youth have been competing on cutting horses probably as long as there have been competitions.
Growing up in a cutting horse family in Silverton, Texas, 21-year-old Cash Carpenter began showing when he was 9 years old, though he was riding and traveling to shows with his mom, Penny, and his brother, Ryder, long before that. With a support system so vast and knowledgeable in the industry, Carpenter values where he came from and how it’s contributed to his success.
“The best advice I could give someone in the cutting horse industry is to be a sponge,” Carpenter said. “Learn as much as you can from as many people as you can. There are so many great resources and people we have access to in this sport. Ask tough questions and be teachable.”
Some of Carpenter’s greatest accomplishments include the NCHA Summer Cutting Spectacular Amateur Derby championship in 2018, the West Texas Futurity Limited Non-Pro Classic/ Challenge championship in 2019, the Youth reserve championship at the 2020 Non-Pro plus the Open in Ardmore, Oklahoma, and the West Texas Futurity Intermediate Amateur Classic/Challenge championship in 2020: all special accomplishments he believes were made possible because of the horses he’s had the opportunity to ride.
Carpenter currently attends Texas Tech University, where he is majoring in sports management and minoring in business. Upon graduation, he plans to eventually return home to the ranch and his family.
“I feel very blessed and honored to be inducted into an institution that has included so many great competitors and people throughout the years,” Carpenter said. “I have several family members in the NYCHA Hall of Fame, so that makes the honor that much greater to me.”
Claire Shelton is a 20-year-old Texas Tech University senior from Krum, Texas, studying agribusiness with a minor in political science. Recently, Shelton took a big first step in her career outside the arena by interning with Congressman Michael C. Burgess’ office in Washington D.C. Upon graduating, Shelton plans to attend law school with the hopes of returning to Washington D.C. to work under the House Agriculture Committee to be part of the implementation of the 2023 Farm Bill. She also plans to get back in the show pen after graduation and spend more time with the people she cares about.
Shelton began competing in the sixth grade when her younger brother, Jake, convinced her to show one weekend in Sweetwater, Texas. After showing her father’s mare in the $35,000 Novice, she knew she was hooked. Shortly after, her parents, Daryl and Johnna, began looking for her first Youth horse and hauling her to shows.
Some of her biggest accomplishments in the cutting horse industry include being the 2016 NCHA Junior Youth World finals reserve champion, five-time NCHA Youth World finalist, NCHA Junior and Senior Youth Scholarship Cutting finalist, threetime NCHA Eastern and Western National Championships finalist, reserve champion at Scottsdale Nationals and Area 9 Junior Youth champion.
“I have always looked up to the individuals who have been inducted into the NYCHA Hall of Fame,” Shelton said. “This is a special moment I have thought about for a while now, and I am so thankful for the opportunity.”
If Shelton could give advice to someone starting out in cutting, she would tell them to cherish every moment with their friends, parents and support group, as well as their time hauling on the weekends.
By: Hannah Crandall
Colton Cogdell’s career in the cutting horse industry began the day he was born with a family that had already found great success. He started showing at nearly 6 years old, and really began competing around the age of 11, when he got his horse Freckles Cat Leo. Cogdell has his grandfather, Billy, to thank for getting the rest of his family so heavily involved in cutting horses.
“My whole family shows,” Cogdell said. “My grandad got involved back in the day, and our family has been at it ever since. It’s very neat, and we are extremely blessed to be able to go to cuttings and all of us show together.”
Cogdell considers his greatest accomplishments to be winning the Whitney and Greg Welch Sportsmanship Award and the West Texas Futurity Amateur Classic/Challenge. One of Cogdell’s biggest goals is to win the NCHA Futurity.
The 21-year-old NYCHA Hall of Fame inductee from Silverton, Texas, currently attends Texas Tech University and will graduate in December 2022 with a degree in agricultural economics. After graduation, he plans to live out his dream to move back home to continue working on the family ranch.
“It is a huge honor to be inducted, and it wouldn’t be possible without all the help I had along the way, so I would like to thank everyone, especially my parents, Jim and Pam Cogdell, for that,” Colton said. “If I could give advice to someone starting out, I would tell them to keep trying and keep listening. It’s usually not easy starting out, but if you keep working at it and keep receiving advice that is given to you, it’ll get better and start getting real fun.”
By: Hannah Crandall
Gianna Pietrafeso’s story in the cutting horse industry dates back to 1995, when her parents, Ron and Adrienne Pietrafeso, purchased their first cutting horse. Since then, the Pietrafeso family has built a successful breeding program that Gianna and her two sisters are now part of as well.
Gianna began showing at a very young age and has now been competing for more than 14 years. Being from Colorado where there aren’t as many shows to attend, Gianna and her family have traveled many miles together, often to Texas, Nebraska and Kansas, to find success. Gianna has created great success for herself in the arena, contributing time and effort to become the cutter she is. She and her favorite horse, Smokin’ Tap, didn’t get along well for nearly two years, but she never gave up because she believed in what she and that horse could do together.
Some of Gianna’s biggest accomplishments include being 2014 NCHA Junior Youth Scholarship Cutting champion, five-time Youth World Finals qualifier, multiple-time Western Nationals Youth finalist and multiple time NCHA Youth Scholarship Cutting finalist.
“Being inducted into the NYCHA Hall of Fame was one of my biggest goals as a Youth competitor, so actually accomplishing that goal is a great feeling,” Gianna said. “I couldn’t be more thankful to my parents for hauling me to weekend shows and always pushing me to do my best. It is truly an honor to be inducted.”
Gianna, 22, is a recent graduate from Colorado State University, where she earned a Bachelor of Science in business administration with a concentration in real estate and finance.
By: Hannah Crandall
Jason Simmons’ true passion is in horses and the western lifestyle. The 18-year-old NYCHA Hall of Fame inductee from Parker, Colorado, has been showing for over 10 years. Jason’s father, Michael Simmons, former NCHA director of youth, was showing cutting horses before he was born, so Jason has been traveling to shows his entire life. But that’s not where his experience in the horse world stops: Jason also trains horses, competes as a team roper and shoes horses, as well.
Jason currently attends Lamar Community College where he studies agriculture production management. After graduation, he plans to continue training horses and remain heavily involved in the horse industry.
Jason considers his biggest accomplishment to be winning the Colorado High School Rodeo Association finals in boys cutting and going on to compete at the national level. His biggest piece of advice to younger people in cutting would be to get involved in leadership roles and officer positions in the NYCHA, and make the most out of the time you have in the Youth program.
“I feel very honored to be inducted into the Hall of Fame,” Jason said. “It is a special feeling to be joining a group of people that I have looked up to throughout my youth cutting career. All the support I’ve had throughout my youth career from my family, friends, turn back and trainers has been the biggest factor in my success. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.”
By: Hannah Crandall
Jessica Pietrafeso, a 22-year-old cowgirl from Elbert, Colorado, is a recent Colorado State University graduate working in medical device sales. Pietrafeso grew up on her family’s ranch, Missing Creek Ranch, where they breed, raise and sell cutting horses. She has been competing since she was 7 years old.
Pietrafeso knows what it takes to become successful in the cutting horse industry, and she has put in the time, effort and even the bad runs to enjoy the good days that make the success worth it. Some of her biggest achievements in the arena include being an NCHA Senior Youth World finalist, multiple-time NCHA Youth Scholarship Cutting finalist, NCHA Western National Championship Youth finalist and $15,000 Amateur champion, and now, an NYCHA Hall of Fame Inductee. Considering the future, she has her eyes set on educating others about the sport and both NCHA and NYCHA, while continuing to pursue a career in medical sales.
Pietrafeso has two sisters who are also successful in the cutting horse industry, older sister Nicole, who was a 2018 NYCHA Hall of Fame Inductee, and twin sister Gianna, who is also a 2022 NYCHA Hall of Fame Inductee. Pietrafeso attributes their success to her parents, Ron and Adrienne Pietrafeso.
“Being inducted into the Hall of Fame has always been a goal of mine as a Youth, and it is one of my biggest accomplishments,” Jessica said. “I was lucky enough to experience all the amazing opportunities this organization provided, and it has allowed me to grow and succeed in school settings, as well as current and previous jobs. I learned so much from NYCHA and being inducted into the Hall of Fame is something I will always carry with me.”
Ryan Rapp is 21 years old from Weatherford, Texas, and began competing seriously in cutting when he was nearly 14 years old, but he has been part of the cutting horse world for much longer. He is the son of Phil and Mary Ann Rapp; Phil is one of cutting’s all-time leading riders amongst NCHA members and was recently inducted into the coveted NCHA Members Hall of Fame, and Mary Ann is cutting’s all-time leading Non-Pro rider. Ryan has a younger sister, Emma, who recently won the NCHA Senior Youth World championship.
“My whole family is into cutting,” Ryan said. “My sister’s world title in the Senior Youth is a huge accomplishment, and I’m very proud of her.”
Some of Ryan’s biggest accomplishments include winning the Senior Youth World championship in 2017, winning the NCHA Super Stakes Non-Pro Classic this year, and now, being inducted into the NYCHA Hall of Fame. However, he’s most proud of finding success on horses he has trained himself.
“To be successful, you just have to keep practicing and showing,” Ryan said. “The best way to get better is to just work through it and learn as much as possible. I feel very honored to have found success and to receive such a special award being inducted into the Hall of Fame.”
Ryan currently attends Texas Tech University, where he is studying economics with plans to graduate next year. When he’s not at school, you can find him hunting, golfing or working horses at home.
By: Hannah Crandall