It was July of 2017, and the National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) Summer Spectacular was in full swing. Blake Patillo, of St. Elmo, Illinois, and his wife, Lori, were taking a final look at a High Brow CD gelding named High Stylin CD before they sealed the deal. They’d done their research, and the Sunrise Ranch-bred then-4-year-old (out of Stylin Playgirl x Docs Stylish Oak) was a solid prospect.
But how does one ever know what they are actually buying?
“When you’re showing these horses, you don’t really know how much they have until you put them in a real situation, as far as if they have big scores in them or not,” said Pattillo, whose plans for High Stylin CD went awry but developed into more than he could have hoped. “To be honest with you, he surprised me, even.
“When I bought him, I didn’t know he was going to be quite as good as he is. I just had no idea,” Pattillo said of “Jones,” who was crowned the 2018 NCHA Amateur Horse of the Year with a staggering 695 points accumulated throughout the show season. “That horse has more heart than any horse I’ve ever been around in my life. He’s just definitely exceeded our expectations of him.”
Jones was purchased for Pattillo, but an arm injury prevented him from riding the gelding, so his son, Langston, took over the ride.
“Langston started showing him, and he did so well on him. I’m never going to show him again, I can assure you,” Pattillo said. “We want the best for our kids, first and foremost, as parents.
“They just fit,” he added of his 17-year-old son, who has $215,776 in lifetime earnings since collecting his first check in 2014. “I have close friends that say you know when there’s a horse and rider that fit so well. It’s just a great thing, and they just fit each other. I just enjoy seeing it.”
Jones had approximately $8,000 to his name when he was purchased by the Pattillos. He now boasts $126,123 in lifetime earnings, with a gold-plated list of titles that bear his name, as well.
Langston and Jones made their show pen debut in the Derby at the West Texas Futurity, where the horse quit on him in the corner after nine or 10 great stops, Pattillo recalled. When Pattillo ran down to the show pen afterward, people thought he was upset, but his first thought was, “Wow, we’ve got ourselves a show horse.”
“I’ll never forget Kobie and Paula Wood telling me, ‘Blake, forget everything that just happened right there. That’s a good horse.’ And I felt it, too,” Pattillo said.
A few shows later, Langston and Jones arrived at the Bonanza Cutting, where they claimed the 5/6-Year-Old Amateur Championship. Their next few shows resulted in many finals berths, including several seconds and thirds, but the No. 1 spot seemed to elude them.
It was at the Breeder’s Invitational that the duo reached a turning point. There, Langston and Jones marked a 225 from the last hole to win the Classic/Challenge Amateur.
“When he did that, it gave Langston all the confidence in the world in that horse,” Pattillo said. “Give him the right cattle, and if Langston gets them cut right, there’s no limit it seems to what the horse will do for you if you ask him. He’s definitely proved himself in our family, and whenever I’ve doubted him, he’s always come through.”
Amidst their success in the show pen, the Pattillos weren’t pursuing Amateur Horse and Rider year-end awards — in fact, they didn’t even know there was such a thing until someone told them they were in the running for the 2018 titles.
“We just kept showing and plugging along,” Pattillo explained. “I thought, ‘Shoot, we may have a chance to do this.’”
By the time the 2018 NCHA Summer Spectacular rolled around, the Pattillos realized winning the year-end titles was a real possibility, despite how many serious contenders there were in the Amateur division. No matter where Langston drew in a set, as long as he did his job cutting the cow, the horse was going to “take care of the other part,” Pattillo said.
“His heart would be one of his best attributes — his heart to go out there and win,” Pattillo added of Jones. He said the horse is not built like other horses and therefore shouldn’t be able to do what he does physically, based on his conformation. “He’s so smart on a cow; he just reads it so well. And he stops — his stops are huge. That’s what he has — big stops and smart on a cow.”
Jones has proven himself time and time again, and Langston’s confidence has grown right along with him. The duo, trained by Cullen Chartier, claimed the NCHA Summer Spectacular Classic/Challenge Amateur win with a 223, and a 222.5 secured the Unlimited Amateur Championship, as well.
In Las Vegas, they partnered for the Pacific Coast Cutting Horse Association Classic/Challenge Unlimited Amateur Championship. Langston also picked up the Classic/Challenge Amateur title at that event aboard the Smooth As A Cat son Dualin Smooth Legacy, who he previously piloted to the NCHA Super Stakes Amateur Co-Championship. The now-6-year-old gelding (out of Dual Legacy x Dual Pep) came in as the sixth-highest-ranking horse in the Amateur Horse of the Year division with 438 points, helping to secure Langston the 2018 Amateur Rider of the Year award.
While Jones is a seasoned professional at the shows, the “quirky” gelding exhibits little to no interest in training at home. In the show pen, however, everything changes, and Pattillo believes Jones knows the difference.
“He’s had a fabulous year; it was a great accomplishment for him and Langston,” Pattillo said, reiterating what a special horse Jones has been. “We’re just thankful to have him in our family for sure. We will see what next year brings.”