In the Know: Cutting Acrobatics

While NCHA Hall of Fame Rider Tracy Barton said it would have been nice to mark a huge score on this last ride in the cutting pen at the Mercuria National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) World Finals with NRR Cat King Cole, Barton is happy to know the stallion is the center of many conversations after his near summersault in the saddle in the final round of the Open made the duo an internet sensation.

When asked what happened in Fort Worth, Texas, Barton replied, “I couldn’t tell you. I don’t remember much of it. I remember stopping, looking down, seeing my hat on the ground and looking up. That’s it. I don’t remember anything else. It happened so quick.”

The 9-year-old stallion (High Brow Cat x Uno Del Rey x Smart Little Uno) is bred and owned by Jerry Ward’s North Ridge Ranch, of Pierre, South Dakota. He finished 2016 as the Open Reserve World Champion with earnings of $85,316 and as the Champion Stallion. According to the NCHA, he has lifetime earnings of $230,918.

“When you’re hanging everything out on the last deal, I’m not embarrassed at all by what happened,” Barton said. “I’m really proud of the horse. I’m proud of what he did. Everyone saw that it wasn’t because he stumbled or because the cow was bad, it was because he hit another gear and was just going for it.”

In May, Barton will mark his eighth anniversary of working for Ward at North Ridge Ranch and he’s ridden “Cole” since the horse was a 2-year-old. His history with Ward and Cole’s family tree stretch back three decades.

“I trained horses for Jerry Ward when I lived in Virginia – actually when I started out in Connecticut,” Barton said. “I sold him his very first cutting horse, which was a mare called Rach Rey. That’s Cole’s grandma. That was the first cutting horse that Jerry owned. She is the matriarch of Jerry’s breeding program. You fast forward to 30 years later. We never bought one horse to show. Everything that we have shown has been bred and raised on the ranch. It’s a true testament into Jerry’s insight into the breeding operation and his love for his horses.”

In 2014, Barton and Cole hauled in the open and finished eighth in the World and earned the title of Reserve Champion Stallion.

“He’s the best horse I’ve ever swung a leg over,” Barton said. “He probably went to the herd 110-120 times this year, they’ve got us winning 90-something shows and that’s a lot of shows. We won $3,800 at the Mercurias, all our other money was weekend money. I can honestly tell you that out of the 120 times that I went to the herd with him, he never once quit, he never once ran off, he never once didn’t give 120 percent. There’s absolutely no quit in him at all.”

Cutting is in Cole’s blood, but it’s also in his heart. You might even say he’s a fan of the sport.

“He thinks different,” Barton said. “He just absolutely loves the cutting. From my point of view, it was just real easy to show him. It was real easy to keep him tuned, You didn’t have to make him do anything. He wanted to do it.

“Where his stall is in the barn, he can look and see the indoor,” Barton added. “He loves it because he can watch other horses cut. That’s all he wants to do.”

After a year of hauling in 2014, Cole was given some time off from cutting in preparation for stud duty. But he protested being left behind.

“The year after we hauled him, I was going to go to a show in January,” Barton said. “We loaded up the trailer and I left him. He was so depressed, he put his head in the corner and he didn’t eat for two days. We took him to CSU [Colorado State University] to the breeding farm and everything was great. I go to pick him up and I led him down the alleyway – the breeding dummy is on the left and the trailer’s on the right. He starts trotting, he hangs a right and runs in the trailer. All he wants to do is go cut.”

Cole picked up many honors and titles in his illustrious career, but Barton was surprised to learn that the horse will be joining him in the NCHA Hall of Fame.

“To be able to be Reserve World Champion and World Champion Stallion is great,” Barton said. “I wasn’t even aware that we accomplished enough to where Cole got inducted into the Horse Hall of Fame. To me, that was just an awesome cherry on top of the sundae.

“Two years ago, to be in the top 10 in the Open, that was the first time that a horse from South Dakota had done that,” Barton said. “Cole has done a lot of things that has broke the record book. From a local area, he’s won the Open five years in a row. No horse has ever done that in the existence of South Dakota Cutting Horse Association, much less NCHA. This year, this is the first horse in the history of NCHA that a horse has won an affiliate Open championship, an area Open champion, a national Open championship, Reserve World Champion, World Champion Stallion and inducted into the Horse Hall of Fame.”

Retired from competition, NRR Cat King Cole will stand at Weatherford Equine in 2017. 

“There’ll be a hole in the trailer when we go down the road next year without him in it,” Barton said. “It was a partnership deal. In the mornings at Fort Worth, you have those concrete aisles and he would be sound asleep as people walked by, he would hear my spurs wake up and look for me. He knew me inside and out. It was really a great friendship that he and I have.”

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