ARHFA Sun Circuit Draws World’s Greatest Horseman

Corey Cushing is back in the roping game thanks to a good horse and the American Rope Horse Futurity Association's Limited Division.

What makes one of the greatest reined cow-horse trainers of all-time enter a roping for the first time in years? Futurity fun, pure and simple.

On March 5, just two weeks after winning the $100,000 check as World’s Greatest Horseman for his skills in cutting, reining, steer stopping, and cow work, Corey Cushing was home in Scottsdale, Arizona, for the American Rope Horse Futurity Association’s $30,000-added heading and heeling futurity.

Cushing, 41, is a straight 5.5 roper who earned $930 for his second-place finish in the Limited sidepot of the heading futurity on 6-year-old Frenchmansfastestguy (by A Streak Of Fling out of Frenchmans Fancy). The red roan was trained by Dakota Kirchenschlager and owned by his uncle, Rick Lauridsen, of Colorado.

“I haven’t been to any kind of jackpot in a long, long time,” said Cushing, a Utah native. “I was looking at the horse for my customer, Eric Dunn, and it was more of a catch-ride than anything. Hats off to Dakota. Honestly, I wanted to go out there and have fun; just go out and rope with my friends.”

The AQHA’s Arizona Sun Circuit show was there, too, so Cushing was showing cutting horses in the pen behind the roping boxes in Scottsdale that day, getting them ready for the NRCHA Stallion Stakes. His sights are on becoming the NRCHA’s first-ever $3 million rider this season.

“I was lucky enough to grow up roping,” Cushing said. “I didn’t go to a bunch of them when I was younger, but got a lot of good advice and did it mostly for fun. With the great horses being bred these days, by the time I get done with my cowhorse training, they take to roping like a duck to water. The only thing that gets in the way is my catching percentage.”

The ARHFA’s two sidepots give everybody a chance to win money at both ends. There’s a Limited sidepot capped at 6 headers and 8 heelers, and an Intermediate capped at 6.5 headers and 8.5 heelers.

“After I got done with that first steer, I realized I was kind of tight,” Cushing recalled. “I didn’t handle my steer very good. Dakota gave me a hard time about it. I went and did some cutting and thought, the whole reason I entered this was to go out and have some fun. I just loosened up and got some outside help. Rhen Richard was nice enough to give me advice. I got my fees back anyway!”

A 5.5 like Cushing can enter both the Limited and Intermediate, while Intermediate ropers aren’t eligible for the Limited pot. Also at ARHFA events, anyone numbered at 5.5 or lower can enter the stand-alone Non-Pro class on a horse of any age (it’s a three-steer, progressive after two).

“The incentives are awesome for guys like me,” Cushing said. “I can train one and know pretty good how to make one, and people look at me as having an advantage because of it. But it doesn’t matter how well your horse is trained if you can’t catch. The incentives make me feel a little more comfortable, because I can’t hang with a Joseph Harrison or a Dakota Kirchenschlager.”

ARHFA founder Jay Wadhams, who has shown rope horses for Cushing at the AQHA World Show, is pleased to see the handicapped incentives growing at futurities.

“The Intermediate at Fort Worth last year paid $15,000 to win and paid eight monies,” he said. “This was the first year we added the Limited, which got some 20 entries and paid well, too. I want those guys winning $25,000. My target for Fort Worth has been for the Intermediate, Limited and 4-year-old Incentives to have more and more money added.”

Cushing loves the rope horse futurities for the extra avenue they give cow horses that may not make a big-time Open NRCHA horse. They’re helping the entire horse industry, he said. And it’s fun for him to see the disciplines mixing together. Heck, he can remember when Trevor Brazile’s stud Show Me The Buckles was shown at the reining futurity years ago.

All of this means roping futurities could start to look a lot more like cutting or cowhorse futurities. Wadhams said when 6-year-olds age out, those trainers can still haul them to help on, and the non-pro owners can show them, too.

“Young rope horses are getting in these guys’ blood like cowhorse or cutting,” Wadhams said. “Everyone likes a winner.”