The 2018 National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) Western Nationals kicked off Saturday, June 23, at the National Western Complex Events Center in Denver, Colorado. The show has been an emotional ride for 9-year-old Jack Bell, of Duluth, Minnesota. In the Junior Youth first go, he scored a 180 aboard Spin To You (Mr Boonsmal To You x Spin N Roses x Docs Spinifex). It was an uncharacteristic day for the youngster his father, J.P., said.
“I could tell from the time he went into the herd that it wasn’t going to be a good ride,” J.P. said. “He cut a cow that ran all over the pen, and he never does that.”
Luck was on his side. Only 10 of the 11 entries were slated to advance to the finals, but a second rider also scored a 180, so all 11 riders in the class advanced. Relieved he had a chance to give it another go, Jack spent time in the practice pen regaining his composure, and Scott Amos spent some time working the flag with him.
“Jack rides his own horse 90 percent of the time,” J.P. said. “We had him go through the same process as when he finished in the Top 5 at the World Finals in December in the $2,000 Limit Rider.”
Heading back into the pen for the finals, Jack felt more focused and ready to work his cows. With the assistance of his herd help, he picked three good cows that showed off his horse’s talent.
“I wasn’t as nervous for the finals. I was more nervous for the first run,” Jack said. “I was so excited because my horse really likes to cut.”
His 219 was the high score by 4 points. Jack’s twin sister, Jenna, was also in the class. She’s been showing cutters less time than her brother and was worried she wasn’t even going to make it into the finals, but her 201 aboard Nancy Burkes’ Count Me In (Im Countin Checks x CDs Masterpiece x CD Olena) easily advanced her. She marked a 206, which created a four-way tie for the Top 5.
Jack has big goals. He’s set his sights on moving up to the $3,500 Non-Pro division next year and finishing Top 15 in the world standings.
“We’re really proud of both kids,” J.P. said. “Both really enjoy the horses and spend time working the cattle and the horses with me before and after school.”
Senior Youth riders concluded the first official day of competition at the 2018 NCHA Western Nationals. Chaser Ray Crouch, of Coriscana, Texas, described his first go as nothing special.
The cows were pretty good and he was pleased with the solid, clean cuts made by his horse, GS Zans Cat, or “Zanny” (Smooth As A Cat x Zans Red Gold x Zan Gold Jack). The pair’s 216 was the fourth highest of 18 entries, and 10 advanced to the finals.
But the cattle in the finals were more challenging than the first herd, according to the 17-year-old.
“The cattle were a little more intense in the finals than the first go,” he said. “They were a little tougher and pushed back on us to get back to the herd.”
Early in the finals, McKenzie McBride marked a 220, but the score was pending a review. Crouch was draw six and knew he needed a good score. He marked a 215.5, which put him in second, but at the end of the class, the video review revised McBride’s score. Crouch took the lead.
“It was an exhausting day, but a good finish,” he said.
This win gave Crouch an 80-point lead in the Senior National Youth Cutting Horse Association (NYCHA) world standings, which he expects to maintain. In 2016, he was the NYCHA Senior Youth Reserve World Champion.
Crouch and Zanny’s partnership was somewhat of an unexpected one. The mare arrived at the Crouch’s facility as a training horse for Casey to ride in the open classes. After a schooling session shortly after she arrived, Chaser was removing her bridle when she flung her head into his face, giving him a nose bleed.
“I wouldn’t go near her after that,” he said. “A while later my father begged me to show her because she was doing something with him that he wanted to fix. If he could watch me ride her, he’d know what it was.”
But Zanny didn’t give the reaction Casey was looking for. Instead, Chaser and Zanny bonded and have become a team. In 2016, the family purchased her as his Christmas present.
“We have a real connection now,” he said. “She’s the kind of horse you have to know when to lay off and when you can push her.”
After the NCHA Western Nationals conclude, Crouch will head to Gillette, Wyoming, to compete in the National High School Finals Rodeo in the boys cutting for the third consecutive year. He’s looking to repeat his performance from last year when he was named national champion.
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