Jeff Fisk named to Kentucky post

Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin has appointed George Jeffrey Fisk to the board of directors of the Racing Health and Welfare Fund, Inc.

Jeff Fisk.

Fisk, of Walton, is active in the equine business and serves on the executive board of the Kentucky Horse Council, and the executive committee of the National Cutting Horse Association. He is also a  member of the Kentucky Horse Park Commission.

The Kentucky Racing Health and Welfare Fund is a charitable, non-profit organization that helps certain eligible individuals in the Kentucky thoroughbred racing industry who demonstrate need. It was founded in 1978 by an act of the Kentucky General Assembly, and provides benevolent funding toward the payment of medical, hospital, vision and funeral expenses. The Fund provides benefits for off-the-job injuries and illnesses which are not covered by union health and welfare plans, worker’s compensation, social security, public welfare, military benefits, veteran benefits or any other type of health, medical, dental or accident insurance.

Message from NCHA President Chuck Smith

There appears to be some confusion concerning the action taken by the Executive Committee at its August 22, 2016 meeting to adopt a recommendation from the Non-Pro/Amateur Review Committee relating to the modification of the existing amateur exception rules effective in the 2017 point year. I am sending this correspondence to all directors in order to clarify any confusion that may exist.

The Amateur 10yr/$15,000 Exception Rule, which is currently in the Rule Book, allows past trainers who have trained astride in other equine disciplines to return to the Amateur division if certain requirements are met. That exception was recommended in 2009 as part of the Non Pro Amateur Task Force Proposal, was vetted by the Amateur Committee, was recommended to the Executive Committee by majority vote by the Amateur Committee and has been in the Rule Book since 2010 (See page 152 of the NCHA Rule Book).

The most recent recommendation from the Non Pro Amateur Review Committee that was considered and approved by the Executive Committee in its August 22, 2016 meeting was simply a modification of the time and monetary limits contained in the current exception rule. The adopted modification is applicable to the potential conversion to amateur status of a former trainer who trained astride in another equine discipline and to the potential conversion from non pro to amateur status for former trainer’s families. Neither the existing exception rule, nor the adopted modification to the exception rule, allow any former cutting horse trainer or assistant cutting horse trainer to qualify for Amateur status under any circumstances. The Executive Committee strongly endorsed these changes and these changes currently stand as approved.

The motion as approved by the Executive Committee was as follows: A motion was made by Jeff Fisk, seconded by Lewis Wray and passed with one opposed (Jerry Louie) to approve changes to current amateur exceptions to allow the following persons to apply for amateur status: (1) former horse trainers from other equine disciplines (not cutting horse trainers) who have not engaged in training activities for at least three years prior to the date of application and who have lifetime open earnings (in all disciplines as reported by Equistat) of less than $15,000; (2) ex-spouses of professionals who have been divorced for at least three years prior to the date of application and have less than $50,000 in earnings in all breed associations and cutting competitions; (3) children of professionals who have not resided with the professional for at least three years prior to the date of application and have less than $50,000 in earnings in all breed associations and cutting competitions; and (4) spouses and children of persons who were formerly classified as professionals, but who have been granted a change of status to non-professional under NCHA exception rules. These changes will become effective in the 2017 point year.

The Executive Committee is committed to making changes that benefit the membership as a whole and is also committed to the processes contained in NCHA Rules. Therefore, in order to insure that all interests have been fully heard from, I am exercising my authority under Article 5, Section 5 of the Constitution & By-Laws to invite the chairs of the Amateur, Non-Pro, Professional Trainers and Non-Pro/Amateur Review Committee or any other effected committees to again address this issue with the Executive Committee, if they so desire, under new business at the November 2016 Executive Committee meeting. If any member has comments on this issue, please contact your directors or the appropriate Standing Committee Chairs to discuss this matter. After hearing from those Committee Chairs, the Executive Committee will decide what further action, if any, will be taken in connection with this matter.

History of the Amateur Division and Exception Rules

The following is a brief history of the development of the amateur division, and the exception rules affecting that division that demonstrates the changes that have occurred over the years.

In the time span of the late 1980’s through the early 1990’s, a new division of the NCHA called the Amateur Division was created. The need for and structure of this division was debated for several years. The Executive Committee knew something had to be done to create participating membership at the base level. The question was how to structure with fairness and long term growth. After much study, two approaches materialized: (1) the creation of a pure, pristine amateur true to the definition of the term “amateur”, or (2) a more restricted form of the non-pro. The “amateur” approach would be awards only or, at best, allowing only jackpot earnings without restrictions on longevity in the class. The restricted non-pro concept would eliminate current dominating non-pros from the new class so that it could be used as a stair step system for graduation to the regular non-pro competition after earnings levels were met. It was believed that given the opportunity to compete in restricted classes, participants would gain the experience and confidence to move up and compete in regular non-pro competition.

A compromise between those two approaches was finally reached. Members qualifying for the new division would be allowed to compete for money, including added money. It was to be a stair step structure with earnings limits that forced graduation into the non-pro class. It would be called the “amateur” division, even though by definition, it really wasn’t. The reasoning for the name “amateur’ being selected was to create a distinction in name between the new class and the non-pro class.

The rest is history; the Amateur class grew. It became popular in weekend events and really boomed in the Triple Crown competition. All of a sudden, people were graduating out of the earnings limits, but didn’t want to advance to the non-pro division. Amateur class limits were raised, exceptions were made, more amateur divisions were created, and more prize money was added. In short, Amateur Class eligibility has continued to evolve to meet the needs of NCHA members.

The Non-Pro/Amateur Review Committee was formed in 2009 to deal with the disciplinary issues arising around status, horse ownership and the many people who wanted to crossover into the amateur/non-pro divisions or to remain eligible in the amateur and/or non-pro division. The purpose in forming this committee was to allow a committee that knew the history of the association and divisions to determine how to best deal with disciplinary issues, amateur/non-pro applications and exceptions. Additionally, it placed eligibility and disciplinary actions in hands that were not directly affected by the decision, eliminating decisions on eligibility and discipline made by competitors in the same division. Only past presidents have ever served on this committee. That committee makes recommendations it feels best serve the association as a whole. Without the developments that have come from that committee, many who are now competing in the amateur, unlimited amateur and non-pro divisions would not be eligible.

NCHA launches Challenger Shows

New format offers fun, affordability

Challenger SeriesThe National Cutting Horse Association has launched the Challenger Series, a new format of Weekend Shows aimed at giving  weekend cutters a fun and affordable entryway to the sport. Challenger Shows will complement the existing NCHA Championship Shows, with lower cost and more flexibility for show producers.

The time-tested features of the traditional Championship Shows will continue, with a few new features.

Beginning with the 2017 point year, an awards and recognition program will be introduced for the new Challenger Shows, but Affiliates and other show producers may begin offering Challenger Shows (with no added money) even during the remainder of the 2016 point year. Added-money Challenger Shows will be allowed starting December 28, with the new point year.

Chuck Smith

Chuck Smith

“The Challenger Series is a brand new format, building on the foundation of the Grassroots Program.” said NCHA President Chuck Smith. “The Challenger Series will make it easier for show producers and affiliates to create shows tailored to their unique situations.
“It also gives new people and current members who are just cutting for fun a better experience, while being rewarded for their efforts.”

Challenger Standings based on points
NCHA will establish Regional Top 15 Standings for the new Challenger shows. The Challenger Standings will be based strictly on points, rather than money earned. However, money won at Challenger Shows will count toward lifetime earnings, rider and horse eligibility and achievement awards.

Points awarded for any Challenger Show class will be based on the number of entries, with one point for every two entries, to a maximum of 10 points. No half-points will be awarded. If there is an odd number of entries, points will be rounded up.

So placings in a 20-horse class, would be awarded as follows: 1st = 10 pts., 2nd = 9 pts. and down to 1 pt. for 10th place. All entries that mark a score of at least 60 will receive at least one point, which will help encourage ongoing participation. So in this example, places 11-20 would each receive one point.

In the case of ties, each entry will receive the points awarded to the highest tied placing, with the normal points going to any contestants following the tie. This is similar to the way points are currently awarded in Youth classes at Championship Shows.

Buckles for money or points
NCHA Achievement Buckles will be awarded based on combined earnings of $1,000 from Challenger and Championship Shows, or for 100 points earned at Challenger Shows. Dollars and points can not be mixed for awards.

Upgrade Medallions for Achievement buckles can be earned with additional points. For example, 250 points would earn a $2,500 Medallion; 500 points would earn a $5,000 Medallion, and so on.
Participation in the jackpot will be optional for the contestant. So a cutter can enter without participating in the jackpot, but still receive whatever points he or she earns in the class.

Points are recognized only for Challenger Regional Standings, Achievement Buckles and other awards. For the purpose of achievement awards, points carry over from year to year. Points do not count toward lifetime earnings, or eligibility.

Flexibility for show producers
The new Challenger Shows offer greater flexibility and cost savings for show producers. (See What’s new in the NCHA Challenger Shows?).

A low show approval fee, flexibility in staffing shows and setting purses, and the option of a two-cow/two-minute format will all appeal to show producers. Challenger Shows can offer any combination of classes, and do not necessarily need to include an Open class, as traditional Championship Shows do. For example, a Challenger Show could consist of just a $15,000 Amateur class with $150 in added money, if that format met the needs of  show producers and cutters.

The flexibility will enable breed shows and other established events to enhance their programs by offering an approved NCHA Challenger class or classes.

New incentives for cutters
The new Challenger Shows will offer cutters additional opportunities to participate, typically at a significantly lower cost.

Cutters in Challenger Shows will earn points toward Achievement Buckles and year-end standings, with a new year-end awards program established. Even cutters in a slump will be able to earn participation points to make progress in the standings, and bring them closer to awards.

Beginning in 2017, for riders entering an approved class for Challenger Shows, NCHA will offer a free introductory membership to new members and to former cutters who have not been a member for more than one year.

What’s new in the NCHA Challenger Shows?

Here’s an overview of the new features of the NCHA Challenger Shows.

  • Available for Affiliates and other producers. Any NCHA Affiliate or independent show producer may hold an NCHA Challenger Show. Breed shows and other existing events can enhance their programs by adding NCHA Challenger classes.
  • Parity of purses not required. Any NCHA-approved class or combination of classes can be included in a Challenger Show. Any class may be jackpot only, or may offer from $1 to $199 in added money, without regard to added money in any other class.
  • Low approval fee. The approval fee is just $200 for an added-money Challenger Show, or $100 for shows with no added money. The approval fee must be sent when results are submitted to NCHA.
  • A Regional Awards fee of $2 per entry will be collected and submitted to NCHA with show results to fund year-end awards for leading participants in Challenger Shows.
  • Entry fee may be lower than cattle charge, to give show producers flexibility and to help make participation more affordable for cutters.
  • Judges, video personnel and secretaries do not need to be certified, with the exception that certified judges must be used for classes with added money. Video must be recorded for all classes, and retained for 180 days.
  • Two cows/two minutes format is optional. Instead of the traditional format of two and a half minutes, with two or three cows to be cut, Challenger Shows may offer a two-minute format, with two cows provided.
  • Membership dues may be paid after the show without affecting money or points earned at the show.
  • No judges protest system will be available for Challenger Shows.
  • Multiple judges may be used at a show.
  • Judges’ names do not need to be submitted to NCHA before classes with no added money. However, for added-money classes, a certified judge must be named seven days before the show.
  • NCHA will record earnings, but earnings in Challenger Shows will not count towards World Standings. Only Championship Shows with $200 or more in added money will count towards World Standings beginning with the 2017 point year.
  • Weekend limited age events may not begin until the Challenger classes are completed, unless two arenas are being used.
  • Regional Standings and Awards. NCHA will maintain Regional standings for all approved Challenger Show classes, and publish them online. Cutters will earn points in whichever Region they are competing in, so an individual could be ranked in the standings of more than one Region. Year-end awards will be presented to the leading participants in each class in each Region.

What about my NCHA Championship Shows?

NCHA Championship Shows are largely unchanged by the addition of the Challenger Series shows. They are still the cornerstone of NCHA’s Weekend Show program. Here’s a recap of Championship Show features:

  • Qualification for the Top 15 Standings will remain the same as it has been in recent years.
  • The NCHA World Finals format held during the NCHA Futurity will remain the same.
  • Area Standings will still be maintained and published online and in the Chatter. NCHA will present a trophy to the Area champion in each approved class. Beginning with the current point year, NCHA will also publish pictures of the Area champions online after the end of the year, and in a designated issue of the Chatter. The most up-to-date standings will be available throughout the year on the website.
  • Regional Top 15 Standings will be tracked and published on the website beginning with the 2017 point year. The Regional standings will be based on money earned at all Championship shows in the Region. Awards will be given to the leading participants at the end of the year.
  • Standings based on $200 or more added shows. Since shows with $199 or less in added money fall under the Challenger Series, NCHA World Standings and the Championship Regional Standings will be based on shows with $200 or more in added money. Championship Area Standings will still be based on shows with $200 to $750 in added money.

A message from Chuck Smith

My objective as President and Interim Executive Director of the NCHA is to move this Association forward by meeting the needs of our membership.

Every member is important to us, from grassroots to triple crown, from amateur to professional.

As always, our challenge is to get as many people riding cutting horses as possible, and to provide a broad enough selection of classes and activities that we are able to offer an enjoyable, satisfying experience to all of our members.

Our greatest asset is the cutting horse itself. It’s an easy sell once a beginner has his or her first ride. Our goal should be to help them go forward from that initial experience. We are constantly searching for ways to make our sport more affordable so that we can welcome more cutters, and keep them engaged.

We need to adapt to ever-changing markets. We need to find ways to tailor the cutting experience to a wide variety of local conditions. We need to leverage new technology to help us move forward into the future.

No one in our association can achieve these things alone. But working together, we can make it happen.