Hansen and his ‘Super Freak’ enter cutting’s World Series on a roll

Dan Hansen

Dan Hansen on Woody Be Lucky.

He is affectionately called Super Freak in the barn, thanks to his large “freak-of-nature” proportions.

But now that the Calgary Stampede’s 39th annual Cutting Horse Competition is taking over the Big Top, he’s an officially famous Super Freak.

Woody Be Lucky, the 11-year-old sorrel gelding who’s carried Dan Hansen of Nampa, Idaho, to the Stampede’s Non-Pro cutting crown in two of the past three years, was officially inducted into the National Cutting Horse Association’s (NCHA) Hall of Fame on June 18, during the NCHA’s annual convention at Oklahoma City.

Woody Be Lucky is approaching $450,000 in career earnings. He won the 2007 NCHA Non-Pro World Championship with Hansen aboard. And considering that Woody Be Lucky is primarily responsible for making Hansen the runaway leader in the NCHA’s Non-Pro world standings this year – with nearly double the earnings of their nearest rivals – things just seem to get better and better for the wily duo.

“He’s big for a cutting horse. He’s 15.2 hands tall, and 1,160 pounds. But he does some amazing things in front of a cow,” says Hansen, who was inducted into the NHCA Non-Professional Hall of Fame in 2008. “He gets down really low, and shows off the athletic prowess that have earned him his nickname.

“He’s just so darned cow smart. When he gets a tricky one, I’ll just turn it over to him, and he’ll read that cow and do what he needs to do to keep that cow in front of us, away from the herd, and allow us to mark a big score.”

Hansen and Woody Be Lucky captured the Stampede’s 2010 Non-Pro cutting crown with a score of 227, after winning Calgary in 2008. And the pair are back for more as the Stampede’s Cutting Horse Competition kicks into high gear, with three days’ worth of intense competition scheduled between Tuesday, July 12 and Thursday, July 14.

The sport of cutting shines a spotlight on the pure athleticism, instinct, agility and intelligence of the cutting horse. With horse-and-rider teams attempting to cut at least three individual cows out of a herd within 150 seconds, cutting has evolved into one of the most exciting equine events in North America.

For the third straight year, this marquee Stampede show will be a participating event in the National Cutting Horse Association’s Mercuria/NCHA World Series of Cutting.

The Stampede’s four-day cutting competition — which began Monday, July 11  and culminates Thursday, July 14 under the Big Top with finals in the Open, Non-Pro and Youth divisions — was scheduled as the sixth event on the 2011 Mercuria/NCHA World Series.
This year’s outbreak of the equine EHV-1 virus cancelled World Series stops at Tulsa, Okla., in May, and Reno, Nev., in June, but the tour is scheduled to live up to its global name with the ninth and final event to be staged at Lyon, France, at the end of October.

The NCHA counts more than 20,000 members from a wide range of backgrounds, and sanctions more than 2,200 events across North America each year, with tens of millions of dollars in prize money awarded. Thanks to the involvement of the World Series, the Stampede Cutting Horse Competition will offer $25,000 in added prize money to each of the Open and Non-Pro divisions. The Youth division will see five Bill Collins Youth Excellence Awards scholarships go up for grabs, in addition to Stampede champion and reserve championship buckles. Thursday’s finals get underway at 5 p.m. in the Big Top – starting with the Open Division, and following with Non-Pro and then Youth.

To date this year on the World Series, Hansen and Woody Be Lucky have finished fourth at San Antonio, Texas, in early February, and won Houston three weeks later. Hansen, who began competing at Calgary in 2006, won’t soon forget the 2010 Stampede – not only did he collect a winner’s check of nearly $10,000, but broke the million-dollar mark in career earnings.

“We were later in the working order (10th of 12), and fortunately there were some cows we liked left in there,” says Hansen, recalling last year’s Non-Pro final. “We had some real good help, the cows were as good as we thought they’d be . . . and Woody Be Lucky was probably as good as he’d ever been.

“This year? At 11 years old, you could say the same . . . he’s still as good as he’s ever been.”

Tom Lyons of Grandview, Texas, was the 2010 Stampede champ in the Open category, scoring a mind-blowing 231 in the final and shading 2009 titleist Les Timmons of Kamloops, B.C., by a single point.

The Open division of the Stampede’s Cutting Horse Competition is designated for professional riders and trainers, while the Non-Pro consists of riders who make no part of their income training cutting horses, and can enter only on horses owned by themselves or immediate family members. The winner of the Youth division will be presented with the Bill Collins Youth Excellence Award.

Events from the Calgary Stampede’s Big Top will be webcast this year.

- Calgary Stampede