Horseback Riding Through History: Royal Cutter

This son of American Quarter Horse Hall of Famer Cutter Bill made a name for himself in the reined cow horse industry.

From America’s Horse

As buckaroos and reinsmen of the West search their memories for the great cow horses of the past, one name invariably comes up among all of them – Royal Cutter.

It all started in Texas when an oilman named Rex Cauble bred a palomino stud named Cutter Bill to a Royal King mare he owned named Royal Ida Mae. At one time, Cauble owned some of the most famous stallions in the Quarter Horse world – Wimpy, Silver King and Hard Twist. Cutter Bill was used solely as a teasing stallion. Then Sonny Perry hauled him to a cutting pen, won a couple of world championships, and Cutter Bill became top dog around the Cauble Ranch. Cauble even named a chain of western wear stores after him.

Royal Ida Mae’s first foal out of Cutter Bill arrived in 1968, a red roan horse colt that Cauble gelded and quite naturally named Royal Cutter. He was a big-eyed, long-necked colt whose short cannon bones foretold well his mature stature – 14.3 hands, 1,150 pounds.

When Royal Cutter was a yearling, the great California reinsman Don Dodge showed up at Cauble’s ranch. Dodge, maker of such horses as Poco Lena, Poco Tivio and Fizzabar, among others, spotted Royal Cutter, struck an agreement with Cauble and took the colt into cutting training. He trailered the gelding to California, and when the horse turned 2, started him in a snaffle.

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Enter Kenny Sutton, a car dealer from Sacramento, California.

“I always liked a good horse and was one of Don Dodge’s customers,” Kenny said. “He told me Royal Cutter would be a better bridle horse than a cutter and would make an excellent horse for the Snaffle Bit Futurity. So I bought him in May of his 3-year-old year.”

Kenny, 57 at the time, entered the horse in the National Reined Cow Horse Association’s 1971 Snaffle Bit Futurity, at the time held at the Cal Expo, only a few miles from Sutton’s 15-acre spread. Then, and now, the Snaffle Bit demanded that a horse be able to cut cattle, perform a reining pattern and work a cow down the fence – all in one day.

“I don’t think he was better at one thing versus another,” Kenny said. “At the Snaffle Bit, he marked about the same all the way through – in the dry work, the fence work and out of the herd. I don’t remember his scores, but we weren’t leading after the preliminaries.”

Then a remarkable thing happened.

“I don’t know where he came up with it, but Royal Cutter stepped up a notch in the finals and never looked back,” Kenny said. “He won the cutting, the reining and the fence work in the finals, with 74s and 75s. In the fence work, I remember we were headed down the fence at a pretty good clip, and he just reaches out and turned the cow on his own. He did so in a very big hurry, and I damn near fell off.”

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Royal Cutter won the 1971 Snaffle Bit Futurity. It was the beginning of greatness for the roan.

“Royal Cutter was great,” said Les Vogt, who won the very first Snaffle Bit Futurity in 1970 and competed against Kenny in ’71. “I went straight to Rex Cauble and bought Royal Ida Mae, his mama. I owned and was promoting King Fritz and thought he would make a good cross on Royal Cutter’s mama. I was wrong. For some reason, it wasn’t a good cross – those colts weren’t worth a nickel. Royal Cutter was just a freak. But that didn’t stop all us snaffle bitters from scouring the country, looking for Cutter Bill foals.

“He was invincible,” Les added. “You could really drop the hammer with him. Like Kenny did at the Snaffle Bit, where he asked for all the horse had, that horse gave it.”

Kenny asked of Royal Cutter again at the 1972 Snaffle Bit Futurity, entering him in the hackamore stakes.

“I helped Kenny put him in the hackamore,” said Bobby Ingersoll. “We wanted to develop him like the old spade-bit horses – snaffle, hackamore, two-rein and spade bit. Kenny showed him in the hackamore stakes at the ’73 Snaffle Bit Futurity. They won it easy.”

As the years passed, Bobby and Kenny showed Royal Cutter all up and down the West Coast – Salinas, San Juan Bautista, Cow Palace, the Cal Expo – in every major spade-bit reined cow horse competition.

“We showed him in a Mona Lisa most of the time,” Kenny said. “That was Don Dodge’s old half-breed design.”

“He was one of only a few horses that I’ve ever been around that could head a cow on the fence, then come back strong in cutting,” Bobby recalled. “He was the strongest individual I ever rode, as well as the smartest. And you never saw such heart.

“I showed him at the Cow Palace one year, and they gave me three cows. The first two jumped out of the pen, and we stayed out there about seven minutes. The cattle just weren’t giving me the opportunity to get the horse shown. He tired on me, but by God, he never quit.”

“He was more of a reining-style horse in the dry work,” Les said. “He didn’t work like most cow horses. He was doing plus maneuvers back in the days that most horses flat didn’t get plus 1 ½ spins and stops – especially not cow horses. I was visiting with Bob Loomis one time, and he said, ‘Royal Cutter was getting pluses when everyone else was getting dead zeroes.’ And he was so cadenced in his turnaround and could really stop deep and drag his behind.”

Royal Cutter won every major bridle-horse competition on the West Coast, including the famed Cow Palace bridle class. However, it was at the Snaffle Bit Futurity where the roan really shined. In 1976, Kenny rode him to win the bridle sweepstakes at the Snaffle Bit, allowing Royal Cutter to become the first horse to take all three classes at the prestigious show. Two years later, he again won the bridle sweepstakes at the Snaffle Bit Futurity, ridden by Bobby.

“I showed him 22 times in bridle classes up and down the West Coast,” Bobby said. “I was second only once. Kenny filled in his show schedule with cutting.”

And deer hunting. “I’d ride him deer hunting in the hills. If I saw a deer, I’d jump off and shoot – he’d just stand there three-legged and eat grass while I was doing it.”

At 14, Royal Cutter returned to the scene of his many triumphs, the Snaffle Bit Futurity, now held in Reno, Nevada. Word of his competing triggered the arrival of horsemen from across the country. Royal Cutter put on what may have been his finest performance, winning the bridle-horse sweepstakes against horses half his age. Bobby merely enjoyed the ride.

He returned in ’83, but there would be no miracle comeback. Royal Cutter finished second in his final Snaffle Bit performance.

“We backed off after that,” Kenny said. “Last time I showed him was at a cutting in Reno. He marked a 73.5. I’d had a heart attack and was slowing down. I figured that was as good a place as any to quit, so I retired him.

After Royal Cutter’s retirement, Kenny still had a lot of people call and ask about the horse.

“He had a multitude of friends,” he said. “I remember one time, while showing him at Fresno, I went to a concession stand to get some dinner. The man behind the counter asked me, ‘You the feller that owns that Royal Cutter horse?’ I said, ‘I sure do.’ He handed me a hamburger and said, ‘You have a hamburger on Royal Cutter.’ He didn’t charge me a dime.”

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