Two Secrets, One Legacy

Two Secrets, One Legacy

Two awards presented during the 2019 Lucas Oil World both honored the late AQHA Professional Horseman Carl McCuistion.

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By Becky Newell and Larri Jo Starkey

There are some moments that simply cannot be orchestrated.

At the 2019 Lucas Oil AQHA World Championship Show, two such moments occurred on separate nights connected to one man.

AQHA Professional Horseman Carl McCuistion died in December 2018. This is the first Lucas Oil World in many years without Carl working the arena, moving cattle and keeping things in line in the alley under the Gateway of Champions. He is missed.

AQHA Professional Horsewoman Michelle Tidwell, second from the right, is the first recipient of the Carl McCuistion True Grit Award. (Journal Photo)

In his honor, the AQHA Show Department created the Carl McCuistion True Grit Award to honor an AQHA Professional Horseman who goes above and beyond. Carl’s wife, Karen McCuistion, who is manager of the AQHA Professional Horseman program, selected the first recipient of the True Grit Award.

But it was a secret.

While the details for the True Grit Award were being worked out, there was another award being decided. The AQHA Professional Horsemen voted to award its Lifetime Achievement Award posthumously to Carl during the 2019 AQHA Awards Celebration. That award was also a secret.

So Karen had a secret regarding a Professional Horseman and the entire group of Professional Horsemen had a secret for Karen. And the AQHA World Show staff knew both secrets.

But wait, it gets crazier.

Remember, Karen nominated the first recipient of the Carl McCuistion True Grit Award? She nominated AQHA Professional Horsewoman Michelle Tidwell of Madisonville, Texas.

“Did you know about this?” a shocked Michelle asked Karen in the Jim Norick Arena. 

“Michelle, everyone knew,” Karen said.

The next night was the 2019 AQHA Awards Celebration where the previous year’s high-point winners and AQHA Professional Horsemen and -women are recognized. This is also the event at which the AQHA Professional Horsemen's Lifetime Achievement Award is presented. In 2018, the award went to AQHA Professional Horseman Billy Steele. This year, it was going to Carl McCuistion. 

Karen didn’t know; everyone else did.

Karen McCuistion accepted the AQHA Professional Horsemen's Lifetime Achievement Award on behalf of late husband, Carl McCuistion, from AQHA President Stan Weaver. (Journal photo)

After a shocked and speechless Karen accepted Carl’s award, she tearfully asked Michelle, “Did you know?”

“Karen, I nominated him, and we all knew.”

Karen nominated Michelle, Michelle nominated Carl, and neither women knew what the other did.


They’re how friends say, “I love you.”

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