NCHA President Ora Diehl talked to QHN about the opportunities and challenges facing the association. • Photo courtesy of Ora Diehl.

Inside Info: Q&A With NCHA President Ora Diehl

What are the biggest challenges and opportunities for the National Cutting Horse Association? What about new programs or initiatives?

Quarter Horse News (QHN) recently spoke to NCHA President Ora Diehl. The Florida resident and long-time avid cutting horse enthusiast answered questions about how she got involved in the sport –– those challenges and opportunities she sees for the organization –– and what changes members might see in the future.

QHN: How did you get involved in cutting? What drew you into the sport, and what has kept you in it? 

OD: It all began at a weekend cutting show held during the Florida State Fair in Tampa, Florida.  Our family walked into a building that had a Gold Coast Cutting Horse event going on, and I can vividly recall the hoots, hollering, yelps, you know the encouraging language we cutters share.  At first, we were thinking that we needed to be routing for the cow.  We just so happened to sit down, to watch, next to a seasoned cutter Doris Davis.  If you have ever had the privilege to talk with Doris you will understand her passion shortly becomes your passion.  Move by move we began to open our eyes to “the cutting horse.”  We as a family rode horses in our younger years, and wanted to give our kids this experience.  Doing this as a family together was the draw, and to this day, seeing our family enjoy the cutting horse is what it is all about to us.  

QHN: Tell us about your professional/business background outside of the horse industry, and how those experiences helped prepare you to take on the role of NCHA president? 

OD: As a 15+ year banker and now involved in a tomato farming and ranching business as our living, my early years of banking knowledge and my involvement in our family businesses has helped me understand the importance of truly balancing whatever it is you are analyzing.  Prior to throwing my hat into the ring to become an officer, I had the opportunity to volunteer my help with balancing and setting up procedures that ensure our books are in the best of shape possible.  

I will safely say this, “Becoming an officer has a calling, the office calls you to serve at a time when you have the best of yourself to give back.”

QHN: What are the biggest challenges facing the NCHA right now, and what do you believe will be key in addressing those challenges? 

OD: Proving facts requires trust.  Trust takes time to believe the facts.  This is a circle that transparency can be the key that opens that door.  

With my belief that being transparent could be our key, I also believe reaching out to other association rather than shutting that door has proven to be a win/win.  Opening our house and welcoming others goes without having to say a word.  Our actions are our best advertisement.  

QHN: What do you think are the biggest opportunities for the NCHA right now, and how could those benefit the organization and/or move it forward? 

OD: As strange as this may sound, COVID, as painful as it has been for our industry, in some ways helped us hit our re-set button.  Each and every one of us have made changes as to how we operate.  Weekend cuttings and grass roots cutting that have struggled for so long, are on the rise.  Membership numbers are up for the first time in a decade.   

For once, we are more aware of other regions struggles and NCHA listened and has made exceptions to our rules to accommodate them to ensure their successes. Folks are excited again; I have seen it with my eyes and hear it with my ears.  

The Circuit program has provided an opportunity for the NCHA to support those weekend cutters and offer new opportunities to compete within their region.  We must continue to develop programs like this to engage our membership and showcase the cutting horse. 

QHN: Now that you’ve had time as NCHA’s vice president and president-elect to get more acquainted with the association’s governance, what changes, if any, do you believe are needed? 

OD: Simply put, I stand by the structure we presently operate under.  However, I recognize that we need to evolve this structure into the 21st century.  We should not require in-person voting; rather, members should be able to vote by a secure form which does not require them to travel. 

At the time our forefathers in 1997-1998 reinstated our current bylaws, a fair structure was adopted to ultimately give the member the vote to preserve our association.  I look at its structure as a way to keep all of us in our lanes.  Another observation is absolutely we need to 21st century our governances, all the while adhering to the structure will keep us balanced.  

QHN: Some members outside of Texas have expressed concerns about having a voice that counts in the association based on the governance structure today. Being from Florida, you have a unique perspective in this situation. In what ways should NCHA work to ensure those members feel their opinions are valued and have influence? 

OD: Going forward, your Executive Committee (EC) has determined since we are getting back into a normal convention structure, the location for the 2022 annual convention event should take place in Fort Wort and close to the office.  As for the years following, it is being recommended to travel from the West to the East and circulate Texas into that trio moving forward.  I am a big believer of balance. 

As an officer I am confident that all of our members are being heard.  Each of your regional EC members report at each EC meeting about their regions happenings/comments/concerns.  

Presently, members of the NCHA Board of Directors (BOD) have access to an online forum where directors can now get news and have dialogue with fellow directors on any NCHA topic. Minutes and financials are posted as well. 

Ongoing, our web page is being revamped with the focus on easier navigation. Search tabs are currently helping the process of finding a specific horse/rider combination on draws at triple crown events.                      

QHN: In the past, some NCHA members have been vocal about their belief that the association does not do an adequate job of addressing the needs of its membership overall, but rather focuses on certain segments of the industry. Do you feel this problem exists, and how do you intend to address member concerns? 

OD: During my VP campaign, my promise to the membership was I have two ears and I will listen twice as much.  Pushing for the Regional Circuit Finals was a huge step from your EC/leadership/staff and committee members in hearing members.  This program was, in my opinion, the best way each Regional Circuit has ownership.

Launching this program before it was vetted to death, as we have history of waiting too long, means that tweaks and changes are necessary and will be ongoing.  Taking a leap of faith, and again proving, trusting and believing in my opinion will open doors that lead us to a bigger and better NCHA. I say, onward and upward. 

QHN: What other ideas do you have to move NCHA forward? Are there any other programs or initiatives under development that cutters should look forward to in the coming months? Are there any you would like to start? 

OD: Beginning with our first in-person EC meeting, BOD and members will receive a video of your EC at work.  Taking this initiative was asked of me while running for VP.  Many members, even one of our past presidents, Mr. Sam Wilson, had never seen the inside of the NCHA headquarters at 260 Bailey Ave.  This is the members’ house and welcoming everyone is a simple beginning.  

Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress, but working together is the success we are now achieving.  Our leadership in our executive director, Jay Winborn, along with an EC that has knowledge, history, sound business savvy, along with dedication to excel at serving is aligned and functioning like a well-oiled machine.  

QHN: What is the NCHA’s strategy for recruiting members, and how will it implement those strategies? Is the association looking to create new members at a grassroots level, recruit existing cutters from other organizations or bring new members in through youth programs? Is there a focus on winning back members who have left over the years, or is there a different strategy to boost membership? 

OD: The span from 1946-2021 is a milestone, a 75-year-old tradition that this association has threaded the needle with one common thread, you and me, and our love of the horse.  Growth over these 75 years has varied for numerous reasons.  However, the heart and soul of the NCHA are our affiliates.  One-on-one relationships are born here, nurtured here – and lasting relationships and leadership begin here.  Generations are born, take their first steps and cultivated in an environment that showcases the Western lifestyle at the grassroots level.  Because of our forefathers, we today are gifted with our National Cutting Horse Association.

All year long, we will have the once in a lifetime change to celebrate our 75th Anniversary, so get ready and let the celebrations begin!

QHN: When you think about the future of the NCHA, what excites you the most? 

OD: As we all stop being afraid of what could go wrong and start being excited about what could go right, our future, is in our hands and ours to set the bar.  As we move forward, our responsibilities are the same as they were 75 years ago, that is to serve.  Our reset button has been pressed and hard work, dedication, and planning will jump start NCHA.  

I am truly grateful to serve among an outstanding group of folks that genuinely love our cutting horse industry and our cutting horse family all the while preserving its legacy.