August 17, 2012
This world champion cutting horse became the trademark of an empire.
From America's Horse
World Champion cutting horse Cutter Bill became the trademark of an empire built by multimillionaire Texan Rex Cauble. At the end of their 26-year affiliation, when Cauble led the old, infirm palomino stallion down into his grave, it was symbolic of the man’s own decline.
It was 1982, summer was turning to fall, and there was a room reserved for Cauble at the “Big Spring Hilton,” a federal penitentiary. Cauble had been convicted on federal charges of embezzlement, conspiracy and racketeering, and of participating in a large marijuana smuggling ring. He spent the rest of his life denying any involvement in the smuggling operation.
Twenty-six years earlier, in 1956, Cauble attended R.L. Underwood’s dispersal sale in Wichita Falls, Texas, hoping to add to his fledgling broodmare band.
Cauble had grown up on a cotton farm, and though he’d had a horse as a kid, his father never let him raise one of his own, believing it was cheaper to buy a horse than to breed one. But Cauble had evolved from cotton picker to cigar-chomping Texas oil tycoon, and, by God, he was going to raise horses.
Cauble’s wife, Josephine, accompanied him to the horse sale. Tied to a fence was a yearling palomino stallion who looked Josephine’s way and beckoned to her by tossing his head.
“Oh, I want to pet him!” Josephine said.
Cauble checked him out, found the colt with the lopsided streak on his face to be friendly, and stood aside so Josephine could run her hand across the polished gold.
“Let’s buy him,” she decided.
“Josephine, we came here to buy mares to breed to other people’s stallions so that we can raise horses. We have no need for a yearling colt,” Cauble said.
Cutter Bill rested his head on Josephine’s shoulder and stared at Cauble.
“Please?” coaxed Josephine. The horse kept staring at him.
“Well, if he doesn’t bring more than $1,000,” Cauble said.
Cutter Bill was sired by Buddy Dexter, whose claim to fame was beating Poco Bueno at halter. Cutter Bill’s dam, Billie Silvertone, had produced a full brother to Cutter Bill that was on the brink of his AQHA championship at sale time. Billie Silvertone was a hearty little cutting mare before entering the broodmare band. Cauble would have to give more than $1,000 for her golden son. With Josephine’s encouragement, he kept bidding until he’d bought Cutter Bill for $2,500.
When Cutter Bill was 2, Cauble, though by no means a horse trainer, broke the colt himself.
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“It was really easy, as he just looked back at me on both sides and then walked off,” Cauble said.
Impressed with his demeanor, but not his conformation, Cauble used Cutter Bill as a teasing stallion for two seasons while he bred his mares to his feature stallions. At the time, that included Wimpy P-1 (yes, the Wimpy), Silver King P-183 and Hard Twist P-555, all of whom were long in the tooth when Cauble acquired them.
In June 1958, the 3-year-old Cutter Bill was started on cattle.
“He was a natural; he just loved it,” Cauble said. “A lot of horses, like Poco Lena and Jessie James, worked with their ears back, like th
ey were mad at the cattle. Cutter Bill worked with his ears forward. He had incredible animation and crowd appeal.”
Cauble said the first good trainer Cutter Bill met was Willie Bennett of Gail, Texas. Cauble hired Bennett to come to work for him in Crockett, Texas, after building what he believed to be the first private, competition-size indoor arena in the Lone Star State.
With Bennett’s guidance in 1959, Cutter Bill earned more points than any other junior cutting horse in AQHA. Later, he was trained by Bennett’s older brother, Milt, who had owned and ridden Snooky, the 1955 National Cutting Horse Association world champion.
Tommy Arhopulous, Connie Wills, Roy Huffaker and John Carter also rode the horse at one time or another, but the rider most people associate with Cutter Bill is the late Sonny Perry.
When Cauble decided to really campaign Cutter bill during 1962, Perry, who had won the 1961 NCHA world championship aboard Senor George, came to Cauble, asking to ride the horse.
Not only did Cutter Bill clinch the NCHA world title for 1962 with Perry aboard, but he also set an earnings record for the association. On top of that, Cutter Bill was the honor-roll cutting horse of 1962 for AQHA. He was the second horse to earn both honors (Poco Stampede was first), and the first to achieve them both in one year.
Also, in 1962, Cauble earned headlines by flying Cutter Bill and three other horses from Crockett to the Washington (D.C.) International Horse Show, and from there to the competition at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, which Cutter Bill won. The red carpet was literally rolled out to meet Cutter Bill’s plane each time it landed.
“I had to sign a release that said the attendants could kill the horses if they became unruly on the plane,” said Cauble, “so I rode with them to make sure everything was OK.”
April 12, 1963, was proclaimed Cutter Bill Day in Crockett, and he led one of the largest parades the town had ever organized. Another time, he was invited to cut the ribbon at the grand opening of Crockett’s Huntingburg Furniture Company and was even issued a share of stock in the corporation. With light hauling, he earned the NCHA reserve world title in 1963.
The next year, Cutter Bill carried Cauble to the NCHA nonpro world championship.
Cutter Bill’s very first foal, Cutter’s First, was born in 1960 and became an AQHA Champion in 1964. He was also the high-point junior cutting horse that year and was the high-point cutting horse for AQHA in 1971.
In 1966, Cauble moved his horse operation to Denton, Texas. There, he built a large indoor arena with letters spelling out “Cutter Bill Championship Arena” spanning the length of the roof. A fiberglass Cutter Bill look-alike was put on a pedestal in front of the barn and stared out at traffic on Interstate 35.
In 1967, Cauble transformed a bank building he had purchased in Houston into Cutter Bill’s Western World, which became the Neiman Marcus of the cowboy crowd. Cutter Bill himself was on hand for the grand opening to place his hoofprints in the wet cement outside the entrance. Cauble had another horse mannequin gold leafed in Cutter Bill’s image and placed on a pedestal facing the busy Katy Freeway. Eleven years later, he opened a second Cutter Bill’s Western World in Dallas and placed yet another gilded horse statue in front, facing one of the most heavily traveled roads in Texas.
Cutter Bill sired 637 registered foals from 24 crops. Four became AQHA Champions. Bill’s Lady Day was the 1987 AQHA world champion senior tie-down roping horse, and also won the amateur tie-down roping world title in 1989. Cutter’s Rocket won two youth world championships in working cow horse, in 1983 and 1985. Cutter’s Streak was a Superior halter horse in 1964 and became an AQHA Champion in 1968.
Probably Cutter Bill’s best-known offspring was Royal Cutter, a legend among West Coast cow horse aficionados. He won the 1971 National Reined Cow Horse Association’s Snaffle Bit Futurity, then later became the first horse to add the titles from that competition’s hackamore and bridle sweepstakes.
Cauble died June 21, 2003, in Durant, Oklahoma. Cutter Bill, who died in 1982, was inducted into the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame in 2003.