The Will Rogers Coliseum has been quite kind to cutters riding early in the finals at this year’s Lucas Oil National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) Super Stakes. Texas rancher Steve Anderson was no exception when he and his gelding Littlemak crushed the competition with a score of 224 as the third horse to go in the Classic Non-Pro on April 12.
“This is the most exciting thing. I never thought I would have a chance to win one of these,” Anderson said. “I am still sort of shell-shocked.”
Anderson’s hard-hitting stance was well-defined throughout the run as he and Littlemak handled the cattle in spectacular fashion.
“Being third can a be good or bad thing,” said Anderson, exhaling in relief. “We got the cows we wanted, and that first cow gave me a shot to be very aggressive. That was my motivation the whole time – stay strong, stay aggressive, all the way to the end.
“My help was awesome, too,” he continued. “Casey Green and John Burgess were turning back, and Pedro [Ornelas], a man who works for me, was holding the herd with Kory Pounds, who I have had hold herd for me forever. He’s the best. I trust them; you really have to trust your help.”
Littlemak, out of Justa Swinging Gal (by Justa Swinging Peppy), has seen a good amount of success. He and Burgess won the NCHA Super Stakes John Deere Limited Open Championship and tied for the win in the same class at the NCHA Summer Spectacular in 2016. In 2017, they were NCHA Summer Spectacular Classic/Challenge Open finalists. Anderson rode Littlemak to the Derby Non-Pro Championship at the 2016 Waco Futurity and Limited Age Event and made the finals in the non-pro at the 2017 NCHA Summer Spectacular.
While Anderson asserted he was not competing to win, he was determined to show the son of Starlights Gypsy “as strongly as I could.” They certainly did, drawing a check for $16,999 to bring Littlemak’s lifetime earnings to nearly $151,000. Anderson has earned more than $786,000.
Anderson purchased the 6-year-old gelding, who was bred by Joann Parker, prior to the 2015 NCHA Futurity. Since the horse was so green, he decided to pass on showing him at the Triple Crown event. Since then, while they’ve had their ups and downs, they have managed to work out their differences.
“I’m a big San Antonio Spurs fan, and ‘Mak’ is a lot like Kawhi Leonard [the small forward on the team],” said Anderson, comparing the two athletes. “He’s strong and he’s a beast, but he can be a little lazy and quiet. He’s not an easy horse to ride. He’s not flowy.”
As a rancher near Victoria, Texas, Anderson has a lot of experience working with cattle. That background, he said, has helped him be more prepared in the arena.
“Horses in cutting are different than what we need on the ranch,” he explained. “You have to have strength and talent, with an intensity about the cow. They have to have the strength and the athletic ability to do that.
“Being on the ranch helped me watch cows; that’s where I learned to do that,” he continued. “It’s hard for me to teach my girls how to do that, because I learned how to do that on the ranch. It’s given me a lot of feel, and I am able to pick out some good cattle. Not all the time, but sometimes.”
While Anderson alluded to the fact that he was growing older, cutting continues to draw the 57-year-old to the arena for the rush.
“Cutting has great adrenaline and it’s hard. It’s like golf – you want to get that perfect shot,” he said. “It’s challenging, and my whole family loves it.”
Just a half-point shy of Anderson’s score was Alexa Stent, of Gardnerville, Nevada. She rode Peter and Nora Stent-bred Bowmerang (High Brow Cat x Bowmans Little Jewel x Smart Little Lena) to a 223.5, earning the Reserve title and $15,480.