Wesley Galyean and Austin Shepard learned to compete on the National Cutting Horse Association circuit from their famous fathers.
Galyean’s father, Jody, won the NCHA World Championship Futurity in 1986 on a horse named Royal Silver King. The Futurity is the sport’s most prestigious show and the cutting horse equivalent of thoroughbred horse racing’s Kentucky Derby.
Shepard’s father, Sam, tied for first place in the 2017 NCHA 6666 Eastern Nationals Open Finals in Jackson, Miss. In fact, he tied with his son, Austin. Sam and Austin Shepard, riding Twistful Thinking and Deluxe Checks, respectively, tied with 224 points to claim co-champion titles earlier this month.
Both Wesley Galyean and Austin Shepard are former NCHA Futurity champions. Galyean won the show in 2004 on Spots Hot and Shepard finished as the NCHA Futurity champion in 2007 on High Brow CD.
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The Futurity, which is conducted in late November and early December, is the first jewel of the sport’s Triple Crown Series. The other two jewels are the Super Stakes (late March and April) and the Summer Spectacular (July and early August). All three jewels are in Fort Worth.
The Super Stakes open division finals (for 4-year-old, first year horses), which is scheduled for April 15 and closes out the show, will serve as the second jewel of the NCHA’s 2016-2017 Triple Crown Series.
Both Galyean and Shepard are in Fort Worth this weekend to compete in the 2017 NCHA Super Stakes. Both men competed in the first bunch of cattle on Friday morning as the Super Stakes began its 23-day run at Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum.
Galyean and Shepard each turned in solid scores in the Classic/Challenge open division first round, which features 5- and 6-year-old horses who are second or third year competitors. They each have all but earned a berth in the second round, which is scheduled for Sunday.
Galyean turned in a 216.5 on a cutting horse named B Nimble. Shepard posted a 215 aboard a horse named Christy Hughes.
Galyean and B Nimble’s run came at the end of the first bunch. Riders often do not like to be slotted at the end of a bunch because the better cattle already have been worked.
“We had a tough draw,” Galyean said.
Galyean also worked around another challenge. He was a “catch rider.” That meant he was asked to ride B Nimble by another trainer who had prepared the horse to compete in the Super Stakes.
But Galyean liked what he saw in B Nimble. “She’s quick footed and fast,” he said.
B Nimble is owned by SMF Cutting Horses. The mare has been trained by Adan Baneulos, another well known rider. Unlike Galyean, Shepard owns, trains and rides Christy Hughes.
Galyean, 34, said he has thrived on learning from his father.
“It’s helped a lot,” Galyean said. “I received a lot of knowledge about doing this from the time I was a young kid until now,” Galyean said. “It helps you learn to understand a horse’s mind and to get that horse to the best of its ability.”
Shepard, 39, also has highly benefited from learning from his father.
“My dad gave me a lot of work ethic,” Shepard said. “My dad constantly educates himself on everything. He always taught me to continue learning and changing. He periodically would change his program if he learned something significant from somebody. He instilled that and a lot of work ethic.
“Our sport is like any other sport — football, golf or whatever. It changes. If you don’t change with it, you get left behind.”