Granby’s Cutting in the Rockies attracts top cutting horse talent |

Granby’s Cutting in the Rockies attracts top cutting horse talent

Will Bublitz
Sky-Hi Daily News

Byron Hetzler/Sky-Hi Daily News

Highly trained cutting horses are being put to the test during the Fourth Annual “Cutting in the Rockies” competition this weekend at Granby’s Flying Heels Arena.

More than 200 cutting horses and their riders from across the nation are competing for cash prizes in the four-day competition that began Thursday and runs through Sunday. During last year’s “Cutting in the Rockies,” more than $53,000 was paid out to the winners.

Admission to all of the event’s shows, which run daily from 8 a.m. to about 5 p.m., are free of charge. The public is encouraged to attend.

During the judged competitions, each horse-and-rider team is given 2-1/2 minutes to sort out two or three cows one at a time. When ready, the rider will signal his horse, who then takes over the action. Without further direction from the rider, the horse will attempt to block the cow from running back into the herd.

“It becomes a real cat-and-mouse game between the horse and the cow,” said Kathy Cardon, the event’s secretary. “It’s amazing to see these highly trained horses move. They crouch, bob and weave as they do everything they can to keep the cows separate from the herd.”

The competitions are judged on a number of factors including style, eye appeal, degree of difficulty and control of the cow. Cutting-horse competitions were begun as way for ranchers and cowboys to demonstrate their abilities at training horses.

The cutting horses participating in this year’s “Cutting in the Rockies” range in value from $5,000 to more than $500,000. Some of their riders, who having been following the cutting-horse competition circuit for years, have won close to $1 million during their careers.

Riders and their horses from every part of the country are competing in this year’s “Cutting in the Rockies” including Texas, Montana, Kansas, Nebraska, California, Virginia, Ohio and Florida.

The four-day event is sanctioned by the National Cutting Horse Association with major support from the Colorado-based Western States Cutting Horse Association and the Pacific Coast Cutting Horse Association.

The main sponsors of the event are Skip and Janet Jacques, owners of Chimney Rock Ranche west of Granby.

“Cutting-horse competition is such a high-powered sport and a lot of fun to watch,” said Skip Jacques. “And the riders, who come from all over, just love it here in Granby.”

A neurosurgeon by profession with a practice in Los Angeles, Jacques said he and his wife’s sponsorship of the Granby event began with his fascination with the sport after he saw his first competition as a boy at the National Western Stock Show in Denver. He and his wife actually became involved in cutting horse competitions about 13 years ago.

They have 55 cutting horses in training as well as a second ranch in California.

After traveling and competing with their horses for several years, the Jacques came up with the idea of starting and sponsoring the Granby event four years ago.

“We had a selfish reason and another reason for wanting to start it here,” he said. “The selfish reason is that we had a ranch up here that we wanted to use. The other reason is that I’ve always been attached to Grand County and I wanted to do something for it.”

Jacques, whose family originally owned the Drowsy Water Ranch and later bought the Chimney Rock Ranche, said he “grew up on horseback” here in the county. His family and he have maintained friendships with many longtime residents and fellow ranchers such as the Linkes, Horns and Murphys.

“Holding it here is good for this county and the event has gotten a lot of support,” Jacques said. He explained that if the event continues to develop, future plans are to expand it to a nine-day event similar to other major cutting-horse competitions around the nation.

Jacques recommends the public see this weekend’s competitions, especially the Junior and Senior Youth Divisions, in which $2,500 scholarships will be awarded to the winners.

“The youth is the future of this sport,” he said.