Co-champion Clay Cerny on Mare E Hughes.
Co-champion Clay Cerny on Mare E Hughes.

Clay Cerny riding Mare E Hughes, and Jon Burgess riding Littlemak, both marked 222 to split the championship of the John Deere Division of the NCHA Derby at the NCHA Summer Spectacular, presented by Great American Insurance, Tuesday.

Cerny rode Mare E Hughes for his in-laws, Don and Kathy Boone of West Columbia, Texas. The mare was bred by Lake Gulch Cutting Horses, by the Boones’ stallion, Thomas E Hughes, out of Short On Sass, a Shorty Lena mare that earned $13,000.

Clay Cerny was a professional calf roper when he married into one of cutting’s most prominent families. His bride was Jodie Boone, the 1995 NCHA Youth World Champion and a Non-Pro Hall of Famer. His Mother- and father-in-law are Kathy and Don Boone, both in the NCHA Non-Pro Hall of Fame. His grandparents-in-law are seven-time NCHA President, Members Hall of Fame inductee Jim Reno (whose sculpture stands outside the NCHA and AQHA headquarters), and Non-Pro Hall of Famer Mary Jo Reno Hawkins.

When they got married, Jodie had to cut back on her cutting to follow the rodeo circuit. “We were gone all the time and she just didn’t have time to ride,” Cerny recalled. “I said, ‘when I quit rodeoing, we’ll go back to cutting.

“It just worked out. When I quit, we had colts hitting the ground, and started from scratch. I knew nothing about (cutting). I still don’t know anything, but I’ve had so much help from Faron Hightower, Robert Rust . . . just so many people who have helped me along the way. And from my in-laws who gave me the opportunity.”

While the sports are different, cutting and rodeo share common themese that reach beyond the arena walls. Cerny once gave one of his horses to a 4-year-old calf-roping fan with cerebral palsy whom he’d met at a rodeo, so the boy could use the horse in a hippotherapy program.

In the John Deere finals, he looked like an old pro at his new sport as he racked up 222 points. He’s already qualified for the Open semi-finals, while Jodie rode Mare E Hughes to the high score of the first day of Non-Pro competition.

But the switch between sports hasn’t been seamless. Cerny gave credit to his help, Kody Porterfield, Grant Setnicka, Boyd Rice and Tarin Rice.

“I’m terrible at picking cows,” he admitted. “I always pick the wild side. If I would do the opposite of what I like, I think I would be alright.

“Cutting is totally different than rodeo. There’s a clock running as you’re roping, and there’s a clock running here; it’s just going backwards. So it’s hard to slow myself down a lot of times, but it’s getting better.

“The horse has been good all week,” he added. “Hopefully we can keep going and see what happens. I’m drawn last in the semis, so I’ll know what I have to do, anyway.”

Co-champion Jon Burgess on Littlemak.
Co-champion Jon Burgess on Littlemak.

Burgess, who also won the John Deere Division of the Super Stakes with Littlemak, shows the gelding for Steve Anderson of Victoria, Texas. Littlemak was bred by Joann Parker by her stallion, Starlights Gypsy, out of Justa Swinging Gal, by Justa Swinging Peppy.

Burgess, his wife Traci, and Steve Anderson have all been successful with PKR Big Mac, a full brother to Littlemak that has earned more than $167,000.

Littlemak drew 10th in the 12-horse finals, but Burgess wasn’t overly concerned about earlier riders who’d struggled with the cattle.

“I know as along as I don’t cut a cow that’s just stupid, he’s going to slow it down. He’s not going to scare it,” Burgess said.  “I thought if I could get him cut clean and give him a shot, we’re good. And that’s pretty much what we did.

“My help, Jonathan Rogers, Chris Hanson, Lee Francois and Jesse Lennox did a great job finding cows deep in there.

“He’s a nice, steady horse. He’s cowy, hard-stopping, and moves good.”

Burgess said he is also training a 3-year-old sibling to Littlemak, and he bought a 2-year-old himself from breeder Joann Parker.

“They’re good horses,” he said. “The Gypsys get a little strong-minded sometimes, but they’re strong and they’re capable. I’ve had some luck with that cross. They like what I do, and I kind of like what they do. We don’t fight a whole lot; just train them and be nice to them, and they’ll try their guts out.”

Burgess, who also qualified for the Open semi-finals with Littlemak, was notching up his third John Deere Division win. He took the 2015 Super Stakes Classic with Gold From Home, as well as this year’s Super Stakes with Littlemak.