Chuck Smith has been hired as the new executive director for the National Cutting Horse Association.
Smith says wants to appeal to the many facets of the organization.
There’s the amateur and non pro competitors who mainly compete on weekends. There’s the pro trainer/riders who compete in the Triple Crown shows, the limited aged events in Fort Worth—the December Futurity, the April Super Stakes and the July Summer Spectacular.
There’s the trainers who teach the horses to hold cattle at bay. They also tutor non-pros and amateurs. There’s the show production staff. And the list goes on.
Smithis on a mission to treat all of the representations of the sport with high respect. He aspires to make sure every part of the sport is heard.
Smith, 68, recently took the reins as the association’s executive director, replacing Jim Bret Campbell who had served as the NCHA’s leader from June 2013 through August 2016. “I want to create balance so we don’t get too heavy in one spot,” Smith said. ”We need the new people coming in and they need to feel like they’re welcome and they’re advancing regardless of how meager their progress is. We need to have the top trainers and the top competitors having something to aspire to.
“We also have to remember that the majority of the people who get into this sport are doing it for fun. If you make it too hard and expensive and it starts taking the fun out of it, they’re going to do something else.”
Smith knows whereof he speaks. He’s been a cutting horse trainer/rider for more than three decades. He owns a training facility in the Columbus, Ohio-area where he’s has a longtime history of working with amateur riders.
“As much as a love the Triple Crown events or the limited aged events that we have here [each year at Fort Worth’s Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum], it’s very hard to travel to that far [from Ohio] on a continual basis,” he said. “So, in order to make a viable living there, you have to show in local weekend competition and focus on the amateur competitors.
“Being a trainer of amateur competitors is a lucrative business, but it forces you to be a teacher of people as well as a trainer of horses. That’s a very complex thing for trainers to do. I’ve had to learn to do that the hard way in the last 30 years.”
In addition to being a trainer, Smith has produced about 40 limited aged events over the years. Limited aged events are shows such as the Futurity that showcases the sport’s younger horses ages three through six.
“I can relate to show staff about our show production,” he said. “I also can relate to membership staff about what it means to reach and retain new members.”
Smith also has been serving as the NCHA’s president, a one-year term that will conclude in June.
After that, Smith will continue to serve as executive director indefinitely. He temporarily has put his career as a horse trainer on hold. He currently is working at the association’s corporate offices in Fort Worth.
Asked what NCHA members are looking for from its leadership, Smith said: “They want to feel like competition is fair and it is economical as possible. This is never going to be a cheap sport. But we can try to make it where the economics are more favorable. We need to try to recognize individuals’ accomplishments. I feel like in the past, that the accomplishments where to high and that’s why people in the game gave up too quickly because it took too long for them to be recognized.”