Three years after doctors told Shelley Casciato she would never compete again, she won the 2020 United States Cutting Horse Association Finals in the $5,000 Novice Non-Pro aboard MK Smooth Texas. She was 70 years old.
She had endured two total hip replacements in 2017 and was out of the saddle for two and a half years, yet she was able to make her dream come true. Casciato’s mental tenacity helped to make her win possible.
“The only failure in life is not trying,” are the words Casciato lives by.
Casciato had first seen her horse, MK Smooth Texas, as a four-year-old, but didn’t purchase him then. When her friend offered her the horse years later she bought him semi-retired out of the field. The pair got show fit together.
It took Casciato two and a half years of rehab, and months of riding at the walk, jog and lope. She said she could get on the horse but she couldn’t move her leg in certain ways. Her wonderful horse would stand like a statue for her to get on and if she bumped him with her rowl, he took it all in stride. To get ready to show, Casciato has to drive 100 miles round trip, three days a week to ride and she works out at the gym multiple times a week to stay fit. On top of that, she hauled thousands of miles to qualify for the finals.
Casciato is hugely appreciative of CHTO so she could keep her mind in the sport and continue learning while she was rehabbing from hip surgery.
Casciato said Andy Sutliff and his partner Alise believed in her and MK Smooth Texas, and they took the time to coach her to a championship win. Her barn manager, Dani Vaughn, drove her to every show and Casciato’s husband, Bob, supported her each step of the way.
“[They helped me] back to the sport I love after the doctors said I would never compete again.”
Why Shelley Uses CHTO:
“To keep my mind fresh and to not forget basic skills and to learn and watch from cutters who do it everyday! My main interest is not training 2/3 year olds but more on showmanship, timing, how to put your horse in the best position to do his job and cuts, always about clean cuts, and how to wait but move forward without disrupting things. And to stay mentally in this game just in case I was able to compete again. And to feel like I was still part of the sport I love!”