Bishop does a Texas two-step in world finals

Riley Bishop, a sophomore at San Benito High, won two titles in the NCHA World Finals in Texas in early December.

Despite having a father who is a professional horse-cutting trainer, Riley Bishop never got into the sport until three years ago.
A sophomore at San Benito High, Bishop won the biggest event of his burgeoning career, earning the title of reserve world champion and show average champion in the National Horse Cutting Association World Finals in Fort Worth, Texas, on Dec. 3-6.
Growing up, the 16-year-old Bishop was more interested in riding dirt bikes at Hollister Hills SVRA than riding horses. So what changed? Let’s just say a particular girl piqued his interest.
“I had a crush on someone,” he said.
Although Bishop didn’t end up corralling the girl, he did find a new love—cutting, which is an event where a horse and rider are judged on their ability to separate a single animal away from a cattle herd and keep it away for a period of time.
Those who excel in the sport often possess an acute sense of balance and precision in guiding the horse and a deft touch in separating the herd.
Like most successful rider-horse relationships, Bishop said he’s got a deep connection with his horse, Real Peppy Jewell, who is trained by Bishop’s dad, John.
“I’ve been riding Jewell for two years and she’s an exceptional horse,” Bishop said. “We’re a perfect match for each other.”
Bishop said he earned roughly $2,135 for his performance at the World Finals; as the son of a professional horse-cutting trainer, Bishop cannot be classified as an amateur.
That means Bishop often competes against riders who are much older than him.
“It was a really big deal for me to become a reserve world champion and show average champion,” he said. “There are competitors out there who have been doing it for all their lives, and I’ve only been doing it for three years.”
At the World Finals banquet, Bishop said he received the ultimate compliment from Chubby Turner, who is in the Cutting Horse Rider Hall of Fame and a renowned horse-cutting trainer.
“He told me I was one of the great young hands he’s seen in a while, and that I’ve got more championships and tons of things coming my way soon,” Bishop said. “If Chubby Turner is telling you you’re pretty good, you’re pretty good. It was really cool he said that, and it was an honor.”
Making a career in cutting involves a commitment to being away from home for long periods of time. In the last year or so, Bishop has traveled to Texas twice, Colorado and Mississippi for out-of-state competitions.
He’s missed many days of schools and social events, but he knows other up-and-coming cutters are making the same sacrifices. However, the biggest sacrifice Bishop has had to make was selling his beloved dirt bike a year ago.
“I always took my bike to Hollister Hills and if I ended up breaking my arm, that’s it (an end to my cutting career),” Bishop said. “I’ll eventually buy another one, but for now I’m focused on showing. I’ve spent hours and hours training in the rain, when it’s freezing late at night and the conditions are bad. I’ve given up a lot of my weekends to win championships.”
Bishop credits his dad, grandfather, Bob Branco, mom, Kellie Branco, and stepmom, Michelle Musante, for helping him develop the mental and physical skills needed to excel in cutting. Bishop has come a long way in just three years, having hated the sport at first to developing a burning passion for it.
“When I first started, I was scared crapless,” he said. “I thought the sport wasn’t for me and it was a waste of time. Now I get an adrenaline rush every time I start to show. I want to be really good and I keep thinking this is just the beginning of greater things to come.”

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