The National Cutting Horse Association hit a home run with the John Deere Open division at its three major Fort Worth events in 2008, according to Lindy Burch, trainer and former NCHA president. “The response in number of entries was off the charts,” said Burch, comparing the “revolving door” concept of the  John Deere Open division with the old Open Limited division, which it replaced following a proposal from the Professional Trainers committee that emerged from the NCHA convention.

In 2006, entries in Limited Open classes at NCHA’s triple crown events had dwindled to 223. With the new concept, which allows veteran riders who have not earned $200,000 in the past five years to participate, entries skyrocketed to 501 in 2008. Purses more than doubled in the same time frame. And, allaying the fears of some who thought aging Hall of Fame riders would come back to take all the marbles, no Hall of Famer has won yet under the new format.  2009 Super Stakes John Deere champ Jaime Beamer (pictured) for instance, is the latest champ to qualify under both the old and new guidelines.

“In this class, you combine those young, athletic trainers with the older, and more experienced, trainers,” said Burch, of the successful, new format that has support from many members of both the Trainers and the Limited Aged Events committees. “The beauty of this is that the younger rider gets a second opportunity to compete with their mentors, and also allows those who have have not been as successful in recent years to have another chance for a final.”