It was a case of go big or go home.

Cayley, Alberta’s Dustin Gonnet knew he needed a big score in the second round of the Open Final at the Calgary Stampede Cutting Horse Futurity, after facing down a tough cow in the first round and having the judges penalize him.

“If I wouldn’t have been nailed with that hot quit, I might not have been near as aggressive as I was,” Gonnet said after the event, giving credit to the horse he was on, RPL Cat N Around, for eventually pulling off a big win in the class. “She is super confident about her job. She’s a show pony.”

Dustin Gonnet on RPL Cat N Around, owned by Ronald Patton of Nanton, Alberta
Dustin Gonnet on RPL Cat N Around, owned by Ronald Patton of Nanton, Alberta

As a National Cutting Horse Association sanctioned event, this year’s Calgary Stampede Cutting Horse Futurity attracted Canadian riders from across the prairies and American riders from as far afield as Texas.  In total, 331 horse-and-rider pairs competed in seven classes for a share of more than $355,000 in prize during the event October 12 to 16 in the Agrium Western Event Centre.

In the sport of cutting, each horse and rider is faced with a herd of cattle and just two and a half minutes on the clock. Working together they separate, or ‘cut’, a cow from the herd.  The rider then drops the reins and allows the horse to use its instincts, strength and agility to mirror the movements of the cow and keep it from the herd.  This can be repeated two more times as long as there’s time on the clock.

For those unfamiliar with the sport, and for guests interested in extra insight into each run, ‘Smart Bug’ personal listening devices were offered during the Saturday Night Cut of the West.

Earpieces

Used for the first time during the cutting at the Calgary Stampede in 2016, the ear buds were again extremely popular with the crowd at the Futurity on Saturday night.  Listeners were able to hear expert commentary and better understand the judging and incredible skills of the horses and riders.

Guests to the Saturday Night Cut of the West were also on hand for a very special award ceremony, as Travis Rempel was recognized as this year’s Calgary Stampede Western Elite Rider.

Calgary Stampede Western Elite Rider, Travis Rempel, with the Calgary Stampede Royalty and Western Performance Horse committee member
Calgary Stampede Western Elite Rider, Travis Rempel, with the Calgary Stampede Royalty and Western Performance Horse committee member

The award recognizes the incredible skills and success of the men and women who dedicate their talents and time to the versatility of the western performance horse.  Created in celebration of the three western performance horse events offered at the Calgary Stampede, the Team Cattle Penning competition, the Cutting Horse competition, and the Working Cow Horse Classic, the Western Elite Rider is awarded to the rider who earns the most points by placing in the top ten of at least two events.

A victory in the Open Finals of the Cutting Horse competition propelled Rempel to the top in 2016. Rempel says competing during the Stampede is a unique but incredible experience.

“It’s electric; the people, the music, the announcer and the fact that you’re here during the rodeo.” He says the honour of being named the Stampede’s Western Elite rider is extremely special to him, and it means even more to him to have achieved it surrounded by friends.

“To me the cool thing about this sport is that you can be in competition with someone, but they’re your friends and they want to you do well. It’s fun to be around. It’s the best.”

Full results from the Calgary Stampede Cutting Horse Futurity are available here.