Arlington, Texas, real estate developer Ralph Shelton says he “hasn’t been very active in cutting for maybe 20 years now,” but peers are well aware of his behind-the-scenes support of the National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) since the early 1980s.
“It was just a wow moment,” Shelton said when asked for his reaction to receiving the second annual Modine Smith Humanitarian Award at the recent 2013 NCHA Futurity.
The award, named for the West Coast cutting industry’s matriarch, 91-year-old Modine Smith, honors individuals for “unwavering support of the NCHA and our Foundation by continuously working to enhance our association’s past and present.” Smith, who received the first award bearing her name last year, was on hand to present Shelton with the second edition.
Shelton, with help from NCHA officials Tommy Moore and Zack T. Wood, started the charitable NCHA Foundation in 1981, following the sudden death of his young son, Ralph Shelton III, whom he called “Trey.” As a youth cutter, Trey had traveled and competed at many events with his father. “We had that in common, and we got along fine,” Shelton said.
The Foundation’s priorities include educating youth and assisting NCHA families in times of crisis. It also provides funding for promotion and research that helps cutting. Shelton has continued to support the Foundation financially and as a board member, including the former chairman for three decades.
“I wanted to do something good, in his name,” Shelton said. “It was quickly apparent that doing so would create an opportunity for others to do the same thing.”
The Foundation’s growth “has been way beyond my imagination,” Shelton said, adding he might have planted a seed, but many others have helped it grow. He relished receiving the award named for Smith, with her at his side.
“She’s just a delight, and wonderful lady, and she’s been wonderful to cutting.”