When Janice Little learned that she was this year’s recipient of the Mary Kingsbury Amateur Sportsmanship Award, the Johnson City, Texas, cutter needed to have the news repeated to make sure she heard it correctly.
“It’s one of the most humbling things I’ve had,” she said.
Created to honor of the spirit of longtime National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) Amateur Committee supporter Mary Kingsbury, who died of cancer in February 2016, the award recognizes an amateur rider who has made contributions to the sport of cutting, the horse and the association. Recipients must show dedication to the sport, and also exhibit kindness, integrity, honesty, respect and compassion.
In announcing Little as this year’s winner, the NCHA said that she has served the association and members in many ways since becoming a member in 1980.
“Janice is always willing to lend a helping hand, she is an NCHA Director for South Texas, she loves the sport and the people and it shows,” the NCHA announcement said. “We are grateful that Janice Little chose the Cutting Horse Industry [sic] as her passion, she has made us better just by being a part of it.”
Little grew up barrel racing in rodeos, but fell in love with cutting during the 1970s when her sister, Susan, was dating a cutting horse trainer. She didn’t show, though, and rode hunter-jumpers a while before cutting won her back.
“My heart went right back to the cutting horses,” Little explained. “They really mean everything to me. They’re pretty phenomenal animals.”
After competing for years at weekend shows, Little began showing in aged events in 2012 with Quejana Reeves (Quejanaisalena x Ms Highliner x High Brow Hickory). In 2013, she rode Desires Diva (Desires Little Rex x Dualin Diva x Doc Robert Hickory) to third-place finishes in the NCHA Futurity Amateur and Unlimited Amateur. Last year, Little finished thirteenth — riding Quejana Reeves and Wendels Player (High Brow CD x Playin Tag x Playgun) — in the NCHA Amateur World Standings. As of Nov. 9, she had an Equi-Stat record of $181,935.
The camaraderie among cutters and love of the horse – and the extraordinary things cutting horses do – has kept her in the game.
“Cutting is just phenomenal, because it’s one of the only sports, if not the only sport, that competitors all help each other,” said Little, whose husband, David, also has competed in cutting. “Even the trainers. It starts from the top. The trainers help each other; they turn back, they go watch each other’s horse work and say, ‘Hey, maybe you need to do this.’ or ‘You need to do that.’
“Somebody may go out there and mark a 230, but you can bet when his friend walks out there to cut, he’s trying to help him mark a 231.”
Little will be presented with the award during the Unlimited Amateur finals at the 2018 NCHA Futurity in Fort Worth, Texas.
Last year’s recipient was Bernie Kirkland, of Weatherford, Texas. Lica Pinkston received the inaugural award at the 2016 NCHA Futurity.
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