Keith Barnett, 76, an NCHA Hall of Fame Rider who placed in the NCHA World Top Ten Open standings 17 times between 1966 and 2005, passed away on August 19, 2018.
Although he won his first saddle for a reining competition in Odessa, Tex., Keith Barnett seemed destined to cut. His father worked for Volney Hildreth, a founder of the National Cutting Horse Association, and later managed a small rodeo near Dallas that would become Neal Gay’s nationally famous Mesquite Rodeo.
Barnett was roping and bulldogging at the Mesquite Rodeo, when PRCA world champion Jim Shoulders asked him to manage a rodeo in Leesburg, Va. It was there, in 1963, that Barnett hooked up with North Wales Quarter Horse Farm and started riding Deuce Five. Barnett was the second-youngest rider to place in the NCHA Top Ten, when he showed Deuce Five to fifth place in the 1964 NCHA Top Ten Open standings.
In 1966, Barnett showed Bill Royal, owned by North Wales Farm, to tie Matlock Rose and J.D. Tadlock for fifth place in the NCHA Futurity; the same year he placed third in NCHA Top Ten standings aboard Mackay Alice.
Little Joe Jones, who Barnett paid $750 for and whose dam was a AAA race mare, carried him to claim the reserve championship of the 1968 NCHA Futurity. It was the first of 12 NCHA Futurity performances for Barnett, who also tied as reserve champion of the 1970 NCHA Derby riding Bill’s Highness. Other business interests kept Barnett out of the saddle during the mid-1970s, but he was back in the NCHA Top Ten standings in 1978 with Lucky Bottom 5, who also won the 1978 World Champion Gelding title.
Barnett was living in Logansport, Ind., when R.L. Waltrip of Houston sent him Colonel Flip. Barnett showed the stallion to place second in the 1983 NCHA Futurity Semi-Finals and to tie for third in the Finals. In 1985, Billy Joe Browning sent a 5-year-old stallion by Son Ofa Doc out of Chiquita Boss to Barnett for appraisal.
“Short Doc was a wild little booger when I got him,” said Barnett. “He had been turned out after he was three, but I convinced Billy Joe to geld him and after that he started making a neat pony.”
Short Doc and Barnett won two major stock show cuttings in 1986 and placed second in the TQHA National Stakes before the gelding bowed both front tendons and had to be laid off. When he came back, he placed in the 1987 NCHA World standings and went on to win the 1988 NCHA World Finals and place third in the World standings. In 1990, Barnett and Short Doc claimed the NCHA World Championship reserve title.
During nearly six decades as a successful cutting horse trainer and competitor, as well as a past NCHA Executive Committee member, an Augusta Futurity director, and an NCHA judge, Barnett touched many lives and will be remembered as an unwavering ambassador for the sport.
A Celebration of Life will be held 2:00 p.m., Tuesday, August 28, at Brenham Fireman’s Training Center, 1101 Hwy 290 West.
In lieu of flowers, a scholarship fund has been set up in honor of Keith. Contributions can be mailed to Brenham National Bank, P.O.Box 2568, Brenham, TX 77834
Services are in the care of Brenham Memorial Chapel, 2300 Stringer St., Brenham, TX. 979.836.361l Access on-line guest registration at BrenhamMemorialChapel.com