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NCHA crowns Western National Champions

National Cutting Horse Association

Scott Amos, Basalt, Colorado, had watched enough competition to be grateful for his draw.

“I thought I had a good draw being first up,” said Amos, who rode Wee Little Badger for a 17-point win in the Open Finals. “That’s the lucky hole.”

“He’s really good-minded,” said Amos. “He’s really quick in the ground and wants to bend and come around with that nose.”

Amos purchased Wee Little Badger, trained by Roy Harden, three years ago as a ranch horse for Abigail Wexner, who shows hunters-jumper in Ohio. The Wexners purchased a ranch near Carbondale, Colorado several years ago and have recently become interested in cutting.

James Wilkins showed Bingos Dually to earn 216.5, as the second rider in the second bunch, and the Open reserve championship.

“I was biting my nails,” said Wilkins of the wait for final run. “I know Russ Miller is such a good showman and Will (Nuttall) has a really nice horse. I knew it was going to be close.”

Wilkins rides the 7-year-old Dual Pep son for Brad and Laurie Linaberry, Fairmont, Nebraska.

Brad Linaberry qualified Bingos Dually for the finals of the $10,000 Novice/Non-Pro division. Linaberry’s son also shows the horse in $2,000 Limit Rider classes.

“He’s very durable and has a lot of heart,” said Wilkins. “There have been three different riders on him and he’s been competitive from the open clear down to the $2,000. It just shows the type of horse he really is.”

Barbara Halligan, Draper, South Dakota, scored 219.5 points on Smokin Manzana to win the Non-Pro championship; she also placed twelfth on the 21-year-old stallion in the Open division.

“It was really fun,” said Halligan. “I found cows that really hooked my horse and it just fit.”

Barbara and her husband, Jim, purchased Smokin Manzana, by Smokin Jose, as a 3-year-old from trainer Joe Heim and have had the horse ever since.

“He’s brought us from the very starter classes all the way until now,” said Barbara. “The whole family has showed him. He has a fit if we start loading the trailer and he realizes he’s not going in. As long as he keeps acting like that, he gets to go. I just want to have fun with him while he’s still wanting to go.”

Jim Halligan split eighth and ninth in the $10,000 Novice/Non-Pro riding Manzanas Tweak, a daughter of Smokin Manzana. The Halligans, who met in college and raised champion German Wirehair Pointers until they could afford horses, run cattle on a 3,500-acre ranch in a remote area of South Dakota.

“It’s 20 miles of gravel road to get to our place,” said Barbara. “Our closest show is about 120 miles away.”

Ronald Davis, Ennis, Texas, and Wylie Gustafson, Lacrosse, Washington, tied for Non-Pro reserve champion with 217 points.

“All I wanted to do was have a clean run,” said country music singer and guitarist Gustafson. “It was a good bunch of cattle. They all looked at me and my horse was stopping hard. He’s a hard worker and a real durable horse.”

Ronald Davis drew late in the same (second) bunch, three horses after Barbara Halligan’s run.

“He’s a special horse,” said Davis of his mount Hick Waree. “The only time I ride him is when I’m going to show him. He’s so dependable and honest, he doesn’t know the word ‘cheat.’”

Davis, a cutter since 1991, acquired the gelding in December 2002, after another cutter told him about the horse. In 2003, Davis won the $20,000 Non-Pro world championship aboard Hick Waree, and finished in the $50,000 Amateur Top 10 in 2004.

“This is a humbling sport,” Davis admitted. “But I’m hooked. If a week goes by without a show, I get nervous and hard to live with. I’ve got to be out there.”

Senior Youth
Paige Kincaid, Peoria, Arizona, scored 221 points to win the Senior Youth championship by a landslide on Dee Acre Doc, a horse she purchased last summer, after she borrowed the gelding to ride in the NCHA Summer Spectacular Youth Cutting.

“I was a little afraid on the second cow because it ran and kicked at my horse,” said Kincaid. “But he just stayed hooked and we ended up strong.”

Kincaid, a freshman in the equine division of the Arizona Agri-Business School, won the go-round with 219 points. This is her third year to qualify for the National Finals; last year she finished among the top 10 finalists.

Junior Youth
Paige Hadlock, Ogden, Utah, claimed the Junior Youth championship with 217 points on Classic Acre, a 9-year-old gelding she has been riding for the past year.

“I was a little nervous because the last time I drew first, a cow ran over me,” she said. “It was a little scary.”

Paige, 11, whose father is trainer Lawson Hadlock, has qualified for the National Championships four times, but this was the first time she has made the finals.

$3,000 Novice Horse
Russ Miller of Hooper, Utah didn’t mind drawing first to work on Lynx Smartest Doc in the $3,000 Novice Finals.

“I think the draw dictated a lot as far as how you were able to get your horse shown,’ said Miller, who won the title with 217 points. “The cattle have been really tough and I think the earlier draws have been better. So I’ve been fortunate.”

“Being first out of 30 horses, I never thought that would hold,” said Miller, who rides Lynx Smartest Doc for Jerry Cronquist of Hooper, Utah. “There were a lot of good horses in there.”

$10,000 Novice Horse
In the $10,000 Novice, Nina Get Your Gun and Mike Wood, Scottsdale, Arizona, marked 222.5 points to win the title over Rio CD, who scored 221 under Lawson Hadlock.

“She’s super athletic and she likes to crouch and get low to the ground with lots of expression,” said Wood of Nina Get Your Gun, whom he rides for Larry Duvall, Scottsdale, Arizona.

Wood also rode the mare to place twelfth in 2004 NCHA $10,000 Novice world championship standings.

The duo marked the high score of the show to be awarded the deluxe three-horse slant load trailer compliments of Wayne Hodges Trailer Sales. Duvall will have one-year use of the trailer for marking the highest score at the show.

“Al Dunning won the $10,000 Novice last year and I worked for Al for 10 years,” said Wood. “I wanted to win the $10,000 Novice on this mare because this is her last year (in that division).

Rio CD, who worked ninth in the first bunch and won the go-round with 221, was the high-scoring horse, until Nina Get Your Gun took aim late in the second bunch.

“We cut three pretty testy cows,” said Hadlock, Ogden, Utah, who rides the 6-year-old horse for Schuler and Markette, Missoula, Montana. “We cut for shape and they shaped up really good.”

$2,000 Limit Rider
Ryan Else of Hamilton, Montana didn’t let his late draw as the next-to-last rider in the first bunch fluster him in the finals of the $2,000 Limit Rider.

“I was a little nervous,” admitted Else, “but I just tried to take my time on my cuts, so I would be clean and in the middle.”

Riding Playboy Money, Else kept to his task in the center of the working area for a 218-point winning performance.

Erica Rubalcaba of Terrebonne, Oregon, rode early in the first bunch, and earned the reserve championship with 216 points.

Else grew up on a ranch in eastern Montana and has worked on ranches most of his life. It wasn’t until last year, however, that he started showing cutting horses. Currently he works for trainer Mike Wood in Scottsdale, Arizona.

“I started showing about six months before I went to work for Mike,” Else explained. “I ride some horses for him and he’s helped me a lot with showing horses.”

Playboy Money, by Freckles Playboy, belongs to Else’s grandfather, Matt Crawford of Hamilton, Montana.

$10,000 Amateur
It didn’t take long for scores to mount in the first bunch of the $10,000 Amateur Finals. Michael Carlyle led off the set with 211 on Magnalight, followed by Jan Daley with 214 on Tango Badger. Tyler Weyer upped the ante with 216 on Lenas Spicy N Hot, but it was the fourth rider, Lola Searle of Vernal, Utah, who set the bar with 219.5 points; a score that wouldn’t be topped.

“This was an awesome bunch of cows today and I had a good draw, too,” said Searle, who also qualified for the $2,000 Limit Rider Finals. “Sometimes I get nervous, depending on the cows. I had been a little bit short coming to the right here, but I knew as long as I got him over there, he was going to be just fine.”

Searle rode Hickory Valentine, a 7-year-old gelded son of Doc’s Hickory, whom she purchased last year.

“He had won about $1,200 when I bought him, so we’re both getting seasoned,” said Searle, who began cutting several years ago at the urging of her husband, Rhett. “He’s not a very big horse, but he’s got a huge heart. He takes a lot of loping, but then he gears right down.”

Tyler Weyer, 17, didn’t need to pick his cattle to earn the reserve champion title, with a 216-point performance.

“I just cut whatever stayed up there on top,” said Tyler, a high school senior from Columbus, Montana, who plans to attend auctioneering school next fall. “My first cow was real soft; I had a good, easy run on my second cow; and my third cow was really strong.”

Tyler rode Lenas Spicy N Hot, who had carried James Hooper as a finalist in the 1992 NCHA Non-Pro Super Stakes. The 17-year-old gelded son of Doc O’Lena, also carried Weyer to place among the top ten of the Western Nationals Senior Youth and to rank among the top ten in the $10,000 Amateur and Senior Youth World Championship standings in 2004.

$20,000 Non Pro
Wylie Gustafson can tell you that breaching the herd isn’t necessarily the worst thing about going first.

“That seat that I was sitting on got pretty uncomfortable,” said Gustafson, who scored 216 points, as the first rider in the finals of the $20,000 Non-Pro. “That was a long wait.”

Gustafson, lead singer and guitarist with the popular Western swing band “Wylie and the Wild West,” purchased Irish Whiskey Sugar as a yearling for a roping prospect.

The 6-year-old gelding carried Gustafson as British Columbia 5/6-Year-Old Non-Pro champion last year, as well as a finalist in several other aged events.

“He’s one of those old-time cow horses,” said Gustafson, who purchased Irish Whiskey Sugar at John Scott’s production sale in Billings, Montana. “He can do it all. We use him on roundups, and to rope and sort cattle. He knows his business.”

When he’s not on the road with his band, Gustafson is at home on his ranch in Lacrosse, Washington, south of Spokane, with his wife Kimberly, who also cuts. It was Kimberly who urged Gustafson to train Irish Whiskey Sugar for cutting and to climb into a cutting saddle himself.

“I was a truck and trailer driver and turnback helper for years,” said Gustafson, who preferred roping competition. “But now that I’ve got the cutting bug, I’ve been putting the roping aside a little bit.”

Amanda Archuleta, Fort Lupton, Colorado marked 214.5 points on Amanda Boon Four, to wind up as reserve champion. It was Gustafson’s first NCHA National Championship win.

Archuleta isn’t new to Ogden – she was 1999 Western National Junior Youth Champion. But this is her first time to claim a top slot in a non-pro division. Amanda, 18, has been showing since she was six, when her father and mother, Joe and Ann, began competing. It was Joe who purchased Amanda Boon Four and trained her for his daughter.

$50,000 Amateur
Matthew Robbins qualified for the $50,000 Amateur Finals on the bubble with 209 points and came back to win the championship with 218 points.

“My run was really fun,” said Matthews, who rode Cal Tessa O Lena. “My horse was outstanding and I really enjoyed it.”

A custom homebuilder from Lehi, Utah, Robbins, has been cutting for 10 years.

“I like the whole aspect of cutting,” he noted. “Anyone can do it and you can do it for so long – into your seventies.”

Kevin Baumann, Alberta, Canada, also qualified for the Finals on the bubble with 209 points. Riding his 10-year-old stallion Lenas Smart One, Baumann scored 215 points for the reserve championship.

“I was a little bit worried about the cattle,” said Baumann. “But overall, it worked out good.”

Baumann, who recently sold his business in the oilfield waste field, began showing cutting horses in 1989. He had his first success with Sonitas Miss Royal, a horse he trained himself.

$10,000 Novice/Non-Pro
Jaime Slagowski missed her college graduation ceremony in order to compete in the $10,000 Novice/ Non-Pro go-round. Her sacrifice paid off when she won the championship with 219 points, aboard Huntress Dual.

“I had to miss graduation, but it paid off,” said Slagowski, Ogden, Utah, who acquired a communications degree from Weber State University. “I had a little trouble in the first round because I didn’t ride aggressively enough, so I was trying to make up for it in the finals.”

James Kier, Washington, Kansas, scored 214.5 points to claim the reserve championship on Bar M Leo Lynx. The money he earned put him over the $200,000 mark in career earnings.

“I’m trying to get to the Non-Pro Hall of Fame before I die of old age,” joked Kier, who has been cutting for 25 years. “I’ve been an NCHA money winner for 25 straight years. That award (NCHA Non-Pro Hall of Fame) is hard to get, but it’s worth it. When you get there, you’ve gotten someplace.”

Kier, who sold his grocery business four years ago, plans to haul Bar M Leo Lynx for the $10,000 Novice/Non-Pro World championship next year. Kier is a past president of the Kansas Cutting Horse Association and served as an NCHA director for 10 years.

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