AUGUSTA’S CUTTING CLASSIC READY FOR ANNUAL SHOW

In 1979, a group of Southeastern cutters met in Atlanta to discuss establishing a major cutting horse show for this region of the nation.They wanted a show convenient for East Coast cutters. The sport was growing here in numbers, but many cutters did not want to travel all the way to Texas to compete in a first-rate futurity.W.S. (Billy) Morris III convinced his fellow Atlantic Coast Cutting Horse Association members that the best place for the show was Augusta — a town unfamiliar with the sport of cutting, but with a brand new Civic Center.

The first cutting competition was in January 1980, and ACCHA members never imagined it would grow to the scale it has. Many cutters now consider the Augusta event one of the top national shows.

We thought we’d get 25 to 40 horses for that first show, said Norman Bruce, the first president of the ACCHA. Instead, there were 140 entries. The show was off and running.

Word spread in the Southwest about the Augusta Futurity’s tight organization and added prize money. Top horses and their trainer-riders from the Southwest quickly made the Augusta Futurity one of their regular stops.

Of the 31 champions of the prestigious Futurity Open, 21 have been from Texas, five from Oklahoma and one each from Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Virginia, and Colorado.

Because of the growing interest among horse owners, the show expanded from three days in 1980, to a full 10 day event, covering the weekends.

As the number of competitors grew, so did the prize money. The first year’s purse of $64,489 grew to a record $826,198 in 2004. The total purse paid out since the beginning is more than $17 million. The show also has an annual economic impact of more than $10 million on the Augusta area.

As interest in cutting grew nationally, various classes were added to the Futurity Week lineup. The show was expanded to include 5- and 6-year-old horses in both Open and Non-Pro divisions, and classes for amateurs.

And, although not a part of the Futurity itself, the Area 18 Youth Scholarship was created to focus attention on the accomplishments of the local younger cutters.

For the last several years, tickets for more than 2,000 reserved seats have been pre-sold. The final rounds on the second Saturday night usually attract a standing-room-only crowd of more than 6,000.