In a field thick with potential winners, it was no surprise that two rose to the top. “Cutting with the Stars” would have been an apt description of Sunday night’s Lucas Oil National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) Super Stakes Non-Pro finals.
Among the 21 finalists were 2017 NCHA Futurity Non-Pro Champions Chad Bushaw and Bittersweet, as well as Megan Miller and Carolena Reyn, who won the first go-round, composite and Non-Pro semifinals. Both teams scored a 222 to share in a well-earned victory in Fort Worth, Texas, and take home $36,319 each.
Bushaw stepped up first when he rode Bittersweet (out of Miss Sea Rey x Dual Rey) onto the sandy stage of Will Rogers as the eighth to work. With more than $62,000 in earnings to her credit, Bittersweet essentially made her first return to the arena since last December. The dark red roan daughter of Metallic Cat was clearly ready to make her reappearance memorable.
“I felt that we got the three best cows that were in there, my help was great as always and the girl who gets her ready was great, as always, so we just got it done,” Bushaw said. “She had kicked herself when I was working her in February trying to get her ready for the spring events and had developed a little bit of cellulitis. But she’s been working great this past month and it worked out.”
Bushaw was quick to thank his business partner, Alana Chalmers, whose support allows him to take the time he needs to compete, as well as Crystal Hensley, who prepares the horse for competition.
“She is so devoted and is a special girl. We’re very lucky to have her on the team. The four guys helping me, they’re all close friends and are guys my boys can look up to, good family men.
“My boys and my wife mean the world to me and the fact that I am able to share this sport and this hobby – this passion for horses – with them means everything,” he continued. “I used to take it too serious, but now I am just thankful to be here. I take a lot more pride in seeing the boys do well than myself.”
Miller, the only rider to qualify two horses to the finals, briefly held the lead in the first set with the Dual Smart Rey stallion Hey Boo Boo (out of Travs Scooter x Smart Lil Scoot). Their 216 was overtaken by Bittersweet, but Miller knew Carolena Reyn was the caliber of horse to take on the challenge.
Having already earned more than $60,000, including earnings from a Derby Open win at the Arbuckle Mountain Futurity earlier this year, Carolena Reyn has remained consistent throughout the spring.
“I wanted to get both of my horses shown well, but I had higher expectations for the mare because of how well she’d done in the go-rounds,” Miller explained. “Whitney [Hall] had already shown two of the cows we were going to cut, but the first cow I cut drove to the top and that was a good decision. Then, we got to the third cow and Matt [Miller’s husband] told me I had 15 seconds and told me to keep riding.”
Miller, a very poised rider, noted that while Bushaw’s 222 was the bar, her focus was on showing her Dual Smart Rey mare (out of Carolena Moon x Peptoboonsmal) to her fullest potential.
“We raised Carolena Reyn and from the very beginning, we could see she was special,” Miller said. “The very first time she worked the [cow] machine, she really hooked up. From that time on, she’s been very trainable. She showed a lot of promise and potential, even then.”
Miller’s eyes filled with tears as she described how Carolena Reyn’s mother, Carolena Moon, was the catalyst behind her choosing cutting as the discipline to pursue after spending her youth riding in several disciplines.
“She was my first really competitive cutting horse,” she said. “I really didn’t know what I was doing in the cutting before her. Andy Sherrerd trained her, and she was really the first big cutting horse for the both of us. He ended up winning the Limited Open on her at the [NCHA] Futurity. Really, she just lit a fire under me. She’s been everything to me.”