In front of an excited and engaged crowd of fans, more than a dozen celebrities, many from hit TV-series ‘Yellowstone’, tried their hand at the sport of cutting Friday, December 1, 2023 in Will Rogers Coliseum in Fort Worth, Texas at the 2023 Careity Celebrity Cutting. A tie for the team win, two teams finished with a combined score of 441.
Ethan Lee marked a score of 222, and Sara Ann Haney-Brings Plenty scored a 219. Stephen Yellowtail, the first competitor to ride in the pen, ended up with a 226 for the individual high-score of the night, and his teammate Jaida Dreyer earned a 215. Yellowtail’s individual high-score served as the tie-breaker, putting him and Dreyer in the first-place spot. The champion made his winning run on A Little Snow (Metallic Cat x Smart Little Snowflake x Smart Little Lena) owned by Ruth Cogswell.
Beverly Branch and Lyn Walsh, who have produced this event for 29 years, saw their hard-work come to life once again as celebrity after celebrity got on the back of a horse to compete.
“We have very generous celebrities who have gotten here and done this, they are not sponsored nor paid. They’re here for the cause,” Branch said.
What began in 1995, the Careity Celebrity Cutting continues to bring western lifestyle fans and north Texas residents together to support the fight against cancer and cheer on their favorite celebrities. In support of Careity’s vision, the National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) has provided the facility for this event for 29 years.
“It’s so great to see the celebrities come out and support something that is local and tried and true, really supporting the people in our community to better their health situation and get the help they need,” said 2023 Careity Celebrity Cutting Event Chair Kolby Stewart. “It’s been really fun over the last couple of years to see it progress. I love seeing Amberley Snyder here this year. I think that is a wonderful thing to include someone that is very equine-centric with such a phenomenal story. And then everyone from the cast of Yellowstone and 1883 – we just feel so blessed to have them come in despite their busy schedules and bring such an energetic presence.”
Performing extremely well, Lee’s background with horses and western sports as a rodeo athlete and trick rider proved to be an asset. His love for the industry spurred him to put in a little extra effort in preparation for this event; and with the help of Steve Oehlhof, he had a chance to get in as much practice as he wanted and found the perfect horse in Positively Smart owned by Brad Buckley.
“When I got the call for this event, it wasn’t something I even had to think about. Because of what the foundation stands for, there was no question whether I was going to come and volunteer for this event. And, if it’s a western or equine discipline I’m always in,” Lee said. “It’s so much fun – totally addictive. We get to come out here, play cutter for a weekend, have a lot of fun, meet some great people and ride some great horses. I came in early in the week because I really wanted to do my best. I’ve watched him show a couple times now, and I respect Steve as a trainer. He was great, the horse was great and I appreciated the fact that he gave me options and tried to find a horse that fit me.”
Oehlhof, NCHA Hall of Fame member and $1 million rider, had the opportunity to train both Lee and Josh Lucas this year, which was something he’d been interested in for a while.
“This is an awesome event. I actually haven’t been a trainer with it before; but I helped a couple years ago, and I wanted to be involved,” Oehlhof said. “Then, they called me this year, and I said I’d absolutely do it. I got a couple of really good guys, too. Ethan came three or four days ago, and he’s really been working at it and loves it. And, Josh is just awesome. He’s a great down to earth guy, and I really wanted him to get through a run today; but when his shirt popped open, it was perfect for everything.”
Other riders included Dawn Olivieri, Jay Novacek, Eric Nelson, Jennifer Landon, Forrie J. Smith and many others, each of whom had the opportunity to ride a top-notch cutting horse and work with a well-known, successful and respected trainer. An electric feeling, positivity and support for a great cause filled the air in Will Rogers Coliseum another year.