• Photo by Molly Montag.

Trainers Recommend Limiting Aged Event Open Entries

The National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) Professional Trainers Committee has recommended the organization limit the number of Open entries one rider can show in limited-age events. It also offered ideas on how to shorten the sport’s biggest aged events.

The entry recommendation, which was made during the NCHA Convention, asked the NCHA Executive Committee to restrict trainers to five horses in the Open and five in the Novice Open at limited-age events with a purse of $100,000 or more. The Novice class would be based on the horse, not the rider.

A representative from the committee shared the recommendation with the Executive Committee during the General Membership meeting, which was held on the last day of last month’s convention.

All committee recommendations made during the NCHA Convention, including the proposed limits, will be reviewed by the NCHA Executive Committee at its August meeting. After completing the review, members of the Executive Committee will determine whether or not to make a change.

Devising A Plan

The Professional Trainers Committee agenda item its members were tasked to discuss was to limit the number of horses to either mirror the NCHA’s Triple Crown events or work with show producers to devise a plan that would work throughout the association.

The NCHA already restricts the number of horses riders can show at its three Triple Crown events — two horses are allowed per rider in each class at the NCHA Futurity, and three to four entries are allowed per rider in each class at the NCHA Summer Spectacular and NCHA Super Stakes, depending on which class is entered — but there are no restrictions on independent shows.

During committee discussion, attendees were asked if they believe it hurts or helps the sport to allow a trainer to ride as many horses as he or she wants. Does it hurt competition? Would reducing the number per rider help competition? Is it a matter of perception?

At this year’s Breeder’s Invitational, a show that was used multiple times as an example during the committee’s discussion, two trainers had 10 or 11 horses in the first go-round of the 4-Year-Old Open and one of those trainers made the finals on four horses. In some parts of the country, it’s not unusual for a trainer to ride several horses in the same limited-age finals.

One of the concerns raised by the committee about restricting the number of horses someone can show was that trainers could be put in a tough spot if their clients had more horses than they were able to show. In that case, the trainer would either have to tell a client their horse couldn’t be shown or hand the reins to an assistant trainer. 

Another factor mentioned was that some horses shown in the Open belong to amateur riders, and the reason the trainer shows the horse is to prepare it for the owner to show the horse later in the show.

Some members of the Professional Trainers Committee also voiced concern about how the sport’s show producers would react to a drastic limit on horses out of fear it could hurt the number of entries at an event.

This is not the first time the Professional Trainers Committee has asked for a limit to the number of horses one person can show in the Open at limited-age events.

It did so back in 2019, at that time suggesting the NCHA Executive Committee consider making a change and use the rules of the NCHA Super Stakes as a starting point. A motion derived from that recommendation was voted on by the Executive Committee that year, but failed to pass.

Shortening Triple Crown Events

The Professional Trainers Committee also recommended ways the Executive Committee could shorten the three aged events it produces at the Will Rogers Memorial Center in Fort Worth.

The first suggestion was to run Limited go-rounds in the Watt Arena rather than the Coliseum. This would only pertain to the go-rounds, as the committee said in its recommendation that all finals should continue to be held in the Will Rogers Coliseum.

They also recommended capping the herd settling time to 30 minutes. After a half-hour of settling, the judges would be called.

In its recommendation, the committee said 30 minutes would not necessarily be a “hard limit,” but believed it would give herd settlers something to prepare for and could cut down on the length of the show.

The reasons for wanting to shorten the shows included the safety and enjoyment of the contestants, as well as for those watching.