E.J. Huntley and his daughter, Christina, celebrated EJ's NCHA Non-Pro World Championship aboard Ripping Ichi. • Photo by Lillian Kent.

E.J. Huntley Wins Dramatic NCHA Non-Pro World Title

The race for the National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) Non-Pro World Championship came down to the last draw of the last show of the year, the NCHA World Finals.

E.J. Huntley, riding Ripping Ichi, needed a good run to hold onto the lead and secure the title, which is awarded to the rider who wins the most money in the division throughout the course of the entire year. When the run was over, his score was enough— by a mere $3,725.

It was a dramatic end to a race that hadn’t been all that close over the summer. As of mid-Summer, Huntley had a healthy lead—about $15,000 – over close friend Jim Vangilder. According to Huntley, as the season went on, Vangilder steadily narrowed the gap to about $5,500. Then, at the lucrative NCHA World Finals, Huntley had a bad first go.

“I had a terrible run. My horse had a terrible run. We lost a cow,” he said. “I was out of the average. Jim had finished second, erasing my lead.”

Before the second go-round, Phil Rapp offered advice for getting cows cut in the tight, loud pen. It worked—Huntley and his horse marked 221 to finish third, although Vangilder marked a 223 kept him ahead. In the third go-round, Huntley’s 228 earned second place while Vangilder marked 216 and missed a check. In the final go-round, Vangilder drew early and scored 222.

Huntley was the final draw of the night and knew he needed a big score. Ripping Ichi, a 2012 sorrel gelding by Cat Ichi and out of Kodoboomba (by Kodo), delivered with a 223.5.

“It was the first time I didn’t realize my run was over until I heard the announcer,” he said. “It was so loud in the finals it drowned out the buzzer.”

Chasing the World title took a village, according to Huntley. Midway through the season, he purchased two additional horses – Bordeauxx (Bet Hesa Cat x Uno Tassa Mia x Smart Little Uno) and Ten Blade (High Brow Cat x The Doctress Orders x Dual Rey)—to give Ripping Ichi, aka “Tad,” time to rest. Huntley says running for the title would not have been possible without the support and encouragement from his daughter Christina, as well as Randy and Kelle Chartier, and Michael and Jennifer Cooper.

“It has really been an amazing year. I’ve made a lot of memories, been to places I’ve never been before, and met new people,” he said. “I didn’t start the year planning to haul for a world title. My goal was to learn and get better. The results started coming out, and my friends told me I couldn’t ignore this.”

Huntley purchased Ripping Ichi in 2018 as a 6-year-old. Huntley and Michael Cooper showed the gelding in aged events and then the gelding unexpectedly became a youth horse—Huntley’s daughter Christina was in the running for the Senior Youth World Title, and her horse came up too sore to continue, so she rode Tad. Together, they clinched the 2019 NCHA Senior Youth World championship.

“He is a really special horse to us. He’s won our family two world championships,” Huntley said. “He is the strongest, quickest horse with the biggest heart that I’ve ever ridden.”

Caitlin Rice was the World Finals Show Champion aboard Metallika. The duo won three of four go-rounds and finished second in the other. Consistent scores of 222, 222, 229 and 224 earned them $28,968. Billy Martin of Millsap, Texas, bred the gelding by Metallic Cat and out of Nyoka Pep, a Dual Pep mare.