It’s only fitting that Bill Cowan and Catty Hawk each hit the $1 million mark this summer. The Oklahoma rancher, who owns the stallion with his wife, Michelle, has spent several years supporting the stud career of a horse they now consider part of the family.
“I’ve probably got a little bit spoiled with owning him, because that horse is probably one of the cheapest horses I ever bought as far as what he’s cost me,” the new Equi-Stat Elite $1 Million Rider said of the 2005 son of High Brow Cat. “He’s just done great things for our family, and our whole family enjoys him.”
The Cowans found Catty Hawk while looking for a 3-year-old for Michelle, but liked the sorrel son of Scarlet Dance (by Peppy San Badger) so much they bought him from breeders Jack Waggoner and Susan Ferguson. Cowan rode the horse to the National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) Futurity Limited Non-Pro Championship and made the Non-Pro finals. The horse retired with earnings of $240,282.
Catty Hawk began breeding mares at age 5. He stands at Weatherford Equine in Weatherford, Texas, but returns to Cowan Ranch in Ardmore, Oklahoma, when the breeding season is over.
“There wasn’t really any reason to ever castrate him, so we went along. We never planned on having a stallion to stand, but he performed well and we liked him so much we started breeding to our own,” Cowan said.
Catty Hawk’s success came with far fewer foals than many successful stallions in the industry; he reached a million dollars as a sire with slightly less than three dozen performers. As of Nov. 8, his Equi-Stat sire record stood at 32 performers with earnings of $1,166,450. That’s an average of $36,452.
He had 12 American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA)-registered foals in 2011, his first crop, from a pen of mares Cowan said were mostly owned by the ranch or his family members. The star of the group, and Catty Hawk’s second-leading earner, was a mare named Billies Catty.
After a successful aged-event career, Billies Catty (out of Little Bonnie Blue x Mecom Blue) went on a tear this year with Cowan in the Mercuria/NCHA World Series of Cutting. They won the Non-Pro at the El Rancho Futurity and landed co-championships in the Non-Pro at series stops at the Pacific Coast Cutting Horse Association Derby and Mane Event V. In all, Billies Catty has an Equi-Stat record of $208,709.
Catty Hawk’s leading earner, Cattys Hope, was born in 2013 to Tornados Rey Of Hope (by Dual Rey). The Dan Churchill-bred mare has earned $246,184 with highlights that include the Abilene Spectacular 4-Year-Old Open and Breeder’s Invitational Derby Open Reserve championships.
Cowan, who cut some as a youth in Montana, got into the game through the guidance of Al Dunning, who helped Michelle with a reining horse. They got into reined cow horse first, and Cowan rode the winners of $150,099 in that discipline before switching to cutting.
In addition to his success with Catty Hawk, Billies Catty and a number of the stallion’s other progeny, Cowan also has won several limited-age events and multiple American Quarter Horse Association World Championships in Amateur Cutting with other horses. As of Nov. 8, he had an Equi-Stat record of $1,052,302.
Several of his cutting wins and top finishes came aboard mares he later bred successfully to Catty Hawk, including Billies Catty’s dam, who also foaled $71,090-earning Catty Hawk gelding Cattys Bonnie Blue, and Gar Bella Lena, a mare by Duals Blue Boon that foaled aged-event champions Catty Bluz ($58,647) and Catty Minx ($38,329). He also rode Little Gray Freckles, a daughter of Playgun that later foaled NRCHA Derby Open Champion Lil Bay Hawk (by Catty Hawk).
Cowan said working with young horses and improving his horsemanship – and the continual challenge posed by the sport – are what keep him in the cutting industry. He credited his success to help he got along the way from James Payne, who he began riding with more than a decade ago when the young trainer was working for Cowan’s neighbor, Dick Pieper, as well as trainer R.L. Chartier.
“About every time you think you’ve gone up another rung in the ladder, another door opens and there’s a long hallway to go down to get to the other side,” Cowan said. “And, I truly enjoy that part of it.”
Although Cowan is the only Equi-Stat Elite $1 Million Rider in his family, Michelle isn’t far behind with $772,065 on her lifetime record. Their daughters, Makenzie, 12, and Makayla, 14, also are active cutters.
“It’s been really rewarding to be able to do that with my family,” said Cowan, whose son, Caden, prefers ranch work. “It’s certainly given us plenty to do.”
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