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The Silver Spotlight - NCHA Executive Director, Jeff Hooper

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Q & A with the National Cutting Horse Association executive director, Jeff Hooper

Q: Jeff, how excited are you about the 50th NCHA Futurity coming up? It must be a huge honor to be part of the organization during this landmark occasion?

A: The 50th NCHA World Championship Futurity is definitely an historic occasion, and it is a great honor to be involved in this event. It gives us all an opportunity to honor and recognize the many cutters that have helped to make the NCHA, and the Futurity, what they are today. The NCHA has such a tremendous history, and we hope to bring that history to the forefront during this year’s 20-day show.

 

Q: It looks like the NCHA and city of Fort Worth have come together to make this the most exciting Futurity to date. Tell us about some of the planned events.

A: We have a long list of special events to help commemorate the 50th NCHA Futurity. One of the highlights will be the Futurity Champions Cup cutting on Saturday November 26th. We have invited all 32 of the living past champions of the Open Division of the Futurity to come and participate in a “once in a lifetime” cutting in the Will Rogers Coliseum. We expect a standing-room-only crowd to come and see the legends of our industry, from the modern-day starts to some of the true “founding fathers” of our sport.

We’ll be hosting the World Finals for our Open and Non Professional Divisions on four evenings during the Futurity, where fans can come and see the top 15 Open horses and Non Pro cutters from the 2011 weekend show point year. There’s six Western Bloodstock public auction horse sales, bus tours of some of the top ranches in Park County, and lots of activities in an enhanced “Best of the West Premier Shopping Experience” that’s the best Christmas shopping you’ll find anywhere in the 100,000 square foot Amon G. Carter Exhibit Hall throughout the Futurity.

 

Q: The Careity Foundation recently announced that Lyle Lovett will be taking part in the celebrity cutting and performing at the concert. By having a great entertainer like Lyle on board, what kind of impact does that make for the exposure of the Careity Foundation and the sport of cutting itself?

A: The Careity Foundation always does a tremendous job with the Celebrity Cutting. Having Lyle as one of the participants this year brings even more “star power” to the event, that raises thousands of dollars for an extremely worthy cause. Some of these celebrities (such as Lyle) are pretty talented cutters, so it’s an event not to be missed.

 

Q: Can you tell us about the projected cash and prizes that will be awarded at this year’s Futurity and World Finals?

A: The Futurity will pay out a projected $4,000,000 in total prize money, and the World Finals has a total purse of over a quarter of a million dollars. The Futurity is the “granddaddy of them all” when it comes to arena horse competitions.

 

Q: The Mercuria World Series of Cutting recently made a stop in Lyon, France. What is it like to hold an NCHA event over there, and do you see any further expansion in the international market?

A:  It’s really eye opening to see the enthusiasm for cutting that there is throughout Europe. And there is a lot of current involvement from South American, and of course from Australia. Cutting has truly become an international sport, and that interest is growing each year. We’ll have people from over 15 different countries attending this year’s Futurity. 

 

Q: You have an extensive background in the thoroughbred racing industry. What experience and tools from that industry have you been able to utilize for the continued success of the NCHA?

A: People appreciate a great horse, as a great athlete, regardless of whether it’s a racehorse, a cutting horse, a hunter/jumper, or any other discipline. There are so many great human-interest stories to tell in cutting about the people and the horses. When people learn more about the riders, the trainers, the breeders, and what takes place “behind the scenes” in preparing a horse for an event like the Futurity, it gives them a real “rooting interest” in the event, and then folks also realize that cutting is a sport they can be involved in as well, at whatever level they choose to participate. And the fact that cutting is a “participation sport” not just something that you watch, is extremely appealing to many people who want that “hands on” involvement with their horses and the competition.

 

Q: Like the rest of the equine world, you had to quickly react to the EHV-1 epidemic this year. What challenges has the NCHA had to face in the wake of the outbreak?

A: The EHV-1 outbreak really brought cutters together because of their common bond of caring about the health and welfare of their horses. I think it helped to re-focus people on these types of diseases and the potential ramifications, and how the need for awareness and bio-security is so critical to our ability to continue to enjoy the sport we all love.

 

Q: Does the NCHA have any exciting additions or changes in store for 2012?

A: We’re looking forward to a great 2012. We’re brining a new World Finals format to the Futurity next year that will include the top 15 from 10 of our weekend classes, and the Youth will have their own new World Finals at the Summer Spectacular in Fort Worth in July. We also have many great corporate partners that will bring even more member benefits to cutters at all levels in 2012. It’s really a great time to be an NCHA member.

 

Q: You’ve been doing this now for over 10 years. What do you think is the most memorable Futurity performance of the past decade?

A: That’s the toughest question you’ve asked so far…..each year’s Futurity brings something new and a lot of memorable moments. The excitement and electricity in the air on Finals night is unmatched in any sport. And when a horse makes the Futurity Finals in the historic Will Rogers Coliseum, they’ve already accomplished so much just to get to that point; it’s the highlight of every cutters dreams. When one Futurity winds down, you’re already looking forward to the next one. A cutter will never grow old when he has a promising two-year-old in his barn, pointed to the next year’s Futurity!

 

The Borden Milk/NCHA World Championship 50th Futurity will be held November 21st – December 10th at the Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum in Fort Worth, Texas. For more information please visit NCHAcutting.com



 

 
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