John Carter, 87, a National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) Hall Of Fame member and the father of two NCHA Hall Of Fame member trainers, died Wednesday, July 24 following lingering complications from an injury early this year. A memorial service will take place Monday, July 29, at 6 p.m. in Fort Worth, Texas, at Will Rogers Coliseum.
Carter, a career earner of $264,861, according to Equi-Stat records, trained horses and competed as a cutter from the 1950s through one final check-earning ride in 2011. He remained active until suffering a broken hip about six months ago. Carter suffered several health complications since then and never fully recovered before his death in Crockett, Texas.
In 2011, Carter settled a cattle set during the Champion’s Cup Cutting at the 50th Anniversary NCHA Futurity in Fort Worth. That event featured many past NCHA Futurity Open Champion riders, and most of them knew Carter well.
“Punk just shook his head, because he couldn’t believe how strong that man was,” recalled Rita Carter, wife of John’s son, Punk. Her father in-law enjoyed cutting and he enjoyed life, she said. “John made sure everybody had a good time.”
Keith Barnett, 71, a cutting trainer based in Brenham, Texas, was a longtime friend of Carters. “When I first met him, he was showing a mare called Hollywood Cat. He was really tough riding that mare,” Barnett said. Asked if there was a secret to Carter’s success as a trainer, his friend added, “He knew horses.”
Carter also enjoyed people. He had an outspoken personality and you knew where they stood with him, Barnett said. Many people have John Carter stories to tell. A television segment hosted a few years ago by his one-time training assistant, clinician Chris Cox, included stories from retired Dallas Cowboys pro football players Randy White and Walt Garrison and standout racehorse trainer Bubba Cascio. At the end of the show, Cox asked Carter, “Did you have a good time today?” In an answer that aired as part of the televised story, Carter candidly replied, “Damn sure did.”
Carter remained in good spirits to the end, Barnett said. “I went and saw him a couple of weeks ago. His body was wearing out, but his mind was sharp as a tack. He was a good guy.”
Carter, a farmer before starting his training career, served in the United States Marine Corps during World War II. He married his wife of 67 years, Jerry, in 1944. Jerry preceded her husband in death in 2011. Survivors include son Punk Carter, an NCHA past president and member of the NCHA Members Hall of Fame, and his wife, Rita; son Roy Carter, a member of the NCHA Riders’ Hall of Fame; plus seven grandchildren, 10 great-grandchildren and two great-great grandchildren.
In lieu of flowers, the family has asked donations be made to the National High School Rodeo Association.