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Mel Shearin, 1930-2017

Friday, December 15th, 2017

Mel Shearin.

Mel Shearin, of Saint Clair, Missouri, a horseman’s horseman and a giant among Midwestern cutters, has passed away at age 87. Shearin, who was inducted into the NCHA Hall of Fame in 2009, began working with horses when he was 13 and was an NCHA member from the 1950s.

Born in Farmington, Missouri on June 21, 1930, Shearin began working for local farmers as a 12-year-old, earning fifty cents a day, as well as setting pins at the local bowling alley for a nickel a game.

But by the time he was 13, he got a job driving a team of horses, and at 15, he spent summers working in Texas.

He served in the Korean War, receiving a Purple Heart and the United Nations Service Medal. After the war, he worked for Adams Milk, driving a six-pony hitch in local events. He married Irma Smith in 1956 and they had four children, Lisa, Louis, Larry and Linda.

In the early 1960s, Shearin went to work for August Busch at Grant’s Farm, caring for their world-famous Clydesdales. He also began making a name for himself in the cutting world with horses like Gold Tender, with whom he won the American Royal, one of the biggest cuttings in the country at the time. He also won championships  at Congress, the Denver National Show, and the Kansas and Missouri Maturity.

A full page photo of Shearin on Gold Tender appeared in Sports Illustrated, along with a caption that described them as “apparently defying gravity.”

Shearin mentored many amateur and non-pro riders over the years, and had a special influence with youth cutters. His trainees included NCHA Youth World Champions Larry Shearin and Debbie Shaw, and future NCHA president Ernie Beutenmiller Jr.

Besides cutting, he trained halter and pleasure horses for many years. One of his stars, Van Decka, set an AQHA record for youth points.

When a reporter noted that Shearin had been called the ‘Stan Musial of the cutting horse industry,’ Shearin replied,  “I’m a little uncomfortable with that comparison. I’ve met Stan Musial. He was quite a baseball player and is a great person.”

He preferred to say that he was a simple man who had been fortunate to live his dream of being a cowboy.

Services for Mel Shearin are pending.

Jeff Fisk, 1942-2017

Thursday, February 2nd, 2017

NCHA Executive Committee member Jeff Fisk, 74, of Walton, Kentucky, passed away suddenly January 31, 2017.

He was the owner of National Cleaning Company, Inc., served on the first coaching staff for Simon Kenton’s initial football team, and served on the board of directors for Highland-Independence Cemeteries. Jeff’s true passion though was horses.

Fisk represented Region 4 on the NCHA Executive Committee. He raised, owned and trained them including a World Champion Cutting horse. Jeff’s involvement with the equine industry included serving on the Kentucky Horse Park Commission, the board of directors of the Racing Health and Welfare Fund, the executive board of the Kentucky Horse Council, and helping prepare for the World Equestrian Games held in Lexington, Kentucky.

He is survived by his wife (of 47 years) Sue Spegal Fisk; children, Kimberly Dawn Reed (Bill) and Jeffrey Beaumont Fisk; grandchildren, Tyler Trentman and Mackenzie Reed; mother, Helen McGraw Fisk; and brother, Rodney Fisk (Pam).

Visitation will be Saturday, February 4, 2017 from 9 a.m. until 12 noon with services immediately following at noon at Chambers and Grubbs Funeral Home in Independence, KY. Interment will take place at Independence Cemetery. Memorials may be made to the Kentucky Racing Health and Welfare Fund, 422 Heywood Ave, Louisville, KY 40208. Online condolences may be expressed to www.chambersandgrubbs.com.

Services pending for Murlene Mowery

Saturday, January 21st, 2017

Murlene Mowery.

Murlene Mowery, of Millsap, Texas, a treasure trove of NCHA history, passed away January 21, following a brief illness.

Mowery, 86, a long-time secretary of several NCHA affiliates, had been a go-to member of NCHA’s show department in recent years. She was inducted into the NCHA Members Hall of Fame in 2009 for her years of contributions to the Association.

A 1948 graduate of Henrietta (Texas) High School, she married cutting horse trainer Bill Mowery, and worked many years as office manager for a luxury hotel’s restaurant in Scottsdale, Arizona. She “moonlighted” as a show secretary. But she never had time to become a cutter herself.

“I rode one once, and decided to leave that to my husband and the boys,” she said. “I really didn’t have time because I had a full-time job, plus being a secretary, plus homework.”

Arizona’s climate and cattle made it a magnet for out-of-state cutters while she worked the shows.

“In the ’70s, ’80s and early ’90s, we had our Sun Circuit at the feedlot in Casa Grande,” she recalled. “We had plenty of cattle, so we had lots of entries. One year, our Sun Circuit was the biggest approved NCHA show in the United States.

“Our cuttings would go even until 4 o’clock in the morning, then we’d start over again at 8 o’clock. A few years, we had two arenas going. We had cutters from everywhere.”

For more than 20 years, she served as show secretary of the Arizona CHA.

She returned to Texas after her husband passed away. Her experience, knowledge and energy made her an invaluable addition to the NCHA staff. She enjoyed keeping in touch with people she knew from across the country.

Mowery’s sons, Mike and Rick, are well known to NCHA members. Mike was 1983 World Champion on Handle Bar Doc and won the 1997 NCHA Futurity on Some Kinda Memories. He served as NCHA President in 2005. Rick won multiple aged events, and both Rick and Mike are AAAA judges.

Pat Jacobs, 1937-2016

Monday, August 29th, 2016

Pat JacobsLong-time NCHA member Pat Jacobs, 79, passed away August 29. Jacobs was an NCHA Members Hall of Fame inductee, and he also received the NCHA Judges Distinguished Service Award.

A popular musician and raconteur, Jacobs showed against the sport’s legends, and he judged cuttings for more than 40 years, including the first monitored show. He placed the longest running advertisement in the history of NCHA’s Cutting Horse Chatter magazine.

As a teenager in Kansas, Jacobs earned walking around money by driving cattle to the rail yards and helping load them onto stock cars.

“My heroes were always cowboys, so I helped drive cattle every chance I got,” he said. “It’s all I ever wanted to do.”

He saw Buster Welch ride Marion’s Girl at a county fair, and immediately forgot about his aspirations to be a roper.

“Until that moment, I thought cutting was for old men who couldn’t rodeo,” he said. “After watching Buster, I wanted to cut.”

He got a job working for a trainer and picked up the trade mostly “through osmosis.” By the early 1960s, he was judging shows.

Pat Jacobs“I was just a tall, skinny cowboy and cutting horse trainer from Kansas,” he recalled. “I believe the only requirement then to be a judge was you had to belong to the NCHA for at least two years, and not have any suspensions. Back then, if you could get $25 for judging a cutting, you were pretty well paid.”

As a showman and as a judge, Jacobs was always looking for ways to improve the sport. After a weekend show, he and his fellow cutters would brainstorm, and more often than not Jacobs was the one chosen to deliver their ideas to NCHA headquarters.

“On Monday, I would call (NCHA Executive Director) Zack Wood and bend his ear, telling him about our ideas. I did it often enough where if I didn’t call him on Monday, he would call me and ask, ‘What did you come up with?'”

Jacobs once recalled a time when cattle suppliers would make sure only their best stock would be used at the shows.

“It was a showcase for them to have their cattle on display at the county fair,” he said. “A lot of times, the cattle were furnished, with the trucking and everything else, at no cost. Maybe our new members need to look back and reflect on all the efforts of the judges, the ranchers  and livestock men who tightened their belts to help a growing association.”

Jacobs’ adventures were featured in Tom McGuane’s collections of essays, Some Horses, and in his own book, Outcasts, Outlaws, and Second Chance Horses: The Pat Jacobs Story.

A viewing will be held at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Ashland Ks at 7:00pm on Friday Sept 2, 2016. The funeral will take place at 10:00 am Saturday, Sept. 3. A celebration of life will be held in this area at a later date.

 

Jack Newton, 1925-2016

Sunday, April 24th, 2016
Jack Newton on 1959 World Champion Poco Stampede.

Jack Newton on 1959 World Champion Poco Stampede.

NCHA Hall of Fame Rider Jack Newton, 90, of Keller, Texas, passed away Sunday.

Newton was a World Champion cutting horse rider, a long-serving NCHA judge, a mentor to a new generation of trainers and a top roper. He adapted an idea from the bird dog world, lobbied against strong resistance and finally helped launch what is today cutting’s signature event, the NCHA Futurity.

Newton grew up on a cotton farm near Abilene, Texas, but at 15 went to work for his uncle, Guy Weeks, who sold Thoroughbreds as polo ponies and to the U.S. Army, and kept 5,000 mother cows.

“They made good ranch horses,” Newton said of the Thoroughbreds. “We’d use them working cattle and whatever we had to do. They were six or seven before the polo players would want them, and they knew if the horses had been working cattle, they were broke pretty good.”

Newton met George Glascock, NCHA’s first World Champion, who would buy cattle from Weeks. And Glascock mentored him as Newton took a mare named Guthrie Ann to the 1951 Fort Worth Stock Show. While he was showing Guthrie Ann for oilman G.F. Rhodes, Newton broke tradition and held onto the saddle horn and lowered his rein hand.

“Very seldom would you see anyone ride with his hand down,” Newton recalled. “He’d have his hand up over that horn.”

But other riders began to follow suit, and now you’d be hard-pressed to find a cutter riding in the old style.

In the late 1950s, Newton showed Poco Stampede, who would become the 1959 NCHA World Champion. At a big show in Odessa, Texas, he won the AQHA cutting, the open cutting and was grand champion at halter.

“Poco Stampede could hold a real bad cow,” Newtwon said. “I would watch and if there was a bad cow in there that got away from somebody else, I’d cut it.”

Newton told the story of a cutting held on the infield of a racetrack, where Poco Stampede followed a calf over the snow fence which had been set up to hold the cattle. “We were outside the arena holding that calf,” he said. “They didn’t know whether to let me have another ride or what. Finally someone said, ‘Well, he didn’t lose the cow.'”

As a member of the NCHA executive committee in the early 1960s, Newton pushed for a new event for 3-year-old horses, the NCHA Futurity.

“We had to come up with something,” he said. “We didn’t have anywhere to go with a young horse. We could put them in a junior cutting and that was it, In a novice class, a horse might have to win against horses that were seven or eight years old.”

Newton found an ally in Buster Welch, who would go on to win the NCHA Futurity a record five times.

“We had to go out and get people to donate money for the purse at the first Futurity,” Newton said. “NCHA wouldn’t help us. But when the first one was over, they let us have money for the next one.

“When we started, Buster and I tried to figure out how to come up with $100,000 for the winner. Back then, a World Champion won less than $12,000. The Futurity is what kept us going. All these aged events are spin-offs of the Futurity.”

Newton showed Commander King for James Kemp, and he bred and trained a Commander King son named Dun Commander that won 20 all-around titles with points in halter, reining, roping, western pleasure and cutting.

He was also the first rider to put two horses, Poco Stampede and Swen Miss 16, into the NCHA Hall of Fame. Newton was inducted into the NCHA Riders Hall of Fame in 1989.

“I feel real fortunate,” Netwon told me in 1995. “There are so many people that work five days a week, and when they get a chance, they come out here and do for fun what I do for a living. I may not make much, but I’m making a living doing what I like to do.”

There will be a memorial service for Jack Newton on Sunday, May 1 at 2:00pm at Clay Johns Cutting Horse Arena, 151 Johns Lane, Millsap, Texas 76066.

Lynn Anderson, 1947-2015

Friday, July 31st, 2015

Lynn AndersonGrammy Award winning singer and cutting horse enthusiast Lynn Anderson died July 30, following a heart attack.

Anderson, whose signature song, “I Never Promised You a Rose Garden,” became one of the biggest selling country cross-over hits of all time, recorded a dozen chart-topping records. She received awards from the Academy of Country Music, the Country Music Association, and was named Billboard’s Female Artist of the Decade (1970-80). In 1974, she was the first female country artist to headline and sell out Madison Square Gardens.

The daughter of country songwriters Casey and Liz Anderson, she was born in Grand Forks, North Dakota, and raised in Fair Oaks, California. She had her first success in the horse show arena in California as a youngster, eventually winning 700 trophies, and being named California Horse Show Queen in 1966. She won 16 national and eight world championships, along with several celebrity titles.

She was a popular—and successful—supporter of the Careity Foundation’s Celebrity Cutting at the NCHA Futurity.

Anderson raised horses at her ranch in New Mexico and worked with Special Riders of Animaland, a horseback riding therapy program for children.

Her Quarter Horses Lady Phase and Skipsters Chief were produced as plastic models by Breyer Animal Creations. Skipsters Chief was also the poster horse for the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association.

Lynn Anderson made television appearances with such stars as Lucille Ball, Bing Crosby, John Wayne and Tom Jones and she performed for presidents Nixon, Ford, Carter and Reagan.

She is survived by her father, her partner Mentor Williams and her children, Lisa Sutton, Melissa Hempel and Gray Stream.

Doug Nimpfer, 1946-2015

Monday, July 6th, 2015

Doug NimpferNCHA member Doug Nimpfer of Burleson, Texas, passed away July 1.

He was an iron worker by trade through Iron Workers Local Union 263. At the time of his retirement, he was owner and president of Bob McCaslin Precast Construction.

He was an avid fisherman and horseman who won the Suncoast Amateur Derby and placed in a string of major limited age events on  his homebred mare Aristos Ms Valentine. Other memorable horses he rode include Oliver Twistin Cat, TJ Bingo and Madame Cat.

Survivors: Wife, Cindy Nimpfer; sons, Tommy Nimpfer, Troy Nimpfer and wife, Kathy; granddaughters, Brittany Nimpfer, Makayla Nimpfer, Savannah Green and husband, Tanner; grandsons, Tyler Nimpfer, Wes Tidwell; great-granddaughter, Mady Green; sisters, Diane Fleming and husband, Tommy, Donna Taylor and husband, Craton; mother-in-law, Ruth Hutchins; and numerous nieces and nephews.

Service: 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, July 8, in Mount Olivet Chapel. Interment: Mount Olivet Cemetery. Visitation: 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at Mount Olivet.