Brunner cutting-horse contest deemed a success

“We want to welcome you to the first annual National Cutting Horse Association-approved cutting-horse contest held at the Tracy Brunner Ranch,” said announcer Dee James of Abilene Friday night.

“It’s the most exciting thing that has happened in Ramona since a tornado went through town,” he joked.

James may have been right.

Excitement was in the air under the bright lights glowing around the Brunner arena north of Ramona.

As one of several long, sleek horse trailers drove slowly through Ramona in search of the road that would lead them to the Brunner Ranch, one by-stander quipped: “There goes a fortune on wheels-and I’m not just talking about the rig. Each of those horses run from $5,000 to $40,000 and some wouldn’t even have a price tag on them.”

In this event, horses and people competed in a cutting contest according to their lifetime earnings, said Lisa Arnoldy, secretary of the Kansas Cutting Horse Association.

“This enables horse and rider to get competition experience at their own level all the way from beginner to professional,” she said.

The sport of cutting originated in cow-calf operations when the cow and calf had to be separated. It has grown into one of the largest and most athletically demanding of rodeo competitions.

With 92 participants on Friday night and 85 on Saturday night, this cutting event in Ramona lasted into the wee hours of the morning.

Bill and Carol Hopkins brought their horses to participate from Redding. Carol and her 13-year-old horse, Docs Peppy Price, won a first-place on Friday and a second-place prize on Saturday evening.

“God was looking out after me when I found this horse,” Carol said as she stood in line to claim her prize money. “My old cutting horse died on a Monday and I got this one on a Friday. We went to the sale and I just wouldn’t let my husband put his hand down.”

Also among the prize winners were Tom and Connie Burrow from Iola. Connie won the $20,000 non-pro category on her horse, Chrome Dome Dually.

“Competing in a cutting contest is like driving a race car,” she said. “It’s a rush. When your horse locks onto a cow you can feel it-it’s a fascinating sport.”

The challenge of the cutting contest is to choose a cow from a herd, isolate it and keep it from rejoining the group.

A dance ensues as the horse and cow make eye contact ideally in the middle of the arena so the judge can see clearly as the turn-back men push the cow toward the horse and rider and the horse keeps the cow at bay.

A rider and horse have two and a half minutes to show what they can do.

“Cutting is a great big business on a national level,” said Brenda Jo Reno, president of the Beef Empire Cutting Horse Association, an affiliate of the National Cutting Horse Association and co-sanctioning body of the competition at the Brunner Ranch with the KCHA.

“A lot of money changes hands quickly. You can either win or lose two or three thousand dollars in two and a half minutes.”

The event at the Brunner Ranch drew some well-known names in both horse training and in competition.

Three generations of the Smith family from Council Grove were participating: Dean Smith, a highly respected trainer with 33 years experience, his daughter Tricia and grandson Jessie Pritchard,

“It gets into your blood,” Tricia said. “I’ve ridden all my life,” added 17-year-old Jessie, who won first-place in the youth category. “Can’t remember when I wasn’t on a horse.”

Nick O’Dell, the state’s leading rider, won again at Brunner Ranch. His lifetime earnings are around $70,000, including $13,000 during the first six months of this year.

The high-point horse for the year, Cholla Little Lena, owned and ridden by Frances Miller, was also in the winning circle.

While this competition didn’t start until about 6 p.m. each evening to beat the heat, practice sessions started early in the morning at the Brunner’s arena.

The event was sponsored by Cow Camp Ranch and Feedyard and the Brunner Cattle Company. The Brunner family and staff worked around the clock providing for participant’s needs, including the cherry pie served at the concession stand.

“I can’t remember going to a place, big or small, that tried harder to accommodate us,” said Mark Miller, a cutting horse trainer from St. John. “I’ve been to million-dollar facilities with a huge staff and you have trouble getting someone to help you. But the Brunner’s did a top notch job. The facilities, what they did, the cattle, the show in general was really nice.”

“We’ve been thinking about doing a cutting event here for years, and finally decided to fill out the application,” said Tracy Brunner at 2 a.m. on Sunday morning after two days of non-stop activity.

“This has been all that we hoped for.”

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