Most fathers will do just about anything for their daughters, and so it was for James “Jim” Vangilder when he decided he’d hang up his cutting horse spurs 10 years ago to oversee his daughter, Grace’s, education, as well as her cutting exploits.
An earner of more than $1 million, the 72-year-old Vangilder was concerned he’d not only be rusty when he returned to the sport in 2018, but physically out of shape due to back surgery. His fears, however, were put to rest somewhat after taking the win June 13 aboard Wicked Little Cat in the 4-Year-Old Unlimited Amateur at the Non Pro Plus The Open in Ardmore, Oklahoma.
“When I started back again at The Cattlemen’s in January, nothing felt right or comfortable,” he said. “I am just very fortunate and blessed to have had a win because I certainly never expect them. I sure don’t feel like I’m back to where I used to be in terms of my skills.”
But the few checks he won at The Cattlemen’s “at least paid for my entry fees,” he said with a laugh, and a fourth-place finish at the Breeder’s Invitational in the 4-Year-Old Unlimited Amateur earlier this year seemed to oil the rust out for his performance at the Hardy Murphy Coliseum in June.
“I was first in the draw, and normally I prefer to be in the middle or even toward the end,” he said. “But, I noticed that the earlier riders were getting scored better because as the set went on, the cows were getting hot and harder to deal with. The first two cows we had were really good, and if our third cow had been better, we would have marked a really nice score.”
Vangilder’s score of 219 on Wicked Little Cat, a daughter of Metallic Cat out of Wicked Wanda Rey (by Dual Rey), held through the remainder of the 12 finalists, earning him a check totaling more than $7,100 for the win in both the unlimited amateur and senior divisions. Wicked Little Cat, known as “Hazel,” came to Vangilder as a 3-year-old prospect for Matt Gaines to show in the open.
“I showed her at The Cattlemen’s this year, but it really was not very good,” he said. “Then, I showed her at the Derby, and we didn’t have any success at all. I wound up overriding her a bit and she was not very good for me, but that was due to me using my feet way too much and getting her confused.”
Under the guidance of Gaines, who not only helped get the Rose Valley Ranch-bred mare back on track but with a practice horse helped Vangilder to lay off the lead foot, the pair headed to Ardmore with a fresh perspective, scoring consistently in both the go-round and finals.
“She is a real quiet mare and just a pleasure to be around,” Vangilder said. “She doesn’t act up or take a lot of riding. Some horses are just not nice to be around and want to get in trouble, but she’s not that way. She’s fun to be around.”
Taking the reserve spot was Traci Shehady, of Granbury, Texas, riding homebred mare You Cant Buy Love (Cats Gotta Diamond x Biscuit Love x Smart Aristocrat). The pair scored a 216 to take home $4,001.
5/6-Year-Old Unlimited Amateur
You could say 18-year-old Reyly Plendl is a focused teenager, something she credits to the sport of cutting. That determination helped her ride Mr Metallic Rey to a 216.5 on June 12, taking the win in the 5/6-Year-Old Unlimited Amateur. It was a feat Mr Metallic Rey somewhat repeated after having won the 4-Year-Old Unlimited Amateur in 2017 under Plendl’s sister, Regan.
“He’s so powerful; I had so much adrenaline,” said the Kingsley, Iowa, native. “I’ve never ridden such a strong, amazingly powerful horse. Riding him was so much more different than the horses I have been riding. I don’t even know how to explain him.
“Nick [Odell] continually told me to kick, kick, kick, because he’s better when you do that,” she said of the gelding’s trainer. “Every time when I go into the herd, they tell me to be slow and smooth. My dad always tells me don’t try and win it, because every time I do, I overthink it and I overdo things. They encourage me not to take as many risks and have a slow clean run. I was the last horse of that bunch and there was only a 216 marked, so I just needed a 72 or better. I knew my horse would take care of me.”
Perhaps it was that kind of singular focus that helped Plendl remember what it was like to ride Mr Metallic Rey, or “Ian,” when he was a yearling – so friendly and gentle – because that’s how far you have to go back to the last time Plendl rode the 5-year-old son of Metallic Cat.
“When it came to his 2-year-old year, my sister Regan had put more rides on him,” she said, explaining that the Plendl family had owned Ian’s mother, Rey Of Oak, by Dual Rey, “forever.” “He’s actually her first baby, and he became my sister’s futurity horse because she was really consistent on him. I’ve actually worked him only one time before this show.”
Still, the duo looked like they belonged together. For the win, Mr Metallic Rey added $5,654 to his total earnings, bringing him close to the $100,000 earnings mark.
Plendl, who is an earner of $172,500, will return with Mr Metallic Rey to the National Cutting Horse Association Summer Spectacular, where she will also show in the 4-year-old Unlimited Amateur and in the youth World Finals on different horses. It will be a last big hurrah before she heads to college.
Plendl will attend South Dakota State University this coming fall, followed by entry to dental school. Having once thought she’d be an equine dentist, she determined human dentistry would be better since to be an equine dentist, she’d essentially have to be a veterinarian and that, she thought, was not in her wheelhouse.
“I really want to thank my sister for letting me show him and my whole family for their support,” she added. “Nick and Tanner O’Dell always do a great job getting him ready, too.”
Coming into the reserve spot for the 5/6-Year-Old Unlimited Amateur was Pierson, Florida’s Kelly Eastburn riding Highest Of The Stars (High Brow CD x Lil Missy Starlight x Grays Starlight). That duo earned $3,911 of the total $23,647 purse.
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