March 29, 2014

First lady of cutting horses continues to blaze trails

NCHA Super Stakes: Lindy Burch rides Stylish Bet into the open semifinals.

Lindy Burch is the first lady of the cutting horse industry.

In 1980, she became the first woman to win the National Cutting Horse Association World Championship Futurity, the sport’s most prestigious show. That’s the cutting horse equivalent of winning thoroughbred horse racing’s Kentucky Derby.

Burch, 62, who is from Weatherford, also was the first woman to serve as the NCHA’s president and she’s been a member of a slew of other cutting horse organizing committees.

Burch is in Fort Worth this weekend to compete in the NCHA Super Stakes. While riding in the Classic/Challenge open division Saturday night, Burch and a mare named Stylish Bet turned in a solid second-round score of 215.5 at Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum.

After posting an impressive 218 in the first round, Burch and Stylish Bet finished with an aggregate score of 433.5 and easily advanced to the semifinal round on Monday.

Burch is a trailblazer. Thirty-four years ago, she commanded respect by winning the NCHA Futurity aboard Mis Royal Mahogany.

“It did a lot for women and it did a lot for me personally,” Burch said. “I think what it really meant was if you work hard and you have talent and you keep your nose to the grindstone, you can succeed in this business, whether you’re a man or a woman.”

In 2000, Burch became the first woman to serve as the NCHA’s president. Barbara Brooks, who currently presides over the NCHA, is only the second woman to hold the top office.

“I think I’ve paved the way there too,” Burch said. “It’s just something that I’ve wanted to do because I love the sport. It seemed like it was natural to help with the promotions and the politics and just to be an ambassador for cutting. I’ve always believed that if you want to be involved in this sport, or in any sport, you should be willing to give back in some fashion.”

Burch was raised in California and moved to Texas in 1990. She’s among numerous Californians who have migrated to North Texas over the past quarter century, mainly because the area is a hotbed for cutting horse activity.

The sport’s three Triple Crown shows — the December Futurity, the April Super Stakes and the July Summer Spectacular — are conducted in Fort Worth.

“There’s a lot of us who have moved here,” Burch said. “It was a good move for my business. The great events are here. If you are going to be in the cutting horse business, you pretty much have to live in Texas. I still have family in California and a lot of friends, and I still go out there. But I like to come back home. I like to get back to Texas.”

On Saturday night, Burch was somewhat conservative. After turning in the 218.5 in the first round, she made sure she scored high enough to move onto the semifinals.

“These cattle have been real treacherous and so you hate to take chances,” Burch said. “Even though your horse is good, you can’t predict what these cattle are going to do. So, I wanted to be safe and have a good run. I just tried to get through and survive to another go-round.”

Burch raised Stylish Bet and she praised the mare for being a tough competitor.

“Her athletic ability and the way she moves are her strong points,” Burch said. “She’s a real beautiful mover and she’s a huge stopper.”

Burch said the mare has developed a good feel for working cattle.

“If I wanted to be critical of her, she wasn’t very cowy at first, but now that she’s 6, she’s gotten a lot more cowy,” Burch said. “She’s become the full package.”

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