Fifteen veterans and one Gold Star father learned the ropes of cutting at a two-day clinic held this week at Cowan Ranch.
The event, held Tuesday, June 1 and Wednesday, June 2, paired the veterans and the Gold Star father with 16 National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) trainers. It was intended as a practice session for the upcoming National Cutting Horse Youth Association (NYCHA) BraveHearts Shootout at next month’s NCHA Summer Spectacular.
The clinic and next month’s Shootout are done in conjunction with BraveHearts Therapeutic Riding & Educational Center, which provides equine services to veterans.
Though participant Victor Ayala has a lot of experience riding horses, the feeling of being on a cutting horse was something completely new and exciting. The resident of Bakersfield, California, spent a lot of time during the first day of the clinic working with EquiStat Elite $2 Million Rider Winston Hansma.
“I’ve never experienced anything like that,” said Ayala, who served as an aviation search and rescue swimmer with the U.S. Navy. “I think a lot of riders here, we ride at therapeutic riding centers [and] a lot of the horses there, they’re not really the fastest, most agile horses … So to jump on a horse that can cut and go and stop on a dime – it’s incredible.
Ayala can’t wait until he has his chance to compete at the NYCHA BraveHearts Shootout at Will Rogers Memorial Center. There, veterans will team up with NYCHA members in a team format.
He said there’s been some friendly ribbing among the clinic participants about who’s going to win at the Shootout.
“I already told them they’re losing,” Ayala joked. “I’m taking the saddle, the buckle; I’m taking all of it.
The NYCHA BraveHearts Shootout is scheduled for Tuesday, July 27 in the G.R. Watt Arena. Another clinic for the riders will be held at Will Rogers Memorial Center the day before the competition.