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NCHA crowns 11 Eastern National Champions

National Cutting Horse Association

The Wayne Hodges * Outlaw Conversions/NCHA Eastern National Championships wrapped up in Jackson, MS - As the curtain dropped on the 2004 Wayne Hodges * Outlaw Conversions/NCHA Eastern National Championship Finals, 11 new riders were titled Champions.

Open Division
Scratchin, owned by EE Ranches, Whitesboro, TX and ridden by Guy Woods, Pilot Point, TX, hit pay dirt with the third cow in the Open Finals and came home a winner.

“We started off with a couple of soft cows that weren’t exactly what I thought they were going to be,” said Woods. “But the third cow was a really good one. We held her for a long time. That’s what made the run.” Scratchin scored 220 points in the Finals.

Non Pro
Lindy Merryman, 23, rode to the herd on Lil Smokin Dynamite, as the last rider in the first bunch of the Non- Pro Finals, and came out a winner with 218 points. It was the pair’s second title of the event. They won the $10,000 Novice/Non-Pro championship with 220 points earlier in the week.

“I should have stayed on my second cow a little longer,” said Merryman. “But I was afraid to because of the way everybody else had gone out. The cows in that set started out tough and were pretty much tough all the way through. I just lucked out to get three that would stay out there. “We had watched my second cow all along when they settled them and she ended up staying until the end. We had some others picked out, but luckily, they were cut before me because they ran over the two riders. I just got lucky that they cut them before I did.”

Lil Smokin Dynamite, a five-year old mare sired by Dynamite Badger, was trained by Merryman’s father, Tom Merryman. Lindy rode her last year primarily in limited age events, where the mare won most of her $30,000 in career earnings.

$10,000 Novice Horse Division
Casberlena, ridden by Austin Shepard of Summerdale, AL, scored 221 points to win the $10,000 Novice Horse Championship. Casberlena, a 7-year-old son of High Brow Cat owned by Treasa and Jim Watson, Defuniak, FL.

“He’s a little bit wild, but he has a lot of neat style,” said Shepard, who has been riding the stallion for over a year. He placed in the 5/6-year-old open finals of last year’s Music City Futurity and the Southern Futurity, and rode on weekends just enough to qualify for the Eastern National Championships.

$3,000 Novice Horse Division
After a disastrous run as the first draw in the first bunch of the $10,000 Novice Finals, Sam Shepard, of Magnolia Spring, AL, had to grin and bear it when he drew up as the first rider in the first bunch of the $3,000 Novice Finals, aboard Cats Savannah. But this time first was a sweet spot.

“Last night it was the kiss of death and tonight it was the lucky draw,” said Shepard, who scored 220 for the $3,000 Novice win on 6-year-old Cats Savannah, owned by Phil Adcock, Raymond, MS.

This was just the second time Shepard had shown the High Brow Cat daughter. Joey Carroll had qualified her for the Eastern National Finals and Shepard took over the reins at the Memphis Futurity, where he qualified Cats Savannah for the finals of the 5/6- Year-Old Classic.

“She’s really a nice mare,” said Shepard. “We’re going to show her at the Super Stakes and at aged events for the rest of the year.”

Adcock and his family had shown pleasure horses for years, but Adcock was hooked on cutting, when a friend invited him for a trial ride.

“I was all smiles,” he remembered. “I always wanted to do something exciting and at 51, it was such a rush to sit on a cutting horse. There’s just nothing like it.”

$2,000 Limited Rider Division
Mandy O’Hearn, Odessa, FL, lost her hat, but she held on to the title in the $2,000 Limited Rider Finals. Riding Mr Mom (DNA), a 13-year-old veteran with nearly $200,000 in lifetime earnings, O’Hearn scored 217 points to defeat closest rival, Christian Miller, by two and a-half points.

“I love this old horse,” said O’Hearn, who scored 210 in the go-round to qualify for the Finals. “I was a little worried at first about the cattle, but he got right in there, held them and hung in there. He did a really good job for me.”

Mandy, 27, began riding cutting horses as a youth, but was completely out of the sport for eight years while she attended nursing school and established a career. Today, as a registered nurse, she juggles her night-shift schedule to be able to cut.

“It’s a little stressful trying to get time off and be able to get to the show and still be awake,” she admitted. “But I love doing this.”

$10,000 Novice Horse/Non Pro Division
Lindy Merryman, Abilene, TX, won the $10,000 Novice/Non-Pro championship aboard Lil Smokin Dynamite. Merryman, who scored 215.5 in the go-round, marked 220 points late in the first bunch of the Finals.

“She’s definitely one of my favorites,” said Merryman, 23, who has been showing cutting horses since she was five. “She’s easy to show and she’s just really smart about a cow.”

Merryman purchased the 5-year-old Dynamite Badger daughter as a 3-year-old, after her father, Tom Merryman trained the mare for Woody Bartlett and his late wife Kelly. Last year, Merryman concentrated on showing Lil Smokin Dynamite in limited age events and qualified for the finals of several major events. Late in the year, she began showing on weekends to qualify Lil Smokin Dynamite for the NCHA World Finals in Amarillo.

Junior Youth Division
Priscilla Crawley, 15, Unadilla, GA, scored 217.5 points to win the Junior Youth championship by one-half a point over Maison Zuber, 13, Lufkin, Texas.

“I’m really excited,” said Priscilla. “This is the first time I’ve won this and this is my last year in the Junior Youth.” Priscilla also won the go-round with 219 points. Her success was especially gratifying because she was riding four year-old Cow Cattin, trained by her father, Charles Crawley.

“My old horse that I’d been showing got hurt about a month ago,” she explained. “I’ve probably only shown (Cow Cattin) ten times. He’s so young, I didn’t know what to expect. But once I got with him, we really clicked.”

Crawley was presented a $1,000 from Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica.

Senior Youth Division
Jamie Sokol bowed out of her final appearance as a Youth competitor in the Eastern National Finals as a champion, with a 219-point win aboard Peppy Sandalena. It was the second Eastern Senior Youth title for Sokol, a student at Daytona Beach Community College. In 2002, she rode her sister Nikki’s horse, Lucky Bottom Roy, to claim her first Senior Youth championship. She was Junior Youth Reserve Champion on Lucky Bottom Roy in 1998.

“I told my dad (trainer Ted Sokol) and (helper) Billy Kidd this morning, that if I was doing good in my run, I was just going to chip and throw down on the last cow,” said Sokol. “And I did it. It was a good way to go out.”

Sokol, who also qualified to ride in the $20,000 Non-Pro division, was aboard Peppy Sandalena, a horse previously owned by her family.

“The first time I won here was special because it was the first time I’d ever won any big event,” she said. “But this one is special because it’s my last year.”

Sokol was also presented a $1,000 scholarship from Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica.

$20,000 Non Pro Division
Billy Ballard, a dentist from Winchester, KY, scored 221 points riding Fox N Style to beat second-placed Terry Tolar, on Southern Skeeto, by five points in the $20,000 Non-Pro division. Both Ballard and Tolar qualified for the Finals on the bubble with 206 points.

“This is probably my best ride (ever),” said Ballard, who was champion of the $50,000 Amateur here last year on Fox N Style. “I was able to get control of the cattle and when we got them out, they got right in my face and were really tough. My horse just locked on the cattle and showed a tremendous amount of courage to stay right there.”

Ballard, who has been cutting for three years, began riding when his son Josh competed in roping events. Ballard also took home the deluxe three-horse slant load trailer compliments of Wayne Hodges Trailer Sales. He will have one-year use of the trailer for marking the highest score at the show. He won the random drawing among the three top scores.

$50,000 Amateur Division
Troy Goodwin, Wylie, TX, scored 218 points for the win in the $50,000 Amateur. Goodwin, who rode the Paint horse Smart Card, was diagnosed with pneumonia two days before the Finals, but was determined to ride. He also placed fifth in the $10,000 Amateur on Thursday.

“Two years ago they put me in the hospital in Houston for double pneumonia, after I made the Finals down there. They wouldn’t let me out of the hospital to ride, so there was no way I was going home this week.”

$10,000 Amateur Division
Missy Jean Rosenberg, Covington, LA, left her mount, Chloes My Aunt in his stall to recover from a stone bruise and rode her husband Jerry’s horse Pepto Jack to win the $10,000 Amateur with 219 points. It was Rosenberg’s first time to show the stallion.

“Thankfully I had a backup,” said Rosenberg, who was reserve champion here last year, on Chloes My Aunt, in the $2,000 Limit Rider and placed fourth in the $10,000 Amateur. “He’s probably a little more fancy than my horse. He felt really nice today.”

Evan Sutton, 15, Garland, TX, captured the reserve championship with 215 on Ginnin Shorty. “I knew it was going to be close,” said Sutton, who was reserve champion here last year in the Junior Youth.

NCHA is honored to have the support of Wayne Hodges Trailer Sales and Outlaw Conversions as title sponsors for the event. Also proud award sponsors were Murray Leather Goods, Teskey’s Saddle Shop, Gist Silversmiths, KO Trading Company, and Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica.

The sport of cutting has roots in Western ranching traditions, where good horses were a necessity for everyday ranch work and cattle handling. The National Cutting Horse Association was formed in 1946 by a group of cowboys and ranchers, who wanted to promote cutting competition, standardize rules and preserve the cutting horses' Western heritage. Today, the Fort Worth-based NCHA represents over 16,000 people and oversees more than 2,200 NCHA-approved shows with more than $35 million in total prize money awarded annually. For more information about the NCHA or the sport of cutting, please call 817-244-6188 or visit