With earnings of $23,014 at this year’s National Reining Horse Association Futurity, Mandy McCutcheon became only the fifth rider in reining history to earn more than $3 million in the show pen.
McCutcheon, of Aubrey, Texas, joins a very small group of riders, including Seven Million Dollar Rider Andrea Fappani, Six Million Dollar Rider and Hall of Fame inductee Shawn Flarida, Four Million Dollar Rider Craig Schmersal, and her father, NRHA Three Million Dollar Rider and Hall of Fame inductee Tim McQuay.
“I didn’t realize there were only four others to win that much. That’s pretty cool,” McCutcheon told the NRHA. “It’s so special to be there with my dad. I can say, 100 percent, that’s the most important part to me.”
McCutcheon, also an NRHA Million Dollar Owner, is the glue that holds one of reining’s dynasties together. Her husband, Tom McCutcheon, is an NRHA Million Dollar Rider and Owner. Their children are following in their parents’ well-worn footsteps. Cade McCutcheon is now an NRHA Million Dollar Rider with an NRHA Futurity Championship and a The Run For A Million Co-Championship under his belt. Carlee McCutcheon competes in both English and reining, where, at just 16 years old, she’s won more than $125,000 in the NRHA.
McCutcheon, who has won ten non-pro titles at the NRHA Futurity, is quick to thank those who helped her reach this new level.
“The list of people to thank is so long. I obviously thank my parents, Tom, and Cade, and all our help. My team is so big and large, and we have great people that work for us. There have been people who have been in and out of our program over the years who are longtime friends and supporters, and they’ve all had a hand in this,” she said.
When asked what, aside from her incredible support staff, has made her career so incredible, McCutcheon recalled something her father once told her.
“My dad always says that the good Lord just blessed him with the ability to do this, and I think that there is something to be said for that,” she shared.
McCutcheon was born into the quintessential horse show family. Her parents, NRHA Hall of Fame members Tim and Colleen McQuay, both excelled in different arenas. Colleen focused on the hunter/jumper world, while Tim concentrated on reining.
“The best advice I ever received was from my parents, they’ve always said that the main thing is to just show the horse you have under you. That horse might not have the ability to win it that day, but if you show that horse to the best of its ability, you’ll get the best results that day.” She added, “You might just get the best ride out of that horse, and sometimes you might even win because you rode the horse the way it needed.”
For years, McCutcheon split her time between the two disciplines. In the English arena, she won championships at some of the most elite hunter and jumper shows in that world. She was the reserve junior hunter champion at the Harrisburg National Horse Show, and also won the Winners Stakes there. She won the United States Equestrian Team Youth Talent Derby at Gladstone, New Jersey, and came back a few years later to win the USET Futures Championship there. She also won two AQHA jumping world championships.
Eventually, McCutcheon decided to focus on reining, an event in which she began to compete at just 10 years old.
She won her first NRHA Futurity Non Pro Championship in 1993 on Hollywood Striker (Hollywood Dun It x Strike Zone), and to date has won 10 Non Pro Futurity championships.
She’s also won the National Reining Breeders Classic Non Pro Championship eight times and has five NRHA Derby titles to her name.
She became the first non-pro and first female Million Dollar Rider in 2007 and passed $2 million in 2014.
With more than three decades of reining in the books, McCutcheon added there are a few runs that stand out above the others.
“I can’t forget when I won the (2012) NRBC on Always Gotyer Gunsup up. We marked a 231 or something crazy like that. Also, my run on JLosa at this year’s NRBC stands out, not because it was out of this world, but because that mare tried to be so good for me and it was so much fun,” she said. “There are all different runs and horses that are memorable. This year I was riding one of Cade’s horses, and he showed so good for me after having a bad day before. It’s the little things like that that are special. It’s not always about the win – sometimes it’s the small, personal victory that means the most.”
Even with a lifetime of world-class competition under her belt, McCutcheon admits to still feeling the nerves when it’s time to ride into the arena. “Why would I do this if I didn’t get nervous and excited about it?” she asked. “The adrenaline rush and the thrill of it are two of the things that keep me coming back every year.”
What else drives McCutcheon?
“It’s the horses. The love of those horses is the main thing, but so are the people. This is what we do. This is our life,” she said.
McCutcheon’s next goal?
“I guess four million,” she quipped. “Actually, now the more important and most fun thing to me is to watch my kids be successful. Whatever I can do to help them be successful in either arena – Cade in reining and Carlee in reining and jumping – that’s my priority in life. When Tom and I do well, that’s just icing on the cake,” she said.