The Harvest spokesman

Shawn Burtenshaw – Protect The Harvest spokesman

The non-profit group was founded in 2011 by Forrest Lucas, owner of Lucas Oil, the Super Stake’s major sponsor.
“These animals are so well cared for. I mean this is animal welfare at its finest at these events, at 4H shows, at rodeos. Animal rights groups, extreme animal rights groups want to see these events completely eliminated. They view any use of any animals as animal slavery,” said Burtenshaw, a spokesman for the organization.
“We want people to have the rights to make that decision not the animals to have the rights, the same rights as people,” he added.
PTH was created to “fight against animal rights groups who want to end meat consumption, halt consumer access to affordable food, eliminate all hunting practices, and outlaw rodeos, circuses and pet ownership” as stated on the PTH website.
Burtenshaw said the USDA monitors the raising of livestock using strict standards and regulations already in place.
He said Lucas saw the need for a group to defend the livelihoods and industries of agriculture, livestock and sport and to push back against animal rights activists who were extremely vocal.
“People were afraid to go up against these animal rights groups because they use bullying tactics and you know, they get very, very aggressive. And as agriculturists [they] are very recessive. We just get to work and provide and do our thing,” Burtenshaw said.
Specific issues PTH is championing include the ELD mandate which may force people who haul horses to get a commercial truck driver’s license.

Protect The Harvest

Protect The Harvest

Burtenshaw said their motto is to inform, protect and respond, using education to spread the word and motivate people to take action.
“We’re going to save agriculture in America. That’s our goal,” he said.

“Most people in the West do not know where their food comes from. They have impression it comes from a grocery store. So information is key.”
Burtenshaw said PTH runs some counter campaigns against what he called radical organizations. He said people need to become engaged. He said there are many ways people can get involved by going to their website, contacting their local representative on issues that affect them, share PTH’s social media posts, volunteer for the organization or even make a financial contribution.
“Don’t sit idly by and think somebody is going to take care of it for you. We are the lead organization on this but we can’t do it on our own. We need help,” he encouraged.

Want to enjoy more success in cutting? Get access to the best trainers and showmen/women in the business. It’s the best dollar you’ll ever spend in cutting! So if you’re not a member yet – Click HERE to get a free week and access our entire video library!!!

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Todd Graham – A League Of his Own

September 19th, 2018 by Simone Cobb

On June 10 this year, Australian trainer Todd Graham created cutting horse history. He became the first and only rider to win six Futurities! The legendary Buster Welch has won five in the US and while Todd has won Australian NCHA Futurities, it’s an astonishing feat to win six of any title no matter which country or what sport! Think Roger Federer who is the only player to have won the Australian Open and Wimbledon at least 6 times (Wimbledon is actually 8) or even the greatest Olympian of all time, Michael Phelps won the same event just four times, to show how difficult it is to claim multiple victories in one event.
Last out in the final, Todd rode Duplicity owned by Lloyd Nielson. He marked a 223 to scoot past leader Linda MacCallum’s 219 to win.
“Any Futurity win is good and this last one was special. The guy that owned the mare has been a mate of mine since we were kids,” said Todd.
“We cut the first two cows we knew [were fresh] and we were putting a pretty decent run together…It just felt like it was building. We went back to cut the rerun…and I wasn’t fussed on that. It was kind of numb and wasn’t going to do too much and as I stepped into the herd, out behind me came this other cow…I again knew it was fresh but I didn’t know if it was any good.   Anyway I took a risk and cut it and it was ok, it wasn’t great but it was good enough to finish on without a mistake.”
“Every Futurity I’ve won, you know, as you’re coming along you can feel it building. It’s a big thing I learnt probably years ago, you got to build on your run. You won’t win it in the first 20 seconds.”
“Yeh it was a great feeling, to prove to yourself you could still do it and to do it for Lloyd,” he said.

Todd Graham on Spins Gypsy Queen

Todd Graham on Spins Gypsy Queen

Todd and his wife Jackie were in the States this month looking at horses and cutting facilities. Jackie was also competing in the International Non Pro Cutting Challenge at the El Rancho Futurity in California.
After 25 years running his own training business and working for the public, Todd relocated to Goondiwindi, Queensland to work full time for Andrea McCosker, a wealthy cotton grower and owner of SDM Quarter Horses. Andrea took over the reins from her mother Sue who died a few years ago. Sue had started a breeding program centered around One Time Royalty which stands at Oswood Stallion Station in Texas.
“We were looking for a change just to get away from the grind of working for ourselves and managing all that and it just seemed like a good challenge,” said Todd Graham.
The change couldn’t have come at a better time, with much of Queensland and all of New South Wales suffering one of the worst droughts on record.
“You’re buying horse feed, cow feed, you know paying staff, whereas now, we don’t have any of those worries, so that’s good, “ he said.
It’s been 3 years of well below average rainfalls. Feed costs have more than trebled and hay has had to be shipped from 20 hours away at a cost of $7,000.
“Bare, there’s no grass, it’s just dirt. If you drive around New South Wales or even around our place at Goondiwindi, it’s just dirt, there’s no grass. It’s desperate. It’s just really desperate. There’s towns running out of water, it’s affected the whole country,” said Todd.
While it’s been an adjustment going from boss to employee, Todd said he is excited about establishing SDM Quarter Horses as a major, if not the major, cutting horse and camp draft breeding enterprise with a proven show record.
“She [Andrea] is committed to seeing the Royalties go through and be competitive and sought after” which he said, they look like they will be in the next 12 months. “They’ll suit the camp draft market, they’ll suit the cutters and it’s good to be a part of all that, the developing of that, the promotion of all that.”
Todd and Jackie visited cutting ranches around Weatherford, TX, like the architect-designed Rocking P Ranch owned by Bobby Patton, Slate River and Winston Hansma’s to get ideas for developing their facilities at Goondiwindi.
“We’re building indoor arenas and barns and all that. There’s a lot of horse facilities there but not set up to train cutting horses so we’re redoing the whole thing.”

Todd Graham with kids Addy and Aiden

Todd Graham with kids Addy and Aiden

While building costs are much higher in Australia, a standard indoor arena with no walls costs $120,000, Todd said Andrea plans on creating a show piece.
“We will build one [arena] big enough to hopefully hold a show in it, some competition, some pre-works. Probably put 40 stalls in it, horse walker, try and put it all under one roof. Also want to put in some rehab facilities, state-of-the-art type stuff.   Andrea’s pretty committed to it, if she does anything, she does it right.”
Todd said the breeding adds a new challenge for him as he explained his new goal for SDM Quarter Horses: “I don’t really want to you know go along and just cruise along, I’d like to, I’ve always wanted to be the best so you kind of want to do that too.   You know when people want to buy a horse, they ring (call) us, when people want to breed a mare they ring us, when people want a job, they ring us,” he envisioned.
Always on the lookout for new mares and bloodlines to import, Todd said so far they’ve bred to some Metallic Cats, and Smooth Talking Style. They also currently have a few horses in training with Lloyd Cox.
With camp drafting the biggest market in Australia, the horses also need to be good at running. Camp drafting is an Australian sport that includes a snaffle bit component before riders then guide the cow in a figure eight at speed. It has many similarities to cow horses in the States.
“They are really starting to source them now [from the cutting industry] because of the training that we do on them, they’ve got a great foundation…so they can get on them a lot earlier now than they used to 10 years ago.”
“They need to be soft in a snaffle, they need to rate a cow at speed without getting too hot and be able to run a tight circle.”
But if you think Todd is slowing down in the show pen, think again. Ever ambitious, he said he’d love to also have success in the States. He said Lloyd has a good 3-year-old for the Futurity.
“I said to him the other day if it’s good enough for him to show it, he should show it, but if not I’d like to come do it.”
“It’s more personal pressure because you’ve done it at home and you want to come over here and do it again, not necessarily win but just be there and be competitive,” he added.
It hasn’t always been smooth sailing for Todd. He dominated in Australia in the mid 90s when he won his first 3 futurities in a row in 1995, 96 and 97 when Roger Wagner and John Mitchell were on his turn back team. He won again in 2002 but then went 12 long years before returning as Futurity Champion in 2015 and again this year.
While he was still making finals and placing over that 12 year gap, he said he wasn’t able to put it all together, a time when he was going through a divorce.
Now married to Jackie, Todd said being happy helped him get that winning finesse back.
“When you’re content and you’re happy, that’s when your mind’s a bit clearer and you can do the right things and get your focus on what you need to do…I guess your mind’s clearer and more comfortable, you do the right thing, you cut the right cow at the right time.”
“You need that support…it’s long hours, it’s demanding, you know the pressures and all that sort of thing but Jackie’s always there…when you need her and that’s a huge help.”
They are a winning team. Jackie herself won the Non Pro Futurity this year.

Jackie Graham at 2018 Australian NCHA Non Pro Futurity

Jackie Graham at 2018 Australian NCHA Non Pro Futurity

Todd Graham is Australia’s top money earner in the sport with $2.4-million. While you may think it doesn’t compare to the top US trainers like Phil Rapp, Matt Gaines and Lloyd Cox at $9 and $8-million, the prize money offered and the number of cutting shows is far lower. The Futurity pays $75,000 to win and trainers there typically take home a smaller percentage. Todd said the first Futurity he won in 1995 paid $17,000.
“I’ve showed a lot of horses to win $2.4 million,” Todd Graham said.
Todd said cutting has changed a lot in that time, becoming far more technical.
“The mare I won it [1995 Futurity] on was cowy and a little wild and was a little out there and now you can’t do that. You get stung for a small miss or a big miss… the judging’s changed heaps and that’s changed how the horses work…you can’t expose them as much as you used to,” he explained.
Todd said winning is not more difficult now, just different.
“Winning is always difficult, I wouldn’t say it’s any better, I wouldn’t say the cutting is any better now. The horse training’s changed a lot, there’s a lot more control, sometimes it’s a little more bland. Not all horses are bland but the majority of them, it’s taken a lot of style out of them,” he said a little wistfully of the way cutting used to be.
So what’s his secret? Todd said it’s a combination of his mental preparation and a natural talent for the sport.
“Sometimes it just happens, but most of the time you’ve got to make it happen. You’ve got to clear your mind about what you’re doing…here’s my job tonight and this is what I need to do and sort of clear your mind so you can remember the cows and think about how you’re going to work your horse and do all those little things right,” said Todd Graham.
“I’m pretty lucky I’ve got a good feel for a horse and a good feel for a cow…I probably haven’t had to work at the basic stuff. But I guess I’ve developed over the years, my timing is pretty good on a horse and I’ve tried to relate that to the cow. Don’t worry when I was younger I made plenty of mistakes…so you’ve got to wait to the next show and do it again. And that made me get smarter when I show and I guess I’ve got this thing that apparently I don’t look flustered when I’m in there. I can be really nervous but I don’t look like that. I guess I’m lucky in that department and lucky that I found something that I was good at,” said Todd.

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