Whether they have been in the sport for only a few years or longer, amateur cutters work hard to learn and succeed, and the top amateur rider of the year is recognized for his or her efforts. The family of Amy Bell, a cutter who passed away unexpectedly May 26, 2014, shortly before she was supposed to show at the Breeder’s Invitational, endowed the award in 2015.
Grace Vangilder, of Weatherford, Texas, was this year’s Amateur Rider of the Year. She is the daughter of James, who owns Rock Creek Ranch. Vangilder earned $59,103 during 2016 while showing Shes A Smokin Dually, Smooth As Puddin and Peppy The Poo.
Vangilder and Shes A Smokin Dually, a 6-year-old mare who is by Third Cutting and out of the Dual Pep mare Smokin Dually, won their first title at the Abilene Spectacular in January. Later during the year, they took Reserve in the 5/6-Year-Old Amateur at the Brazos Bash.
The 18-year-old freshman at Texas Christian University also rode 5-year-old Smooth As Puddin (Smooth As A Cat x Punkin Tari x Taris Jessie) to a Reserve Championship in the 5/6-Year-Old Amateur at the NCHA Super Stakes. She rounded out her year with her 4-year-old Bobby and Dottie Hill-bred gelding Peppy The Poo (Dual Pep x Hicapoo x Doc’s Hickory), who she won a Championship title with at the Bonanza and Reserve titles with at The Cattlemen’s and Brazos Bash.
Vangilder topped Von Sutten, who was second in line for the award, by only $151.93. She said she was not able to show much after August due to school, but she was excited to still remain in the lead in the standings.
“I feel like the Rider of the Year [award] shows that you’re pretty dedicated to going and showing, and you’re putting a lot of hard work and effort into it,” Vangilder said. “And it’s kind of cool that it’s in memory of someone that did the same thing.”