KTAB/KRBC coverage of the 2023 Texas High School Rodeo Finals is sponsored by locally by Capital Farm Credit

ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – The Texas High School Finals Rodeo (THSFR) kicked off in Abilene Thursday morning, starting with two competitions – one of which has started becoming more popular in recent years.

That sport is horse-cutting, which competitors say require consistency, support, and trust in their horse in order to make it to the state finals. 

Horse cutting competitors said they have needed in order to make it to the state finals 

“There’s just a herd of cows, and you walk in there on a horse- on a horse that’s trained by professionals, and you walk in there, and you cut a cow out. You’re pretty much just stopping it from getting back to the herd,” said competitor Carson Wright from Midland. “It’s just a feeling you can’t explain until you try it.” 

These value, Wright said, were learned quickly, because he was not born and raised practicing this sport like most of the others. But once he started, he was hooked.

Competitor Ruff Graham from Merkel has the same love for this sport, but this year is his first finals rodeo. 

“I’m hoping I can punch my ticket to get to nationals,” Graham beamed. 

Graham is making THSFR one he will never forget by being the only boy to compete in both the horse cutting and the reigned cow horse competitions. 

“I enjoy being on horses and around horses. I mean, they’re our lives,” said Graham. 

Some might argue that horse cutting and training horses like these is a lost art, but one professional horse trainer from Baird thinks otherwise. Josh King told KTAB/KRBC the sport is actually making a popular comeback. 

“We’ve kind of had a switch around here lately in the last couple of years. Some of these shows on TV promoting the western lifestyle… Cowboys becoming cool again,” King offered. 

In fact, King said even before this new wave of popularity, training horses for horse cutting kept him here after moving across the world. 

Originally from Australia, King said he hopes these competitors can learn life lessons that come along with the sport, just like Wright did before making it to the state finals. 

This finals rodeo has been in Abilene for 34 years, and this is a record-breaking year, with $150,000 dollars added to the prize pool. Events will be ongoing through Saturday, June 10.