2017-06-16 / Family

Teen saddles up for state competition

High-schooler is serious about horsemanship
By Hector Gonzalez

IN CONTROL—Above and at right, Chance Leatherman of Simi Valley competes in the California Cow Horse Association’s non-pro Bridle Spectacular over Memorial Day weekend in Tulare, Calif. IN CONTROL—Above and at right, Chance Leatherman of Simi Valley competes in the California Cow Horse Association’s non-pro Bridle Spectacular over Memorial Day weekend in Tulare, Calif. Weekend riding trips at his grandfather’s ranch in Topanga Canyon introduced Chance Leatherman to horses when he was 9 years old.

But it wasn’t until about a year ago, when he turned 14, that the Santa Susana High School student decided to get serious about horsemanship.

That’s when he began learning the finer points of “cutting,” a Western-style equestrian sport in which a rider works with a horse to demonstrate the animal’s ability to herd cattle.

Chance began taken lessons from renowned reined cow horse expert and trainer Ted Robinson at Robinson’s Cow Horse Training Ranch in Oak View, near Lake Casitas in unincorporated Ventura County. The two-time World’s Best Horseman said he has a natural gift with horses, backing it up with a video demonstration of his cutting skills on his website, tedrobinsoncowhorses.com.

Photos courtesy of Holly Leatherman Photos courtesy of Holly Leatherman “He’s in the Hall of Fame of the National Reined Cow Horse Association, so I’m really lucky and proud to be working with him,” Chance said of his mentor. “He’s helped me come along, and he’s still teaching me. I still got a lot to learn.”

Even as he continues his training in the sport, Chance had learned enough from Robinson to qualify for the California High School Rodeo Association state finals in Bishop, Calif., which started June 10 and ends today. To get there, he competed and scored high enough in eight CHSRA rodeos held in association with the National High School Rodeo Association throughout the 2016-17 school year, said Roxanne Usher, CHSRA spokesperson.

“These are a great group of kids who work hard not only in caring and competing with their animals all year long, but also in their studies, as they need to maintain a 2.0 GPA throughout the school year,” Usher said in an email.

At the finals, about 300 high school students from the state rodeo association’s nine districts in California roped, rode, tied, raced and bucked. The events included barrel racing, pole bending, goat tying, breakaway roping, tie-down roping, steer wrestling, team roping, bull riding and cutting.

Only four of the approximately 45 competitors in each event will go on to compete in the National High School Finals Rodeo July 16 to 22 in Gillette, Wyo.

In cutting, although Chance came in fourth in this week’s finals, with a score of 144.5, his aggregate score of 421.5 placed him ninth overall, Usher said.

In the reined cow horse event, Chance came in fifth this week, placing him sixth overall.

Art of cutting

Now a part of the reined cow horse tradition in modern rodeo, cutting traces its roots to the vaqueros of early California, who over time developed precise moves on horseback for managing cattle. While the cowboys of the Old West faded into history, cutting on reined cow horses still survives on today’s cattle ranches and as a rodeo event.

In cutting, a rider guides his reined cow horse to respond to a series of turns and patterns. Judges rate the performance based on how accurately the rider makes the cow turn and how quickly, and on the rider’s overall control of his horse.

Chance’s parents, Ty and Holly, learned cutting when they were younger.

“It’s like a family thing,” the teen said. “It took me about six months to really get it down. It’s an event you have to learn by doing. You can’t just have someone tell you how to do it. It takes a lot of practice. You have to mirror the horse’s movements.”

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