When Allen Crouch was seven years old he happened to move across the street from a huge cutting operation in Kentucky owned by non-pro rider, Ronnie Titsworth. He loved hanging out at the barn where Titsworth would give him jobs to do around the ranch. That soon blossomed into a great friendship. Titsworth would take Crouch to cuttings and let Crouch show his horses.
As a high schooler, Russ Westfall worked for a cattle ranch that provided cattle at cutting shows in the Northwest. That winter he went to work for a trainer and started colts. Then he got the incredible opportunity to work for Buster Welch in Texas. He was there for three years.
“It was the best time of my life. I learned so much!” said Westfall.
A well-run barn is the key to any smooth operation. Whether you have one or 50 horses in your care, it’s crucial that you have an organized space, know where everything is and are able to act in any kind of emergency.
Kellee Clarke has been the barn manager for Slate River for nine years and counting. She makes sure everything has its place, and most importantly gets put back in place. Her feed room, vet room, tack room and stalls are clearly labeled so almost anyone can walk in and know just what to do for any of the horses.
Geoffrey Sheehan grew up in Gundagai, New South Wales, Australia. At about 12 years old he started working for renowned trainer Graham Amos on school holidays. When Sheehan was 16, Graham Amos came to the States to compete in cutting. Sheehan decided that was his path too and continued working for him in America.
Amos was Sheehan’s main mentor, but he also credits other trainers for teaching him along the way such as John Mitchell, Roger Wagner, and Clint Allen to name a few.
“The first time I ever walked into Will Rogers I [thought] this is what I want to do,” Sheehan said.
Successful, good looking and with a spunky attitude to match, High Brow Cat was a rock star in the cutting horse industry. For more than two decades, the stud has had a massive influence over the sport by dominating bloodlines with his successful progeny.
High Brow Cat’s (HBC) offspring have earned a staggering $82 million in the show pen and that number continues to climb. As a paternal grandsire, his record is even higher, his sons have fathered the winners of $126 million and his daughters have produced more than $35.9 million.
Some of his greatest offspring include 2011 Horse Of The Year and highest money earner of more than $850,628, Dont Look Twice, and the incredible stallion, Metallic Cat, who won $637,711 and like his father, is also a proven producer.
He made the Open Derby Final at the 2018 Summer Spectacular on 3 different horses, but Lee Francois still seems to find time to minister to the needs of others. The pro trainer you see is also a pastor and it’s something he loves to be able to do together.
He inspired the crowd with his sublime 228 run on The Animal to win the Derby Championship. An emotional Lee said it has
been a roller coaster year since the pair was Reserve Futurity Champions, making this victory all the sweeter.
“It’s always a blessing to win something here. You got your family with you and they go through the hard times too. It just feels good. It’s great, you know to ride a great horse. You grow up dreaming about these moments when we’re kids and to have that kind of horse, it makes all the hard times worth it, we’re just a blessed family,” said Lee.
Lee and Holly Francois celebrate his win
The Animal sustained a hoof injury following the Futurity which put him out of action for a time.
“He had a quarter crack after the Futurity and that hindered us a lot so it was mainly just getting that healed up. I got to give Pete May some praise for getting that horse healed up and taking care of him so we got that fixed and now he’s back 100%,” Lee said.
Lee faced immense pressure in the finals, going to the herd 3 times. He gave recognition to his wife, Holly for her support.
“It was a struggle. I know Holly, she was tired of putting up with me all day you know cause of nerves and trying to figure out how to handle it,” he joked. “But you know, you just take it one run at a time, one cow at a time.”
It’s the same philosophy Lee applies to his ministry work, serving one person at a time. For people who live on the road, hauling from one horse show to another, there’s not too many chances to catch a church service. So Lee brings it to the cutters.
Lee Francois baptizing Sadie with his wife Holly
After a full day of showing at the recent Breeder’s Invitational in Tulsa, OK, Lee even performed a Baptism behind the stalls.
A young non pro rider, Sadie Marie Watkins had attended Lee’s service that morning before the show began and asked him to baptize her that day. So once competition was over, he rounded up a horse trough, cleaned it up and filled it with water. A crowd gathered at the stalls to lend their support and Lee did the honors.
A video of the baptism was put on Facebook which to date has been seen by almost 14,000 people. “Thank you to the Francois family and all who participate in horses how ministries to allow the Lord to work thru you for victories like this one!” said Gita Crane, one of the many voices celebrating the event.
Lee Francois is one of our featured trainers on CHTO, You can click here to login and watch his awesome videos on connecting the dots in your training and correctness and efficiency plus more! Lee is also one of Get Coached coaches. So send the 2018 Summer Spectacular Derby Champion your video of a show run or training at home and get him to critique it give you personal coaching to fast track your cutting! Click here to get started.