A passion for horses is something Rufus Hayes has had all his life — he was born with it.
After five decades of training, riding, introducing others to the sport, and showing cutting horses, Hayes has been inducted into the National Cutting Horses Association Hall of Fame.
A cutting horse is trained to separate a cow from a herd. Some horses have more of an instinct to work with cattle, according to Hayes.
“I remember seeing my first cutting competition. I was 15 or 16 (years old),” he said. “To see an animal work another animal and have a person just sitting on for the ride… anyone who knows animals has an appreciation for that.”
Oh his land in Milton, Hayes and his wife, Sandy, have about 50 horses — all of which are bred to be cutting horses.
Training a cutting horse for competition takes about two years, according to Hayes. It first needs to be broken in to ride and then it needs to become acclimated to cattle. If it shows an interest in directing the cow, then it has potential to be a good cutting horse.
Although Hayes has retired from training the public, he and Sandy still train and raise their own.
Horses are, after all, something that brought the couple together.
Sandy grew up near Washington, D.C., but was always a self-proclaimed “horse nut.”
When she moved to Florida to get a Master’s degree at University of West Florida she purchased her first horse. That’s how she met Rufus.
“It’s a love we’ve both had. It’s something that’s brought us together,” she said.
The two have been married for 40 years and Sandy said this is well-deserved recognition for her husband.
“It’s all he’s ever done,” she said. “It’s quite an honor.”
New inductees to the NCHA Members Hall of Fame were honored at a reception in Nashville in June and again in December in Fort Worth.
On his biography on the National Cutting Horse Association website, Hayes describes how he gets so many others interested in the sport.
“I have always made it a point to put anyone who comes to my place and shows interest, in the saddle,” Hayes said. “That has been the way I got a lot of people hooked on cutting over the years. I let the horses be the sport’s ambassador. The experience of riding a cutting horse will stick with you forever.”