Mandy McCutcheon anchors a dynasty of highly successful horsemen while nurturing her horses and family.
by Abigail Boatwright
Stopping by every stall along the way for a quick glance at the horse inside, Mandy McCutcheon heads into the office at Tom McCutcheon Performance Horses in Aubrey, Texas. She has a handle on what’s going on all over the precisely laid-out training, breeding and rehab facility thatshe and her husband built from the ground up. At the center of the McCutcheon family and business, Mandy wakes up every day ready to uphold excellence in their equine operation and also to make sure her family is fed, loved and supported.
Girl with Grit
Mandy was practically born on a horse. A third-generation horsewoman, her parents are National Reining Horse Association Hall of Famers Tim and Colleen McQuay. While never pushed into the sport, Mandy had access to good horses and good training in both the reining and hunter/jumper arenas.
“One of Mandy’s first babysitters was a pony,” Colleen said. “We would haul to shows and she’d get on her pony in the morning and not get off until we went home.”
Colleen recalls when 3-year-old Mandy was set to compete in a walk-trot class at the All American Quarter Horse Congress, and a bee stung her ear. Rather than sit out the class, as most youngsters would, Mandy steeled herself, let go of her throbbing ear and showed her horse.
“She said ‘I can do it’ and then just put her hand down and went in the ring,” Collen said. “I think she was born with that kind of competitiveness.”
Mandy concurs—she can’t remember a time when she didn’t have a drive to do well in competition.
“I’ve always been that way—everything’s a competition to me,” Mandy said.
At 5, Mandy mainly competed in hunter/jumper shows, which provided her with lots of chances to learn, grow as a rider and compete aboard her own and borrowed horses. Learning from and riding alongside future Olympic riders, the experience was invaluable.
Mandy started reining when she was 10 but because AjPHA Youth division wasn’t as developed as it is today, she showed in non-pro competition against riders of all ages.
“Mandy had never stopped a horse without holding on to the saddle horn, but she tried to talk us into letting her show in reining at the Minnesota State Fair,” Colleen recalled. “When we reminded her that she hadn’t done a sliding stop without holding on to the horn, she said ‘I can do it. I can do it.’ And she did.”
From the beginning, Mandy had a natural feel for horses and her intuition grew into an exceptional talent in the saddle.
“We tried to be careful about not pushing her into a life that she might not want just because wewere in it,” Colleen said. “We never told her she had to show. But from day one, she asked for itand fortunately we were able to give her opportunities, as did many of our clients. That’s really the only way we shaped her life with horses. She had to do the rest.”
Mandy attributes much of what she learned about horses and her characteristic determination to the influence of her parents.
“They gave me the drive to be as good as I could be in everything I did,” Mandy said. “And it wasn’t just with riding, but also managing the business, caring for the horses, caring about the clients, caring for your place. Both my parents are competitive; my mom has always been an overachiever. So I guess it’s been bred into me.”
The McQuays also imparted a sense of balance when it came to competition.
“They always reminded me that it was just a horse show—there would always be another one,” Mandy said. “If things didn’t go right, it wasn’t the end of the world. They encouraged me to just try and improve each time.”
This is an excerpt from the full article—get the whole story in the Spring 2019 Chrome magazine, which is sent to all current APHA members. Not a member? Join or renew at apha.com/join.