Non-Pro cutter Paula Wood was honored for her pursuit of excellence with the 2017 Bill Freeman Award.
Wood, who considered the late showman a friend, said she was touched to receive the award given in his name at the 2017 National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) Futurity in Fort Worth, Texas.
“Any time the people you look up to, your peers, [when] they think that much of you to give you something like that, it’s a very humbling experience,” said Wood, an Equi-Stat Elite $2 Million Rider. “I was very taken by it.”
The award honors those who strive for excellence, as Freeman did. It is rotated between a trainer and a non-pro. The 2016 recipient was Equi-Stat Elite $2 Million Grant Setnicka.
Freeman never quit pursuing excellence in the cutting pen, Wood said, and he encouraged others to do the same. She experienced that during her first aged event victory in December 1992 riding Smart War Lena (by Smart Little Lena) in the Classic/Challenge Non-Pro at the Will Rogers Futurity and Maturity.
“He could see how nervous I was, and he goes, ‘You know, we’re going to win this.’ I go, ‘Yeah, right!’ And he goes, ‘No, I’m telling you; you listen to me and Kobie, and we’re going to win this thing.’ And, I’ll be damned, we did.”
She said it never mattered how much Freeman won, he always tried to do better. It is fitting, she said, that the award given in his honor celebrates that characteristic.
“That kind of excellence is something I think he would be very honored to have his name known for,” she said. “We all – any of us that knew Bill Freeman – knew how well he could cut and if we could be associated with something in his honor, [it] is truly an honor.”