Cheyenne Johnson has known her 8-year-old gelding Tom E Toy since he was born, but it was only at the end of his 5-year-old season that she got to own him. And while the pair has been working together for the past two years, they only started winning six months ago.
During the National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) Eastern Nationals, Johnson and Tom E Toy enjoyed their biggest win to date when they marked a 217 in the finals of the $50,000 Amateur to win $3,888 and the Championship.
“This is very rewarding,” Johnson said. “The last few years, trying to get him shown and learning to ride a new horse has been a very humbling experience. It means the world to me right now.”
Knowing the cows were tough, Johnson’s plan for the finals was simply to get through the run.
“My main goal was to cut clean and in the middle of the pen – I didn’t want to go chasing anything,” explained Johnson, who has been a reserve champion at the Eastern Nationals twice before and made the 2011 NCHA Senior Youth World Finals. “My first cow was one that we’d watched, and it was a good cow. The second cow was also another that Todd [Gann] had told me to work, but for my third, I couldn’t get any that he’d told me in a good position, so I cut what worked.”
Last year, a week before the Eastern Nationals, Johnson started working with Gann, a move she believes helped her win at the show this year.
“He’s been very green. I could hardly get him through a run before then,” she recalled. “Last fall, we won some at the weekend shows, and Todd and Brandie Gann did a lot to help build my confidence and his confidence.”
While Johnson has struggled to succeed with Tom E Toy (Thomas E Hughes x One Little Toy x Squeak Toy), the gelding’s personality has made persevering easy.
“He has the coolest personality. He just wants to please people. He loves everyone and no matter what he’s doing, he’s having a great time doing it,” Johnson said. “He’s built really small, but he has the biggest heart. He’s a pleasure to be around.”
Johnson, of Pine Level, Alabama, is studying to become a nurse at Troy University. She said cutting provides her with relief from the stresses of studying.
“Cutting has always been a major part of my life and kept me out of a lot of trouble. It taught me responsibility. I think that cutting has helped me a lot at nursing school because you have to be disciplined to do it,” Johnson said. “When I get to go show, it’s something that’s fun to do and makes me forget about school.”
Johnson thanked her parents, Erin and Cleavy, for their support. She was also thankful Brenda Burns allowed her to buy the horse a few years ago.
DMAC Hipster (Hickorys Indian Pep x DMAC Spoon Babe x Hes A Peptospoonful), owned and ridden by Jason Britt, of Seven Springs, North Carolina, marked a 213.5 to secure the Reserve Champion title and a $3,212 paycheck.