Lindy Burch is one superstitious cowgirl. After her best rides ? and the National Cutting Horse Association Hall of Famer has had her share ? you won?t find her studying the videos or even taking a celebratory peek. She only watches rides where there are mistakes to study and lessons to learn. The best rides, she says, are memories to savor, like a bottle of good wine. She worries that watching them will tarnish the magic. But had she watched a replay of one 1998 cutting, she would not have been disappointed.
In 1998, Lindy rode her 8-year-old red roan mare, Bet Yer Blue Boons, in the NCHA World Finals in Houston. The competition was four go-rounds during four nights, with a clean scoreboard every night. On the way to winning the world finals, Lindy and her mare marked a 233, an NCHA record for that event that still stands today. But the story really began six years earlier.
?I thought Royal Blue Boon was the greatest mare that ever lived,? Lindy recalled, ?so I called her owner, Larry Hall, to see if he had any offspring of hers that he would part with.?
He did: A 2-year-old filly out of the great mare and by Freckles Playboy, the 1976 NCHA Futurity reserve champion.
?At the time, the ?Playboys? were not really popular,? Lindy said. ?Instead, people were thinking along the lines of Smart Little Lena and ?Little Peppy.? But I always loved the Playboys, so I jumped on a plane (I lived in California at the time) and flew to Texas before Larry could change his mind. She was really cool! I had her vetted, but she could?ve been purple with red stripes, and I still would?ve bought her!?
The pretty red roan filly moved west. Lindy started her Futurity training and found her talented, but like some two-legged youngsters, lacking in focus and consistency.
?From my background as a teacher,? Lindy said, ?I knew that even the best students sometimes needed help. It wasn?t something that we couldn?t overcome.?
At the NCHA Futurity, they missed the semi finals by half a point.
Training continued without notable success. Then, a paddock incident that could have been an end-of-the-road tragedy opened the door to triumph.
Bet Yer Blue Boons, then 4, fractured a sesamoid bone, apparently while rolling in her pipe pen. By that time, Lindy had moved her operation to the Oxbow Ranch in the Lone Star State, where surgery was performed immediately. Three months of rehabilitation and rest followed.
?In February of the next year, I got back on board,? Lindy said, ?and she was like another horse! She never lacked focus again and never took another bad step ? ever.?
Lindy Burch and her mare, Bet Yer Blue Boons, were on their way, and Houston was their favorite destination.
?In Houston, the stands are always full, and when the crowd is on its feet, cheering, it's deafening,? she said, ?and a lot of fun!?
At the 1998 National Cutting Horse Association World Finals, Lindy watched from the stands as the cattle were moved into the arena. They were traditionally brought in two hours early to pre-settle, which gave everyone time to make notes on the herd. Lindy?s draw was about eighth, so she had time to sit in the stands and watch the first to cut with her turnback team, Phil Rapp and Craig Morris.
?It's definitely a team effort, and I had great help that night,? she said. ?We picked the cows we wanted and unbelievably, nobody cut them. It was just one of those deals when everything works.?
Then, it was time for Lindy and ?Bet? to get to work.
?The first two cows were busy, with lots of action,? she recalled. ?When we quit the second cow, I felt like we had it won at that point. Then the third cow ? a gray ? was strong, but Bet was really strong, too. And she was smooth, like butter.
?I knew we had a high score, but when I looked up and saw the mark ? 233 ? I was ecstatic,? Lindy remembered. ?Phil hugged me and said it was the best he?d ever seen. If there was anyone happier than I was, it was Phil Rapp! You don't win alone. I get teary-eyed when I'm turning back for someone?s great ride. It's always a team effort.?
The score was an all-time NCHA record, and it stands today. In addition to the win that night, Lindy and Bet Yer Blue Boons also won the other three nights, and the NCHA World Finals that year. In 2000, they won both the finals and the NCHA World Championship. The latter is especially sweet, as Lindy is the only woman in the history of the sport to take home the open world championship trophy.
Before they were done, Lindy and her mare would also mark a 231, the second highest all-time NCHA score (in a three-way tie). Bet retired in 2001 with more than $330,000 in earnings.
?Like other great horses, Bet always rose to the occasion,? Lindy said. ?She loved to compete. The lights. The crowd. The tension in the air. She?d pick up on it and just seemed to say, ?Lets go!?
?Bet was as sharp at 11 years when I retired her as she was at 6,? Lindy stated. ?And she's in wonderful shape today, probably for the same reason that she had such longevity in the show pen: I never worked her! I never had practice runs on her. She knew her job ? period. There was no point in schooling.?
Retirement at Oxbow Ranch has been good to the super-talented mare. She's in excellent health, and in 2010, she will debut as a Breyer horse model. Her five performing foals produced through embryo transfer have earned nearly $300,000 thus far.
?Austin Shepard has a 3-year-old out of Bet by High Brow Cat that is so spectacular,? Lindy said. ?And I have a 4-year-old full sister called Bet Shes A Cat that I'll show next year.?
When Bet Yer Blue Boons was inducted into the NCHA Hall of Fame, she was honored at the Futurity in Fort Worth, Texas. Lindy ponied the mare into the Will Rogers Coliseum from the mare?s daughter Bet Yer Boons, a competitor at the event.
?Bet stepped into the arena and started to strut!? Lindy recalled. ?She is just so fabulous. She remembered ? she felt the excitement. She still told me, ?Lets go!? ?