Burnet residents host Australian cutting horse ambassador

Mike Crumpler, of Burnet, and Ashley Knight, of Goomeri, Australia, pose with Knight's competition horse, Just Countin' Checks, owned by Cole Eslyn, on Crumpler's land in Burnet. Crumpler was chosen as a host for Knight for the two weeks she is in town promoting the cutting horse sport as an ambassador from the Australian Cutting Horse Group (ACHG).





By Savanna Gregg

Burnet Bulletin

For the past two weeks, Burnet has gotten a healthy dose of culture that may not be too different from its own, in the ranching aspect at least. The town was chosen to host an Australian ambassador who has been strengthening the relationship between the American Cutting Horse Association and the Australian Cutting Horse Group, a recently established ACHA affiliate.

Seventeen-year-old Ashley Knight, of Goomeri, Australia, has been training with local horse trainer and ACHA member Mike Crumpler since she arrived in Texas last Tuesday.

“I am hoping to get more youth involved in and promote the sport,” Knight said. “There aren't as many youth involved in cutting horse back home, so I'm hoping to have more join in the future.”

Knight has shown exemplary talent and drive back home, which ultimately led to her being chosen as ambassador to represent her country. Crumpler was then chosen as Knight's host, and together they immediately began working to promote the cutting horse sport and share their passion with other riders.

“They choose an ambassador every year, and it is a very in-depth process of vetting these kids to pick the right one,” Crumpler said. “She is excellent at what she does. She is a very hard worker.”

After the non-stop flight from Sydney, Australia, to Fort Worth, Knight shook off the jet lag and got to work with the horses she had at hand, and choosing the horse with whom she would soon compete.

When she is not working, Mike and his wife, Janie, have been introducing Knight and her companion, ACHG director Lyndall Malmborg, to a few American staples – Sonic, Chili's, Walmart, and Cavenders, to name a few. Though Knight excitedly expressed her love for the restaurants and giant stores, she cringed at the thought of all the spicy foods Texans consume on a regular basis.

“Everything is spicy,” Knight said with a laugh. “Even down to your chips. It is crazy.”

Spicy foods aside, Knight and Malmborg marveled at Crumpler's homemade hamburgers and the other foods they have been so graciously exposed to during their stay so far.

Last Friday, before a show in Belton on Saturday and Sunday, Knight chose her competition horse, a mare named Just Countin' Checks, owned by Cole Eslyn. Knight and Checks took home fourth place in Youth on Saturday and returned on Sunday to place second in Youth and first in the $2,500 Novice Rider competitions with a score of 73.

The cutting horse sport was begun as an extension of the ranching days, when cowboys and ranchers began to separate certain cattle from others for various purposes on the ranch. The methods exhibited by the ranchers soon turned into a competition in the early 20th century, and has evolved over time to become an exciting, focus-driven sport enjoyed by riders of all ages.

Each rider has two-and-a-half minutes each run to demonstrate to the judges their ability, paired with the intelligence and quick thinking of their horse, to make three cuts from a herd of cattle. Each rider begins with an average score of 70, and the score is raised or lowered throughout the two-and-a-half minute run.

Knight has been involved in the sport since she was 12 years old, has competed since the age of 13, and even trained her mare back home, Kitty, herself.

The ACHG, established at the beginning of this year, puts on shows every month in New South Wales and Queensland, and is closely tied to the ACHA not only in affiliation, but in the values they share.

“We try to make it very affordable for everyone, no matter what, showing other youth they may have an opportunity to do this,” Malmborg said. “The ACHG is very family-oriented and good sportsmanship is a must. We make sure it is a very comfortable place.”

“This is a family deal,” Crumpler reiterated. “We all help each other. Hopefully when Ashley goes home, she lights a fire under the youth and gets them involved.”

It is also a dream of Crumpler's to give Burnet's youth the opportunity to one day travel to Australia for the same purpose Ashley is here for now, and experience the culture and hospitality of others.

“It is an honor to me and my community to host such a bright student,” Crumpler said. “She is very coachable and savvies things. The ACHG made a good choice for a representative of their country.”

“I am very proud of Ashley,” Malmborg added. “They couldn't have picked a better girl. We are very lucky.”

Knight was very grateful for the opportunity to come to Texas and share her passion with others so far from home.

“This time last year, I never would have thought I would be here,” Knight said. “And I've gotten so much support from friends and family back home. I would like to thank Mike and Janie for letting us stay with them the last two weeks; they have been awesome hosts. And I want to thank Cole Eslyn, the owner of Checks, and the Australian Cutting Horse Group.”

Knight also offered some advice to young riders like her, who have yet to discover their full potential.

“If you want it, you have to go for it,” Knight said. “Don't give up. My dad used to tell me that, and they are words I live by.”

Though Knight did admit that the sport is tough, she continues to put her heart and full-focus into her calling, for the sake of her country and the unfamiliar community that has welcomed her with open arms.

Crumpler will be taking Knight to compete in one more show in Brenham this weekend, before her departure back home on Tuesday.

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