Calgary – In 2009, the Calgary Stampede teamed with Mercuria and the National Cutting Horse Association to take the sport of cutting to a new level. By sweetening the pot in each of the Non-Pro and Open classes by an extra $25,000, the Stampede cutting event became the first show in what has become the Mercuria NCHA World Series.
With just 8 events considered part of the Mercuria NCHA World Series, this year’s Stampede cutting classic will draw the top cutting competitors from across North America. \”It’s definitely a major event,\” says NCHA competitor and board member Dan Hansen. \”We have venues all over the country vying for one of these events.\”
Hansen himself has four NCHA World Championships to his credit, two in the Non-Pro class and two in Novice Horse. He’s won the Stampede Non-Pro class twice, as well, scoring in both 2008 and 2010. Not bad for a guy who waited almost a quarter of a century to get into the sport.
\”My wife and I started pursuing rodeo in high school,\” Hansen explains. \”We were both exposed to cutting there and we enjoyed it.\” After building a business and raising a family, he continues, the couple was in their 40s before they were in a position to start competing. They joined the NCHA in 1992. \”As we campaigned more at the weekend and local level, we began to understand more about it and kind of learned how to be better competitors,\” Hansen says. By 1998, the Hansens had expanded their range from the area around their home in Nampa, Idaho and begun wintering in the Fort Worth, Texas area – the world capital of the cutting sport.
\”That kind of worked into an early goal that I had set, and that was to be a World Champion,\” says Hansen. Not only was that goal accomplished, but Hansen notes that in 2009 both he and his wife Karen qualified for the World Finals in Fort Worth.
The opportunity for men and women to compete on an equal basis is, he insists, \”One of the unique and satisfying aspects of the sport. For my wife and me, it’s a great way to share our love of cutting horses and the sport.\” The 63 year-old Hansen notes, too, that age is not a consideration as he regularly finds himself competing with young people who might not yet have a driver’s licence.
The sport of cutting shines a spotlight on the pure athleticism, instinct, agility and intelligence of the cutting horse. With horse-and-rider teams attempting to cut three individual cows out of a herd within 150 seconds, cutting has evolved into one of the most exciting equine events in North America. The NCHA counts more than 20,000 members from a wide range of backgrounds, and sanctions more than 2,200 events across North America each year, with tens of millions of dollars in prize money awarded.
Cutting horses are usually American quarter horses, and tend to be on the smaller side, says Hansen, partly so they can go nose-to-nose with the cow being cut. He adds, however that his prize mount – Woody Be Lucky – who is one of the top-ten money earners in the sport, is fairly large, especially for a cutting horse. \”His barn name is ‘Freak’,\” says Hansen, because the big horse is entirely comfortable crouching down to be at eye-level with the cow he is working. The horse’s instincts are what makes a competitive cutting combination work, Hansen says. As for the rider, \”You make sure you start your horse on a good cow in the middle of the pen and try and help your horse when they need it, but it’s as important to stay out of the horse’s way.\”
Cutting events this year will all be held in the Agrium Western Events Centre. The action starts on Monday, July 7th with the first go for the Non-Pros at 4pm. On Tuesday, July 8th, the Open class has its first go beginning at 5pm. The finals in both classes are on Wednesday, July 9th at 5pm.
There’s a handsome trophy at the Stampede with Hansen’s name on it in two places. Adding it a third time, he says, \”would really be sweet. I would certainly be proud to put my name on that trophy again, I promise you that.\” And if it was Karen’s name going on the trophy? \”That would be even better!\” he says.
Catch the live feed of the first go of the Non-Pro today at 4:00 p.m. here.