Cade McCutcheon swept Levels 4–2 of the 2019 NRHA Open Futurity and became an NRHA Million Dollar Rider in the process.
By Kaycie Timm
“It’s unbelievable. It’s everyone’s dream,” shared Mandy McCutcheon, Cade McCutcheon’s mother and an NRHA Two Million Dollar Rider in her own right.
“Nobody sees a 19-year-old in his first year as a professional be first and second at the Futurity,” agreed Cade’s father, NRHA Million Dollar Rider Tom McCutcheon, who competed alongside his son in the MS Diamonds TX Level 4 Open finals. “It’s just unreal.”
Unreal, certainly; but impossible? Not for Cade.
A Year for the Record Books
From the start of the season, Cade planned to set a precedent for the future during his first year as a professional. But he never dreamed he’d make such a mark on the industry or earn more than $605,450 LTE in a single year, making him the No. 1 Open Rider for 2019.
From placing reserve in the L3 open and winning the L2 open at the 2019 NRBC to championing the L3 Open at the NRHA Derby presented by Markel to making history as co-champion in the Million Dollar Invitational at the first-ever Run for a Million, Cade saw unprecedented success throughout the 2019 show season.
“It’s been a whirlwind,” Cade admitted. “I’ve won a lot more than I expected to.”
Despite his wins, the young professional didn’t let success distract him when preparing for the NRHA Futurity. Shortly before the Run for a Million in August, Cade added Super Marioo (Gunnatrashya x HA Chic A Tune) to his 3-year-old string when Justin “Gunny” Mathison sold the budding prospect to Freddie Brasfield. Mathison, a longtime friend of the McCutcheon family, felt confident “Marioo” could be just the horse Cade needed to finish his already-stellar year on a high note.
“To give Cade that opportunity means the world to me,” Mathison reflected. “I pushed that kid around in a stroller. He’s my hero. It’s a dream come true for me.”
In October, Cade and Marioo’s L3–2 open futurity win at the Best of the West in Scottsdale, Arizona, caught the attention of Brenda Joyce, non pro rider and owner of Story Book Stables, who’d been keeping a close eye on Cade’s success as a professional. “Brenda [Joyce], called me and said, ‘I want to have a horse with you. What about Super Marioo?’” Cade recalled. “She’s been amazing to work with ever since.”
As the NRHA Futurity approached, Cade relied on coaching from his parents and grandparents, as well as frequent phone conversations with Mathison, to help him prepare.
“My granddad [NRHA Hall of Fame inductee and Three Million Dollar Rider Tim McQuay] is there every morning doing whatever it takes to make me as good as I can be,” Cade remarked. “My parents make sure all I have to do is ride horses, and they take care of the rest. Gunny [Mathison] told me, ‘Just stay in the moment and do your job, and the rest will fall into place.”
With that advice, Cade stayed dedicated to helping Marioo master each maneuver. Mathison’s foundation of training gave Cade a head start in his preparation, allowing him to focus on tailoring the horse to suit his style.
“Gunny had him stopping big and running big, fast circles,” he shared. “He did a phenomenal job training him. I just had to do some of my things and try to take him to the next level as a show horse.”
Once he arrived in OKC, Cade continued his game plan: stay focused and keep polishing.
“I just kept my head down, one maneuver and one step at a time,” he revealed. “I tried not to look at the big picture and just focus on what I’m doing at each moment.”
Marioo, who was nominated by Hillis Akin Family Partners, gave Cade a solid start, marking a 222.5 in the prelims to rank second overall. In the semis, the pair marked a 219.5 for a composite score that placed them fourth among the L4 Open finalists.
“I just cruised him through the go-rounds,” Cade explained. “I knew he was a lot of horse turning and stopping, so I didn’t go crazy on him. He did the big stuff for me, I did the little stuff, and it worked out.”
With three horses running at draws 1, 12, and 24 in the MS Diamonds TX L4 Open finals, Cade knew he had an opportunity to finish his first year as a professional on a sky-high note.
“I knew I could have a big year,” Cade said. “I knew this horse, and the horse I was [reserve champion] on, Guns And Dynamite, could be very good. I just had to stay in the moment and do my job.”
With that strategy, Cade piloted Marioo through a stellar pattern, marking a 224.5 that would hold the lead through the remaining 19 finalists.
“I ran in, hit my first stop, got turned big, and before I loped off, I said to myself, ‘just be sure you lope off on the right lead,’” Cade laughed. “He was there for me the whole way.”
Cade knew his horse had given his all, but he didn’t realize that effort—combined with the placings of his other two mounts—would result in enough winnings to fulfill his goal of becoming an NRHA Million Dollar Rider.
“We joked that if I won on one horse and got the other two in the top seven, I could cross the million mark,” Cade shared. “We didn’t think it was actually possible. To hear it announced during the Run for the Roses—I can’t believe that really happened. There’s no way I could have expected that. It was incredible.”
Make It a Double-Header
Not only did Cade secure the L4–2 Open championship titles and cross his first milestone as an NRHA Million Dollar Rider, he also earned the L4 Open co-reserve championship, tying with NRHA Six Million Dollar Rider Shawn Flarida and 2018 NRHA/Markel Futurity Prospect Sale high-seller Shine Colt Shine (Shine Chic Shine x Gunners Miss Oak), and claimed reserve in L3–2. A score of 223.5 with Guns And Dynamite (Gunners Special Nite x Chic Olena Starbuck) made the double-victory possible for Cade.
“I took a chance on Cade because I’ve watched him riding for many years, his work ethic and how he showed,” shared Guns And Dynamite’s owner Kirstin Booth about choosing to send her horse to Cade. “I believed in Cade, and he beyond proved my expectations.”
Achieving that feat was no easy task for the young professional, but he trusted in his preparation, his horses, and his intuition.
“I just tried to stay clean,” Cade revealed. “That’s easier said than done, but I was able to follow that game plan. I had three really good horses, and they took care of me.”
A Lifelong Journey
Cade has spent his entire life in the saddle, anticipating the day he’d get to circle the Norick arena while the Run for the Roses played. As he fulfilled that dream at age 19, those who’ve guided him through his journey thus far watched with pride.
“He’s been dreaming about this since he started talking,” shared Cade’s grandma, Colleen McQuay. “I have five stick horses hanging in my garage that he’s been running Pattern 10 on since he could walk. I’m so proud that even on his greenest horse [in the MS Diamonds TX L4 Open Finals], he still showed well and still looked good.”
Cade knows as well as anyone that achieving such lofty goals requires personal dedication and plenty of support.
“I couldn’t be prouder of him,” Mandy said. “He’s been so focused on his game plan and stuck to it all year with everything he’s done—all the horse shows and all the horses. And he’s had so much support from all of his owners and all of our clients and friends. It’s amazing.”
With a strong team behind him since Day 1, Cade has remained committed to his goals through every step of the process, from competing in short stirrup classes to winning the 2012 NRHA Futurity Youth Non Pro title aboard Dually With A Star.
That same year, at age 12, he set the goal of becoming an NRHA Million Dollar Rider. At the time, Cade hoped he’d achieve that milestone in his mid-20s, but his drive to compete helped his dream come to fruition much sooner.
“It’s unreal how that kid can horse-show,” shared Cade’s father. “He craves it—he eats, sleeps, and drinks it, and I know his goal is to continue to win.”
Groomed for Greatness
As a third-generation NRHA Million Dollar Rider, Cade has big shoes to fill, but he’s well on his way to making his mark for the family.
“I want to carry on the Million Dollar legacy just like any good tradition,” he said. “I want to keep the family going. I’ve been very blessed with great support. That’s the biggest part of it: I don’t want to let my support group down.”
That support group, of course, includes Cade’s parents and grandparents, who have helped the young professional develop his training skills in their respective areas of expertise.
“My grandpa Tim [McQuay] is known for his turnaround, so I learned as much of that as I could from him,” he explained. “With changing leads, my dad is very good at making it just an easy change without a lot of swing.”
Other members of the family contribute advice in areas beyond the saddle, too. Cade’s family also supports him by sharing the wisdom they’ve gained from a lifetime in the reining industry.
“My advice to him is the same as always,” Colleen revealed. “You have to keep everything in perspective—this is still just horse showing. Cade’s that kind of guy, though. He’s already thinking of his 2-year-olds, just like Tim.”
“My advice for him is always to trust his gut, do what he thinks, and not worry about any outside noise,” Tom revealed. “His gut is good. He’s got a great feel.”
Although Cade has spent his entire life developing that intuition on horseback, the NRHA Million Dollar Rider strives to keep improving with every ride as he works toward his next set of goals.
“Reining is in my blood,” Cade shared. “I grew up with it and it’s what I know how to do, but every day I find something new to work on. That’s what I enjoy about the sport.”
“It’s what we do; it’s what we love,” agreed Cade’s mother. “Horses are our lives and what bring us all together—my family, Tom’s family, all of us. The whole industry is just a big family to us.”
For Mandy, watching her son achieve success at the highest level in the sport has reminded her of the importance of enjoying every minute.
“Horses are horses, and there are going to be ups and downs,” Mandy continued. “I just want to enjoy the ride right now. It’s overwhelming.”
After wrapping up a Futurity worth more than $367,290 in total earnings, Cade planned some well-earned rest for his mounts and some extra therapy for Marioo.
“The future for him is to go home, go in the spa, and take a couple months off,” Cade said. “He gave me his heart, and I want to give back to him now.”
As for Cade, it’s on to the next season, the next big win, and maybe even the next million.