As I write this, I’m sitting at the Quarter Horse News (QHN) booth in Fort Worth, Texas, during a cattle change for the National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) Futurity Open semifinals. The buzz in the Best of the West trade show seems livelier tonight than it has been in years. I see smiling faces — familiar and new — everywhere.
I think most of us can agree that the end of futurity season is a bittersweet moment. We’re all far past exhausted and ready for a break, but at the same time, the magic is nearly gone … at least until next year. For months we’ve bonded over the amazing young prospects we’ve watched turn into bona fide show horses. The inspiration of it all is what drives many of us to soldier on through the next year.
There’s so much more to the magic of a major futurity than just seeing great horses compete for huge purses. It’s something that is hard to describe to someone, especially someone from outside the industry, who has never felt it before. (Believe me, I’ve tried.)
When we all gather in the same place for a few weeks to celebrate our common love of performance horses, the feeling of togetherness and fellowship is overpowering. Personally, I become even more aware of the fact that I’m part of such a diverse group of amazing people who sincerely value the Western way of life and the horses that make it so grand. Getting to tell their stories is my passion in life, so seeing this many of them at once brightens my day.
The futurity is a time to catch up with old friends and meet new ones. Folks swap stories about the last year and reminisce about the past. No matter how much you know, you always learn more. That’s a guarantee. People flood in from all over the world to feel it — that indescribable futurity magic.
I know the live webcast has been a topic of debate for several years, especially at the NCHA Futurity. Decreased attendance certainly wasn’t helped by the ease with which fans could catch every run from the comfort of their homes, but I think a little time has proven the show won’t go down without a fight. The allure of the “real deal” isn’t easily forgotten. I’ll say it again — the magic of the futurity isn’t just in the runs. It’s in the experiences and camaraderie that lie just beyond the show pen walls.
One of the greatest additions to the NCHA Futurity, if you ask me, has been the association’s celebrity stall in the trade show. Many of us often take for granted that we live in the cutting capitol of the world, where some of the industry’s greatest and most famous horses are merely a short drive away.
The celebrity stall gives cutters from across the globe the opportunity to get up close and personal with the athletes they read about throughout the year. It makes the sport that much more “real” to them. As I sit here typing and watching people scurry by, I can’t help but assume that at least a few of them were brought into the building by the announcement of a new guest in the stall across the way.
During this show, I’ve watched people fawn over horses like Equi-Stat Elite $23 Million Sire Metallic Cat’s second-highest-earning son, Metallic Rebel. I imagine the response will be similar tomorrow night, when his No. 1 performer and the 2018 NCHA Open World Champion, Hashtags, arrives. And in just a few moments, even I will get a special treat. For the first time, I’ll meet Equi-Stat Elite $26 Million Sire Smooth As A Cat in person.
Yes, this thing … this futurity — this funny little word that makes most non-horse people look puzzled when we talk about its grandeur — is downright magical.