An early morning traffic accident on Saturday, Oct. 19, along a remote north Texas roadway led to the death of a promising young cutting horse. The vehicle’s driver, National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) Hall of Fame trainer Phil Hanson, and three other horses survived.
Peptos Mighty Fine died of injuries suffered in the crash, which took place along Highway 25, south of the small town of Electra, near Wichita Falls, Texas. The 3-year-old red roan gelding was on his way to compete at the Pacific Coast Cutting Horse Association (PCCHA) Borjon Auto Center Futurity and Stakes in Paso Robles, Calif. Jack and Sherry Cowan, of Payson, Ariz., bred and owned the horse, who was by Peptoboonsmal and out of the Smart Little Lena mare Mighty Fine Sue.
“It was a narrow stretch of road and the wind was blowing just a little bit, but not really bad,” said Hanson, a cutting trainer who works in Weatherford, Texas.
Hanson has earned more than $3.6 million riding cutting horses the past 30 years. This is the first time during his long career that he’s been involved in a traffic accident leading to serious injuries involving a horse or a human, he added.
“The pavement dropped off right at the white line,” said Hanson, who was driving a 42-foot long motor home and hauling a four-horse trailer. “A tire kind of grabbed the edge and it pulled me off right there. I was pulling back on the pavement and a concrete embankment was hidden in the high grass. That’s what took everything out. The rear end of the motor home hit that, and I just barely missed it with the front end, or it probably would have been three times as bad.”
He was traveling alone in the vehicle and hauling four horses. Two more Hanson Cutting Horses rigs hauling another 12 horses, were following him. Both those vehicles were able to steer clear of the trouble. Hanson’s son and assistant trainer, Jake, assistant trainer Austin Keys, and Hanson’s father, Phil Hanson Sr., helped him take care of the injured horses at the scene.
“Austin and my dad came up with another horse trailer and took them to ESMS (Equine Sports Medicine and Surgery, in Weatherford, Texas),” said Hanson, who eventually continued on to California with Jake and the remaining 12 horses.
Customized Kittens (Peptoboonsmal x Kittens x High Brow Cat), a 3-year-old mare bred and owned by Frank and Bonnie Martin, of Las Vegas, Nev., and Disco Crat (Smart Aristocrat x Jazzy CD x CD Olena), a 6-year-old mare who won the Abilene Spectacular Classic Amateur with her owner Jack Lindsey of Weatherford, Texas, were also injured. Those horses are doing fine, Hanson said.
Hanson’s reliable and friendly 7-year-old turnback gelding, Stepper, had both his eyes swollen shut, but was otherwise OK after the crash. He’s resting and recovering in Weatherford, Texas. He’s also expected to rejoin his boss at future cutting events.
Dealing with the loss of a horse was tough for him, and tougher for the Cowans, Hanson said. It was not easy continuing along the road to compete this week, but necessary because of prior commitments.
“It’s not easy anytime you have a loss like that,” Hanson said. “You just thank God it wasn’t you or your help.”