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The National Cutting Horse Association announces Western Nationals champions.

The top weekend show money-earners of the 2007 point year, made their way to Ogden, Utah to compete for the 2007 Wayne Hodges Outlaw Conversions * NCHA Western National Championships, held May 1-11, 2008.

OPEN (co-champions):

Greg Smith, riding Meradas Blue Sue, tied with Scott Amos riding Wee Little Badger, to win the 2007 Western National Championship title – Open Division. The finals took place on May 11, and both horses scored 220 points for the championship.

This win was the third Western National Open championship for Amos and Wee Little Badger, an 11-year old gelding son of Dual Jazz, and owned by Ranch Development LLC out of Loma, CO. They also won the titles in 2004 and 2005.

“Last year my horse won the first go-round of the $10,000 Novice and had to pull out due to lameness, and we had to scratch out of the Open,” said Amos, who rides Wee Little Badger for Ranch Development. “This is just the third time this year that we’ve shown him. He’s like a good border collie, when he works a cow.

He just reads all the time. You can put him on auto-pilot, and there’s nothing that he won’t try to do for you.”

Greg Smith had encountered some on Goran in the first set of cattle. “I was worried after the first bunch were as tough as they were, and I wasn’t real sure whether early was good,” said Smith, who drew second to ride in the second set on Meradas Blue Sue, for Buffalo Ranch in Farmington, Utah. But Smith and the Duals Blue Boon son matched Wee Little Badger with the 220-point score.

“He’s a big stopper and real quick and fast and swoopy through the turns,” said Smith. “He stays low to the ground and just wants to be good.”

Nine year-old Meradas Blue Sue has been earning his keep at stud at Buffalo Ranch, along with Laredo Blue, winner of the $50,000 Amateur under Shane Plummer. “He and Meradas Blue Sue are breeding big time right now,” said Smith. “We just pull them out and go to working them. They both just want to be good.” Mercadas Blue Sue is a former NCHA Derby champion.


Preston Skarr of Menan, Idaho, riding Stylish Windy, won the NCHA Western National Non-Pro championship on May 11 with a score of 220 points.

“This horse of mine will really suck down into the ground and stop that cow,” said Skarr, who also won last year’s Non-Pro championship on Stylish Windy. “He’s been an awesome warhorse for us. On the third cow, I kind of forced the cut a little bit. It was not quite as pretty as I would have liked it to have been, but we made it through in pretty good shape and we are tickled with the win.”

Six-year old Stylish Windy, by To Stylish Hickory, and Skaar, have won five limited age events, and also placed 8th in this year’s $10,000 Novice/Non-Pro division. Skaar also showed as a youth, and returned to cutting in 2005 after college. He works with his father, Justin Skaar, in the family feedlot business near Menan, Idaho.

“That keeps us pretty busy and gives up plenty of cattle to work horses,” said Skaar, who purchased Stylish Windy as a 3-year old from his father, who trained the gelding.

$50,000 AMATEUR:

Shane Plummer of Farmington, Utah, riding Laredo Blue, won the $50,000 Amateur division of the Western Nationals on May 10.

Plummer and 8-year old stallion Laredo Blue, clinched the championship with a score of 222 points. “He was spot on,” said Plummer. “He’s very, very gritty and not too easy to ride. A couple of years ago, I definitely would never have been able to ride him.”

The score was the highest for Plummer, who was riding Laredo Blue for the fifth time. “He’s such a great horse that he gives you a lot of confidence,” said Plummer. “When he was showing in the aged events, there were seven different guys that showed him as a 4-year old, and they all won checks on him. It’s unusual for two or three riders to be able to do that, let alone seven.” Laredo Blue stands at the Plummer’s Buffalo Ranch.

Shane’s father, David Plummer, also showed Meradas Blue Sue, 1996 NCHA Horse of the Year and a Buffalo Ranch stallion, as a finalist in the $50,000 Amateur.

Laredo Blue, by Mecom Blue, was the 2004 NCHA Co-Horse of the Years, and is a seven time champion and reserve champion in limited age events.


Ben Herman from Colorado Spring, Colo., and his horse Stars Miss Fancy, captured the championship of the $10,000 Novice Non-Pro division on May 10.

Ben Herman and Kate Gaughan were close in competition in the division, but Herman beat her score with 221 points. “Katie was a tough act to follow,” said Herman. “We went in with three cows that looked real good that we wanted to cut. Then I ended up cutting all the cows we didn’t mean to cut. But it ended up okay. That’s the advantage of working early in the set, I guess.”

Herman, 25, works in a family oil services business, and had not ridden horses until about four years ago. “I’m a city boy,” said Herman. “But when we bought some land in Colo., I thought it would be a cool idea to own a horse.”

Herman purchased Al Dunning training videos to teach him to ride, and later met Dunning himself. He sent his horse, Stars Fancy Miss, to Dunning, who has had her ever since she was a 4-year old.

“He’s done a great job with her,” said Herman. “She was the first horse that I ever showed in cutting, and she was an Open and Non-Pro horse. This is the last time we are ever going to show her. She’s going to be retired after this show.”

$20,000 NON-PRO:

Sandra Azinger, from Hot Springs, S. D., rode her horse Rolladaker, to clinch the title of NCHA Western National Champion - $20,000 Non-Pro division.

Teasing, Sandra Azinger drew first to ride in the finals, and told her help that she was going to ride into the herd and set the bar, and that is what she did, scoring the winning 217 points.

“Rolly takes really good care of me,” said Azinger of her 13-year old mare. “She has taken me to a new level.” Azinger was reserve champion in last year’s Western Nationals $10,000 Amateur class.

Azinger had shown Paints and Pintos in pleasure and halter before learning to cut five years ago. Her first horse, Kaena, carried her as reserve amateur champion at the Pinto World after only eight showings. Rolladaker was the horse that Azinger showed to qualify for the NCHA World Finals this year.

“I show maybe one weekend a month,” said Azinger. “I’m your real weekend cutter, and I’ve accomplished way more than I ever dreamed.”

$10,000 AMATEUR (co-champions):

Jessica Devries of Alberta, Canada, and Ron Faris of Gresham, Oregon, tied with scores of 220 points to win the $10,000 Amateur division.

Devries rode Lucky Powder for the win. “It was a little scary,” said Devries, 19, who drew up first to work in the second set. “But it was better than in the Youth where I drew last. My horse has been working awesome all week, so I was totally ready for this run.”

Devries discovered cutting at a rodeo four years ago. Since then, she has been a High School Rodeo finalist, and last year won the Youth championship and the $10,000 Amateur finals in Canada. She purchased Lucky Powder, an 8-year old gelding, two years ago.

“He tries his best every time, and every time we go out there we do better,” said Devries, who just graduated from Olds College, and soon begins work as a veterinary medical receptionist.

Ron Faris, a business owner from Gresham, Ore., waited on his dream of showing until three years ago when his children were out of college. Two years ago, he qualified for the Western Finals $2,000 Limit Rider, and placed third on Mia Doc Freckles, the gelding he rode to win this championship in the $10,000 division.

“He’s a great horse, and I’m just starting to get along with him,” said Faris. “He’s really solid. I need one that will ignore a lot of my mistakes. But the more I stay out of his way, the more successful I’ve been.”


Terry Randall of Scottsdale, Ariz., riding Cats Curly Kitty, won the $2,000 Limit Rider division of the NCHA Western Nationals with a score of 221 points.

This score and the major championship win were firsts for Randall. “She was on fire, and it was fun,” said Randall, who also won the go-round with 219 points on Cats Curly Kitty. “The cattle were tough, and she just covered them.”

Randall only started riding six years ago. “I always wanted to be a cowboy from the time I was ten, and never had a chance,” he said. “So I learned to ride and cut at the same time.”


Andrea James, 19, of Daniel, Wyo., won the $3,000 Novice Non-Pro championship with a score of 222 points on Annies Smart Lady.

James, a college freshman, had shown Annies Smart Lady to win Reserve Champion of the Senior Youth finals. “That’s probably the best run I’ve ever had on her,” said James. “She’s pretty laid back, but she always tries her hardest and never gives up.”

James attends the University of Montana in Billings. She rode Annies Smart Lady, an Ill Be Smart daughter, to win last year’s Reserve Champion of the Senior Youth division. Her father, Steve James, also showed the mare in the finals of this year’s $3,000 Novice and $10,000 divisions. After arriving home in Daniel, Wyoming, Steve and Andrea plan to load and deliver Annies Smart Lady to a new home in Utah.

“That’s why we tried to show her as much as we could here,” said James. “We knew that she would be gone.”


Fallon Nuttall, 17, of Red Lodge, Mont., scored 224 points on Shortys Royal Blue to win the Senior Youth Western National championship.

“It was fun,” said Nuttall. “I always had trouble in the finals, until last year.”

Fallon’s father, Will Nuttall, won championships in last year’s $3,000 Novice and $10,000 Novice divisions riding Playin Playgun for Switchback Cutting Horses. In 2007, Fallon rode Zig Zag Cat as reserve champion of the $3,000 Novice/Non-pro. She will also show 5-year old Shortys Royal Blue, by Bet on Me 498, in the Western Nationals Non-Pro division.


Lane Ternan, 15, of Roberts, Mont., scored 222 points on Badgers Danny Dry to win the Junior Youth Western National championship.

“That was by far my top run,” said Ternan. “I’ve never had a 222. But I’ve always had good luck with him.”

Ternan acquired Badgers Danny Dry, a 12-year old gelding by Badgers Little Star, three years ago when he first started cutting.

“He was a stud and not a very good horse at the time,” said Ternan. “But my trainer, John Dublin, fixed him up and got him working good. Now he’s one of those horses that if you get good cattle, you know you can get a run on him. But I have to give a lot of credit to John Dublin for helping me and sticking with me.”

Ternan is a freshman at Red Lodge High School. His father is the principal.

$10,000 NOVICE:

Cookie Banuelos, riding Instant Again for owner, Kate Gaughan of Las Vegas, Nev., won the Western Nationals $10,000 Novice division on May 3.

Banuelos and Instant Again scored 219.5 for the win. “He doesn’t take any work,” said Banuelos of the 9-year old gelding sired by SR Instant Choice. “You can just run him from the stall and go show him. He loves tough cows, and he’s so athletic and cow smart.”

Instant Again was raised and shown by Carlos Banuelos, Cookie’s brother, and shown by Carlos and Ascencion Banuelos before Gaughan purchased the horse.

“I was pretty green when I came to work for the Gaughans,” said Cookie. “He tried to do right, but I’d get nervous showing him, and made a lot of mistakes. But he’s been really tough on the weekends.”

Instant Again won the PCCHA Paso Robles Roundup at age 4, and the Wine Country Classic at age 5, under Carlos Banuelos. Gaughan placed third on him in the 2005 Suncoast Non-Pro Classic, and the same year Cookie placed fourth in the West Texas Classic and the Cutting by the Sea. Instant Again has lifetime earnings of $85,000.

Gaughan and Banuelos became engaged this past Christmas, but a wedding date has not been planned due to their show schedules. Kate Gaughan’s parents, Michael and Paula Gaughan, own the South Point Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas and host the South Point Cutting.

$3,000 NOVICE:

Cookie Banuelos, riding A Whittle Relief for owner, Kate Gaughan of Las Vegas, Nev., won the Western Nationals $3,000 Novice division on May 2.

“My help kept my mind straight and gave me the right cows,” said Banuelos of his 220.5 point scoring ride on A Whittle Relief in the $3,000 Novice finals. This was his second run in the finals, riding Bettin With Chex earlier in the set.

“She’s my favorite,” said Banuelos, who trained A Whittle Relief, a 7-year old Peptoboonsmal daughter raised by Kate’s mother, Paula Gaughan, and out of Smart Whittle Wena, earner of more than $260,000. “She’s real easy to ride and the more cow you cut on her, the more aggressive she gets. And when you ride her to the stops, she slams on the brakes really good.”

A Whittle Relief was a finalist in five major evens at age four, then fractured her coffin bone and was not shown at age five. “She was a little fractious when I brought her back at six,” said Banuelos. “It took me a long time to get her back solid and comfortable.”

This spring, the mare spent time in Texas while being bred for an embryo by High Brow Cat. “The first day here, she wasn’t very good,” said Banuelos, referring to A Whittle Relief’s first go-round run in Ogden. “She was fresh, and they got an embryo out of her on Sunday, so she was probably a little sore. I didn’t even work her before the first go-round. But before the finals, I went in the practice pen and just kind of fiddled around with her, and she was incredible (in the Finals).” A Whittle Relief has lifetime earnings of over $48,000.

The National Cutting Horse Association is made up of over 17,500 members across the United States with a wide range of backgrounds. The sport of cutting has roots in Western ranching traditions, where good horses were a necessity for everyday ranch work and cattle handling. From cowgirls to CEOs, from firefighters to professional football players, the common ground is often in the cutting arena. Each year more than 2,200 NCHA-approved events are held throughout the country with more than $43 million in prize money awarded. To learn more about the National Cutting Horse Association and the sport of cutting, call 817-244-6188 or visit http://www.nchacutting.com.


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