From honoring Buster Welch and the King Ranch’s Little Peppy to supporting the next generation of cutters, the NCHA Foundation has been behind cutters of all ages for 40 years. The NCHA Foundation is the charitable branch of the National Cutting Horse Association.
The Foundation was formed in 1982 to raise money, support educational programs and preserve the history and culture of cutting. But interestingly, it’s played a lesser known but crucial and wide-ranging role than just being an archive, by providing funding when they see a need and supporting animal welfare and research.
In 2020, the NCHA Foundation gave funding to the West Coast of California to help horses affected by the devastating wildfires that ripped through the state as well as those who suffered flooding in the South during the hurricanes. The funds went to the American Association of Equine Practitioners and the Foundation For The Horse which care for injured horses caught in the disasters. Some horses even required the use of ventilators. The NCHA Foundation was able to send them $20,000 after a generous donor matched its contribution of $10,000.
Julia Buswold has been the NCHA Foundation Director since August last year.
“I love [working for the Foundation]. I think my goals personally and the goals for the Foundation align and that’s always a great thing when you can take your personal passions and professional [passions] on the same playing field. That’s always rewarding. I’m very lucky to work for the board. [The board] wants to do a lot of great things [that] I’m happy to help facilitate.”
In early 2020, the Foundation received a $30,000 grant from the Dogwood Foundation. They were able to purchase an archive scanner and start the historical preservation project. This means the 75 years of history housed by the Foundation is now in the process of being digitized to better preserve and share the sport’s history. The information will be made available to NCHA members online in a virtual museum.
Another exciting venture the group is working towards is the creation of a traveling historical exhibit highlighting the NCHA’s story and those of the legendary horses and riders past and present in cutting. It will have an educational focus not just for cutters but the wider community as well.
Buswold said they hope the content will be ready to hit the road in eighteen months. It will be an ongoing project that develops as more history is collected.
“Initially [the content will be available] to members only and we will open it [to more people]. We have plans of turning this into an educational opportunity and being able to send it out to schools, and creating an educational program behind it. We wanted the members to be able to have their history at their fingertips. The ultimate goal is to create an online museum,” said Buswold.
During the NCHA Futurity, the Foundation hosted a booth that reached out to members by asking them to bring in their memorabilia to be scanned and included in its virtual archive.
“A [cutting fan] brought a t-shirt from a 1974 Futurity. She kept the t-shirt the entire time and said she had attended every single Futurity…You could tell that even a t-shirt stirred such fond memories for her. Everyone that’s dropped something off [has] stayed to tell the story behind it… We’re excited to share those [stories] with everyone,” said Buswold.
Buswold added that they’ve been able to capture those personal stories with the memorabilia. “To me it’s great to look at the old photos but when you hear the stories behind the items, it makes it [more] special.”
“We are hoping to set up a traveling exhibit that is region specific with our new archives program and the virtual reality goggles. By combining those two programs [we will have] a mobile education exhibit,” Buswold said.
The virtual reality goggles bring history to life and help make the experience of cutting accessible to even non-riders. For example, curious observers are able to take Hashtags for a virtual “ride”. It was technology the Foundation had just started to make available at major shows early last year. However, due to COVID-19 restrictions they haven’t been able to put those goggles to use.
The Foundation was also going to host a cattle auction as a fundraiser at the Futurity. But like so many things, COVID got in the way and the event has been rescheduled for 2022.
Buswold said she and her team of 6 other board members reached out to several cattle ranches across the United States asking them to donate cattle and expand the involvement of the western community.
“It’s a great way to reach out. With the cattle being a part of [the auction] it does appeal to people outside of the cutting world but still in the western industry… which will help shine a light on cutting.”
In the wake of COVID-19, Buswold said fundraising has been more of a challenge. But, she said, “We’ve been conservative with our investments [who the Foundation donates money to], making sure we will be here for another 40 years.”
The NCHA Foundation also focuses on supporting the youth. Its goal is to provide a minimum of $100,000 a year in scholarships. It hosts the popular scholarship cutting during the Summer Spectacular and awards scholarships to the winners as well as to youth who apply for merit-based scholarships.
Buswold said “We give scholarships to kids that are pursuing college or accredited trade schools. We have an independent selection committee that we’ve appointed to award out merit based scholarships for deserving youth.”
“We want to encourage [the pursuit of a higher education]. With our program they have until their 25th birthday, so we want to encourage them to pursue their graduate work as well. We have several kids that have finished up their undergraduate degrees and want to finish up their post graduate work,” she added.
One such recipient and former NYCHA president, Austria Arnold used her scholarships to graduate from Baylor University in Texas. “Thanks to NCHA scholarships over the years, I came out of undergrad without a burden of debt,” Arnold said.
She has since gone on to study law at Vanderbilt Law School. With fond memories of cutting as a youth, Arnold said she looks forward to the day she can return to riding.
“I am just a few weeks into my first year of law school and I have tremendous gratitude for the generous NCHA members and donors that made this dream of mine a reality,” she said.