CALGARY – His brothers became Lone Star sensations. Gerry Hansma, meanwhile, made himself right at home.
Gerry is one of five brothers who grew up on a cattle ranch near Granum, Alta., and one of three who saddled up in the competition arena, training and showing cutting horses. But when Paul, in 1984, and Winston, 1987, departed for Texas to hang out their shingles in the nerve centre of the cutting horse world, Gerry decided to stay put.
“I probably wasn’t real sure about committing to be a trainer, more than anything,” recalls Gerry, a multi-time champion at the Calgary Stampede Cutting Horse Futurity presented by Wrangler, currently celebrating its 30th annual edition this week at the Stampede Corral. “I was quite involved in running the farm with dad . . . and I kind of did a little of both all the time. I never was quite sure if I wanted to get fully into training in Texas. It’s pretty intense . . . a 24/7 deal there, for sure.”
Paul and Winston Hansma, both based in Weatherford, Texas, have worked their way into the cutting world’s elite. Both have won the National Cutting Horse Association’s (NCHA) World Championship Futurity, the crown jewel of the sport –Winston in 1994, Paul in 1996. They’ve both made their way into the NCHA’s Riders Hall of Fame, and their career earnings are in the millions ($4.8M for Paul, $2.2M for Winston).
“Texas is where the big shows and the top horses are. Plus, we don’t get any snowbanks,” wisecracks Winston. “There’s ready access to an unlimited number of cattle that we require to train the horses, and it’s easier from a business standpoint to market the horses.
“We all kind of got into cutting at the same time . . . I think Gerry just liked the diversity of what he did at home — riding horses, running cattle and farming,” adds Winston. “But there’s no doubt he has the talent. I think that if Gerry would have made that step to come down here, he would have had just as many successes as we’ve had.”
All things being relative, Gerry has enjoyed a pretty remarkable career himself north of the border. He’s been inducted into the Canadian Cutting Horse Association (CCHA) Rider Hall of Fame, he’s built up career earnings of nearly $817,000 . . . and he’s the defending champion in Open Futurity, the marquee class, at this year’s Stampede Cutting Horse Futurity. The premier cutting event in Canada, which once again offers a prize purse of more than $300,000, kicked off Wednesday and winds up Sunday at the Corral, and has attracted about 100 riders and 200 horses from as far away as Ontario and Texas.
The Stampede’s Futurity is split into Open and Non-Pro rider categories — Open for horse trainers and professional riders, and Non-Pro for those who make no part of their income by training horses. Non-Pro entries can only ride horses owned by themselves or immediate family members. Equine age classes are headlined by the Futurity category for three-year-olds, and also include Derby (four-year-olds) and Classic Challenge (five- and six-year-olds).
On the Non-Pro side, there’s also the 7 Up class for horses seven or older. A $50,000 Limit Amateur Class, for those with NCHA earnings of less than $50,000 as of Jan. 1, 2010, is also offered within Non-Pro’s Derby and Classic Challenge classes.
Since Wednesday, horse-and-rider teams have been vying for spots in this weekend’s finals through a series of preliminary rounds at the Corral. Finals for all three Open classes are set to go Saturday evening, starting at 5 p.m., while the four Non-Pro finals are slated for Sunday, beginning at 1 p.m. To view a live webcast of the event, please visit calgarystampede.com/ustream, and for round-by-round updates and results, please visit calgarystampede.com/ag.
Gerry, 54, won his first fall Open Futurity crown at the Stampede back in 1988 on Call Me Pep, a Hansma-raised horse. Last year, he came full circle by claiming his fourth Stampede Open Futurity title on another homegrown mount, this one by the name of Two Spot The Cat. Of course, by the very nature of the event, there’s never a defending champion at an Open Futurity show. And this week, Hansma has entered six three-year-old steeds in Open Futurity — A Smooth Poco Cat, owned by Don Thompson of Bow Island, Alta.; Almost a Cat, owned by Gary Tresidder of Cochrane, Alta.; Catolena Smooth, owned by Will Anderson of Invermere, B.C.; Chula Deville, owned by Tresidder; FFL Stylencowrisma, owned by Calgary’s Gordon Roper; and Peptos Best Jewel, owned by Fort Macleod’s Mark and Jan Daley. He’s also brought Two Spot The Cat back in Open Derby, along with Clays Little CD, owned by Calgary’s Welland Muri. And to top it all off, he’s entered twice in Open Classic Challenge — aboard Twi Lookin At Me, owned by Calgary’s Heather Hudson, and Yellers Lil Pepto, owned by Calgary’s Ken and Karen Mix.
Through the years, Gerry has won Open Derby at the Canadian Supreme show and the Canadian championships, finished as Open reserve champion at the Canadian Super Stakes, and triumphed twice in the Open category at the NCHA’s Western National Finals. “It can be frustrating if you don’t get the right cow. You know you’ve got a nice horse, and you’ve done everything correctly, and you still can’t quite accomplish what you want,” says Gerry. “But it makes it all worth while when you get it right — having all the pieces fall into place.”
The Stampede’s annual Futurity event showcases the pure athleticism, instinct, agility and intelligence of the cutting horse. With horse-and-rider teams attempting to cut at least two, and most often three, individual cows out of a herd within 150 seconds, cutting has evolved into one of the most exciting equine events in North America. Contestants are evaluated by a panel of three judges and assessed a score based on the horse’s instinctive reactions, the challenges made by the cows cut, and errors in judgment.
For more information on the Stampede’s Cutting Horse Futurity and other agriculture stories visit calgarystampede.com/ag.
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Agriculture Event Coordinator