Women & Families in Cutting
2nd in a series by Corey Fagan
Children… they are the beginning. When they are brought into this world they are a fresh slate, a pure, untainted human being ready to learn, grow and explore all that is around them. Believing in them and knowing that they can be the best of us and then allowing them to take that to their own greater level is empowerment. The youth of today, are our opportunities to help shape the future we want; by building stronger foundations in them that do not shake. If we want foundations that are built with courage, politeness, knowledge, respect, and a steady realization that hard work does not go un-rewarded, then we must be the examples of that for them. This continuing cycle shapes who we are and continues to build our character, while guiding our children, the ones who will lead us into the future. These children will grow up and make a difference in our society. I believe that most of us realize we live in critical times, where often children are not afforded opportunities to work hard, to find out who they are; often going unnoticed, unable to find self confidence, feeling defeated all along living with a sense of entitlement. That is why it is such a privilege to be a part of a community of people who have built an entire industry based on core values that have been handed down throughout generations. The old adage that it takes a village to raise a child is not far from truth. That is why the village is so important, for it leaves impressions, helping to shape who we will become, giving us a conviction of strength that we can stand on our own.
Sadee Smith is 16 years old and in the 10th grade. She is the youngest daughter of Greg and Chris Smith. Sadee has been cutting her whole life, and at just 8 years old Sadee showed for the first time and loved it. Sadee is not a stranger to hard work. While she is a full time student, making straight A’s, she works full time helping her dad. When asked about a typical day, Sadee said “I take care of the horses every day, I also help with the turn back horses. When we are at shows my dad is super busy and we take about 7 horses; he is so busy he can’t help me at all, so I help him. I feed, do the chores and it’s a full day of work.” She continued “There is no time for school or anything, just getting the work done.” In the past two months they have been to 6 or 7 aged events. Sadee works through an on-line home schooling program. She gets straight A’s which means she has to hammer it when she is at home. And obviously she does just that.
When asked what she loves best about all of this she replied, “I love the people; they are all my friends at the show.” Being home schooled her mom kids around that she may not be socialized. Sadee said “It is a little joke we have going, because I have so many friends.” When you ask Sadee about her family, she says “We are really close and travel to all these shows together; sometimes we just can’t wait to get home and relax together.” The most valuable lesson she has learned that will carry her throughout her life she told me is “Responsibility” Sadee thoughtfully said “Just taking care of all these horses, some of them are worth a lot of money, it is a lot of responsibility for a girl my age to take care of them. I think it has helped me to be mature.”
Sadee’s dad, Greg Smith, is also her trainer. I asked her, “Is he tough on you?” She instantly said, “No, not at all he lets me do it… Instead of him telling me, he just lets me learn from my own mistakes and doing it myself.” Sadee spends about 5 hours daily in training; she gets up pretty early… especially in the summer. Comes home and does her school work. When I asked her what she does for fun, she said with a little giggle and spunk, “This is fun… especially now that I get to show a lot. I am so happy; I just barely bought a horse of my own. I always borrowed horses, or rode horses that my dad was training in the youth events” Six year old, Playin in the Reyn, is now affectionately her “Randy”. Together they have made the finals in every showing, except for Idaho. “But it was the toughest one we showed at, there was more money added, tougher people from California and Texas… I’ve shown him in approximately 5 aged events, and weekend youth events… The first time I showed him in an aged event was at the Montana futurity and our first win was at UCHA.” This being Sadee’s most memorable moment in the cutting industry.
Greg Smith, recently moved his family to Star, Idaho; where you can find him and Sadee working horses at 3K Ranch. Sadee said “I like it; it’s definitely my favorite place to live. I’ve lived in Texas and Utah but Idaho is home.” She isn’t sure if it’s the people who are just so friendly or the country style life she finds that makes it just perfect. She has plans for college, although she isn’t sure what she wants to do yet. Sadee jokingly said “I am the very last kid; I’m the baby of the family so I have to wean my parents and go to BSU before I think of moving on.” But that won’t be hard, because Sadee is a definite BSU fan!
When I asked her who inspired her in the industry? Sadee humbly replied “Anyone who succeeds in this sport, it takes a lot of dedication. It is a lot of work. You have to put forth effort but it’s a lot of fun and worth it once you do.” Sadee’s goals are to show as much as she can, to keep having a good horse that she can compete on, “My goal is for that horse to be good every time I show it. Not necessarily to win; but, for that horse to be good… Well, that just means I did my job. That is the most important thing.” Well said from 16 year old Sadee Smith. I certainly wish her all of the best in her future endeavors.
It isn’t hard to find amazing kids, in the equine world. This next young lady has seen what it takes to get there, she is willing to do the work, and wants to make a difference in this world because of what she has been blessed to be a part of.
Alexa Dahl is 15 years old and in the 10th grade. When I asked her how she found herself attracted to the sport of Cutting she told me that she had loved horses her whole life. When she was about ten years old her (family) went out to look for a totally dead broke horse. They found Sunburn Lady Legs, who was already trained in cutting. Alexa reflected, “This horse was trained for cutting already and I tried her out on a buffalo, it was then that I fell in love with cutting.” She said. Alexa showed on her for about a year and a half and would also show on her mother, Sue Dahl’s, horse Peppys Royal Flash from time to time. A few years later the beginning of her real joy would come. She found herself blessed with Dan and Karen Hansen’s horse Woody Jazz. “Jazz has made this sport so amazing for me and I am so blessed to be able to do it.” Alexa heartfully spoke.
This blessing only comes with dedication and hard work. She trained with Greg Smith for 2 years. Alexa said “He taught me showman ship and where to put my body and my legs.” Greg, who was already familiar with this horse, would teach Alexa a very important lesson, which she says will stay with her for life. “The most important thing that he taught me was when I first got Jazz. It was what he said to me ‘You will always have different horses, and you need to learn how to feel your way into that horse; learn what they are like and not get frustrated’ I listened and I hold onto that.” Alexa stated.
Just getting to her trainers takes dedication for young Alexa. She is now training with Thoni Davis and Joe Jones; she must travel a little over 3 hours one way just to get there. “It really is quite hard sometimes, but Joe is always there for us, and so is Thoni” says Alexa; “I need to do my school work, then travel 3 ½ hours with the horse trailer every other weekend.” She is given some dry work, to take home, and then when she comes back they continue to work on what she needs to. Alexa maintains high grades in school. Works with her horse, and shows on average 2 to 3 times a month. Jazz and Alexa have won three buckles last year in the area youth leaders. They participated in their first aged event at the ICHA Futurity in 2010 making the finals with a score of 212.
When asked about her future goals? She answered “I want to train a baby that I can take to the Texas Futurity and show; one that I personally trained.” But most importantly and what inspired me is what she said next, very matter of factly, “I want to be one of those people in the NCHA that is inspirational; someone that people can talk to easily, someone who helps everyone. I want to be like Dan.” Alexa was referring to none other than World Champion, Dan Hansen. She went on to tell me that Dan and Karen Hansen having done so much for the NCHA, and being the kindest people no matter where they go, make her want to be more. “They could be in France, at one of the biggest shows, and they will help other competitors pick out cows. It’s never just about them, it’s about team work, and I totally respect that.” She doesn’t have to look very far, to find more of those same traits she wants to encompass when she speaks of her mother, Sue Dahl. “My mother works so hard so that I can do what I love every day. She never misses a show, she is always right there by my side. She has 3 kids and she is by each and every one of us. She is amazing!” exclaimed Alexa.
Memorable moments that Alexa reflected on went like this. “To me personally, was my first bridleless cutting on Jazz in Montana. It meant so much to me because it was for breast cancer. I did it because it was something I wanted to do for my grandma.” Alexa’s grandma, Mary Lou Dahl, is a survivor of breast cancer. “I called her on the phone and told her what I had done and she was so happy. I only got a 210, but Dru Stewart made me feel like a star, Greg (Smith), Dan (Hansen), and Ron (Crouch), they were all there; and it was the most perfect day.” Alexa stated happily.
Alexa recently saw another memorable moment that will stick with her forever she says, “We were in Idaho this year at the 2011 Mercuria National Cutting, and we got to watch Phil Rapp make history and that was the most amazing thing I had ever seen! It was incredible, and we were sitting front row and saw it all, I will never forget that! She said excitedly.
I don’t know if we really think about all the lives we touch, just by getting out there and doing what comes naturally to us. Just by doing what we love. The examples we become, and the impressions that resonate inside these young people, shaping and guiding them along to be better more accomplished individuals. Alexa, is part of that village, she told me how this industry changed her. “To be totally honest with you, I was raised with everything handed to me; I was a bit of a spoiled brat. And then I met people who worked for everything they got, they are humble and have the most genuine kindest personalities.” She went on, “I realized that I wanted to be like that. I wanted to feel accomplished because I earned it.” Alexa said “I want to work for what I get! I want to know that everything I am and do, I have earned. I’ve learned boundaries, I’ve learned to receive and give compliments. I feel I am lucky because it rounds me as a person. I see what I have, instead of just wanting more.”
All of this from the mouth of 15 year old, lessons that I know takes some a lifetime to encompass.
Other women in cutting have inspired Alexa to be more. Karen Hansen is one of her biggest inspirations in this industry as a woman… “Karen pops in my head first, because I didn’t really know Karen, and I saw this little, tiny woman on this giant horse, and she worked that horse like she owned the world and she melted herself into him. When I saw her in front of that cow, I thought ‘she is a woman and doing better than some of the men I have seen cut’, it inspired me. I felt like gender would never matter, it gave me a sense of strength as a girl.” Lyndy Burch also comes to Alexa’s mind. “As a young girl I was so amazed with her skill, and then I met her; she was so kind and humble, and so nice to me. It made a difference to me, about everything.” Another woman to amaze Alexa is Mary Ann Rapp. “She is amazing to watch.” And by watching…Alexa learns, and it helps her to get stronger.
Alexa says that this sport is the best sport out there, “There are people in this sport whether they are losing to you or winning to you; they are still there to give you advice.” To all the young girls looking to get into this sport “Take the advice. Be humble, and realize this sport is their life, be respectful. It is beautiful, the way everyone is there for everyone; I think that every little girl should try this sport because it makes them great people.”
This is a very powerful ending statement from 15 year old Alexa Dahl. Reminding us all why the ICHA, and Sponsors like Figge Farms, Hansen-Rice, 3K Ranch, The Idaho Center, and Tin Haul; believe in programs like Gold Buckle Champion who are passionate about introducing this sport to kids of all ages, while preserving our western heritage, and continuing to engage our children with core values that lead them into the future, with powerful skills. Because they will grow up, and we want them to make a positive and powerful difference in our communities and this world we all share!
As we approach the Christmas season, I am blessed to know that the spirit of Christmas continues with its truest meaning. Giving and receiving, sharing bits of who we are with all of God’s Children; this makes my heart smile. Merry Christmas to everyone!