The 5th annual ‘Cutting for Cancer’ at the Paxton Ranch, south of Thedford, Neb., had 97 entries on Saturday and 87 on Sunday. This was the first two day event at the Paxton Ranch. Mike Finney, Seneca rancher, one of the hosts the last four years was unable to do so this year.
Ranchers John and Jessica Warren, from the beginning, have donated all the proceeds after expenses to the fight for finding a cure for cancer. They have done this as they have lost several family members and friends to the dreaded disease, and have others fighting it today. The proceeds, come not only from the concession stand free will donations, but also from contestants ‘renting’ the cattle they use in practice and in the actual competition. The Warren’s also cushion the final amount “to a nice round number” Jessica stated.
The first couple of years they sent a check to the American Cancer Society. “Last year and from now on, the proceeds we’ll send closer to home, to North Platte’s Callahan Cancer Center (CCC)”, stated Jessica. On hand Saturday from Great Plains Regional Medical Center representing the CCC was Libby Lashley, Director of Foundation Great Plains Regional Medical Center. Although the amount was unknown then, when Libby publicly thanked the Warren’s for their contribution, she stated, “One hundred percent of the proceeds from benefits such as this go back to patient services at the center. Administrative costs, such as my salary, Great Plains covers.” After all the tallying, John and Jessica will donate $3,500 to Callahan Cancer Center.
In 2008 Bryon Eatinger, Brownlee rancher and member of the Western Nebraska Cutters, approached Mike Finney, and John Warren about hosting a weekend of competition. “One of the reasons I suggested two days in the area then was due to the price of fuel, and it is even higher now,” Bryon exclaimed. Roxy Jordet, secretary of the WNCA stated this is always one of the biggest cuttings due to the central location as well. “We have entries from South Dakota, Colorado as well as Nebraska.” Nebraska contestants came from all over the state — Imperial, Omaha, Lincoln, Pender, to name a few of the hometowns of the contestants. Larry Cleveland, Vice-President of the WNCA from Hyannis stated they have from 17 to 18 cuttings per year. “John and Jessica and all their help from the workers on horseback to the concession stand put on a great event for us every year.”
John and Jessica call on their neighbors and friends to help make this event possible. “We couldn’t do it otherwise,” stated John. “My cousin Wayne Licking from his south ranch in Logan Co. brings his tractor and disc, and from his home place by Thedford in Thomas Co. brings panels and gates, plus he serves as parking attendant the two days. Getting 20 plus trailers or so parked just right is not easy. The ladies bring plenty of food and drinks. Sirloin steaks and brats were the fare this year. Neighbors Stan Pettit, Brad Pokorny and others grilled them just right. This year Richard Jameson of Sandhill Oil in Thedford came and put up his tent, which was a welcomed reprieve from the hot sun both days.”
Cattle are herd animals, thus so many per class are taken in, i.e. if 12 entries per class, 30 plus head of cattle are placed in the arena and the rider then must separate and keep one from the others. This is done with the help of four other riders in the arena, two that keeps the cattle out of the corners and two ‘turn back riders’ that keep the single animal close to the rider so the horse can show to the best of its ability.
There are 13 classes one could enter, from the youth to the $4,000 Novice Horse class. The latter was where the horse, in competing through the years, has won over $5,000. More than one class per rider can be entered. Names of the horse rather than the rider are how entries are called into the arena. Black tarps the club owns draped the panels around the holding pen. “Cattle settle better and are not spooked as much when they can’t see what is going on through the fence”, Roxy explained. Roxy comes from Iliff, Colo. She used to participate, but when they needed a secretary she volunteered to “help until a replacement was found.” That was 10 years ago.
Each horse and rider when entering is given 70 points. They are allowed 2-½ minutes and up to three head can be utilized in that time. Points are added or subtracted based on the guidelines of the National Cutting Horse Association.
Throughout the day, contestants trade off duties of judging and arena help, all as volunteers. This helps the WNCA pay more places at the year end awards.
Terry Correll, participant with his wife Julie and daughters, 12-year-old Gracie and 10-year-old, Faith from Tryon, stated it is a great family outing. “The girls have been cutting for five years. Yes, it pretty much is a participant sport, but it makes for a great day for us all. The girls compete and alternate winning classes so that makes it easier on mom and dad.” Faith chimed in, “Yes, the first class I won today, the next class, Gracie won, so we share.” Their family vacation, Terry stated he would like once not to haul a trailer load of horses behind them, but it is pretty much a given that is what they do. “In a couple of weeks we plan on going up to Spearfish, S.D., to a multi-day cutting there.”
Bob Jesse, Alliance, and WNCA president, “for life it seems, they keep voting me in every year,” explained when asked about what draws people to cutting horse competition, “You only need to ride a good cutting horse once or twice and then you are hooked.” The agility and smoothness of your horse and the effort for you to stay in the saddle are all part of what draws you.” This was made more evident when watching the young Correll girls with help from ‘turn back rider’ Mom.
Horse and rider are one, and despite the heat of hot July days, win or lose, young or old, they are all for one and one for all when it comes to the sport of cutting horse competitions. ❖