metallics mvp and beau galyean
5/6-Year-Old Open Champion Metallics MVP and Beau Galyean were two of an increased number competitors at the Abilene Spectacular. • Photo by S. Sylvester.

Abilene Spectacular Enjoys Rebound in 2020

When entries for the Abilene Spectacular dramatically dropped in 2019, there was a question of its ability to continue. Were people still game for a mid-sized cutting event so soon after the National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) Futurity?

The question was answered when the entry numbers rolled in for 2020. The show made thoughtful changes that caused a rise in entries, though the event has still not completely recovered.  

“This year, I tried to shorten the schedule by changing everything except the 4-Year-Old Open to one go-round and a finals, allowing the competitors to spend a little less time away from home,” show secretary Coleta Rosson said. 

The move, along with several other improvements, is credited with the Abilene Spectacular‘s increase of 194 entries, from 404 in 2018 to 598 this year. The total purse followed suit, paying 12% more than last year to break the half-million mark with $529,865 paid out.

According to Rosson, the increase in numbers was not only because the same horses entered multiple times in the newly leveled show, but because of an increase in unique horse entries. 

“We did have some trainers [competing] that don’t typically come to Abilene,” Rosson said. “I think the knowledge that we had a new building for the stalls and the practice pens and flag all under one roof helped. They only had to come out in the weather [to go from] that barn to the show barn.”

The Abilene Spectacular was shortened from six days to five and moved two days later to run Jan. 6-11 at the Taylor County Expo Center. Rosson believed the increased calendar distance from Christmas, as well as the Augusta Futurity, sat well with competitors. 

“I’m glad this year our dates were further apart [from Augusta’s] so that we can all survive and have decent shows for different parts of the country,” Rosson said. 

A stand-alone Limited Open class also made a big impression on competitors.

“I saw a lot of interest in [the Limited Open]. I think that helped our show tremendously,” Rosson said. “That allowed some of the horses that maybe were not the top end of the string in somebody’s barn — they still came and showed those horses in the Limited classes.” 

New levels in the Amateur rounded out the show’s major changes. 

“I think there is definitely a place for leveling. The concept is really good,” Rosson said.

As for 2021, Rosson is holding off on making solid plans. The early-in-the-season nature of the Abilene Spectacular means there are plenty more spring cuttings to study before making a call on leveling for next year. 

“We appreciate everybody’s interest and response. It’s been wonderful to have the support of the cutting horse family and be able to produce a show that, hopefully, they find worth coming to,” Rosson said. 

A welcomed upgrade coming to the Taylor County Expo Center for the 2021 edition of the show will be the finished equestrian center. It will match the barns and warm-up pens, and keep competitors under cover during the entirety of the event. The much-anticipated center is expected to be ready for use in April. 

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