There is some truth to the saying that the family who plays together, stays together. The proof of that is at the Cut Bank Saddle Club that has a number of multiple generation families, playing together, riding horses together and competing together in O-Mok-See.
The Lorash, Manley, Norman and Peterson families are four multi-generation families, all Cut Bank Saddle Club members and all participants in O-Mok-See competitions. And all of them love the sport they can do as individuals and better than that, as a family.
“Our family, the Midge and Sherry Lorash families have been involved at the saddle club since our oldest daughter, Shantel, began to O-Mok-See. Our other daughters Malena and Mandi also participated,” said Sherry.
All three of their children, had their own children, who also participated in O-Mok-See, Dezerae Lorash, Kandyce Fugle Tough, Ty Fugle and MaKale Collins. And now a third-generation participant has been added, Dezerae’s daughter, Kambryn Eubanks, who is 11 years old.
“Kambryn has ridden alone since she was two years old. Earlier this year, she won the 8-11 National Saddle Club Association High Point saddle and she competed in the Junior Princess contest at state, where she was runner-up, raising money for the MSCA Scholarship fund,” Sherry said.
The Lorash family has been involved with horses for the last 40 years and they have loved every minute of it.
“The love of horses and being competitive has kept our family involved these past 40 years,” she shared. “Having horses can be expensive and a lot of work, but worth it all when they give so much enjoyment.”
“The Cut Bank Saddle Club has been a big part of shaping the Manley family’s horsemanship heritage,” said Nikole Manley-Owens. “Sandy and Bill Manley had a love for horses, but having four children, Nisha, Nikole, Nathan and Nikolas, was what motivated the Thursday trips to the local saddle club for regular O-Mok-See competitions.”
Nikole said the family that started out doing leisurely trail rides on the farm, quickly developed a passion for O-Mok-See competitions with other horses and riders.
“We all learned this together and everyone had to train their own horses,” she said. “There is so much to training a horse to stay within the lanes and to complete the patterns at speed. Every horse eventually realizes they are in a race and when that day comes, the challenge increases and so does the need to learn and improve your handling and training.”
A favorite memory for Nikole is when her sister Nisha, at age 12, saved her money to buy her first horse, Kricket, which became one of the first of many Manley family favorite horses that won belt buckles at both local and state competitions.
“These horses served us whole-heartedly then went on to teach other children to have a love of riding and gaming. Many of these horses lived to well into their 30s.”
It has been a wonderful 30-plus years for the Manley family and Nikole said they “feel so blessed and thankful. We now have three generations of O-Mok-See loving competitors, including Nisha and her son Jeremiah Swenson, Nathan and his children, Alex and Xander Manley and Ian Larson and my children, Kassidee, Kaleb and Joshua Owens. For us, horses, family and friendship are what summers are made of!”
When Doug and Kim Norman moved to Cut Bank in 1979 it was to start Norman’s Western Wear. But before the first year was over, Kim met Sherry McNutt, who was a Cut Bank Saddle Club member and that started decades of time with the club, time spent at O-Mok-See competitions and time with good friends.
The Cut Bank Saddle Club had been active in O-Mok-See in its early years, but it died out for a time. However, in the 1980s, the club found its way back into O-Mok-See competitions and Kim went to state O-Mok-See in Helena in 1986.
Kim admitted she did not place in the top six in any event that first trip to state, but “it was the beginning of a new O-Mok-See era at the Cut Bank Saddle Club,” she said.
And it definitely was. In 1989, Doug Norman set the record in the men’s arena race at the National O-Mok-See, held in Helena and she said, “he was hooked too. Going 30 mph on a horse, feels more like 90 mph and competition has the same effect whether you are running for big money, prizes or ribbons.”
It was not long after that record-breaking run that their two children, Jack and Jodi also started riding O-Mok-See.
“Jack and Jodi were very competitive and took high point placings at Cut Bank, state and nationals. And now, if you fast forward to this year, the Norman family has three generations competing, Jack’s daughter Ella Povey and Jodi’s two children, Justus and Tansy Cassidy,” Kim said.
The Norman family had a great year in O-Mok-See. Kim brought home the Senior Women’s title, Tansy was the 8-11 Reserve Champion and the rest of the family found titles and honors all season and very respectable top 10 finishes in many events.
“Over the years, keeping the family horses fed and fit was mainly my job, while Doug ran the store and kept the feed and farrier bills paid,” she shared. “He kept us in trucks, trailers and good horses too. To be competitive you must be well-mounted.”
She added, “Perhaps the Norman ‘flaw’ is that we are too competitive, ‘in it to win it.’ That doesn’t make an entirely fun scenario when the runs aren’t going well, but we got through the wins and losses. We may be mellowing a little over time and certainly appreciate even placing more now. It’s been a great journey so far and we have been very blessed.”
The Lee and Maria Peterson family have been part of the Cut Bank Saddle Club family for almost a full decade, joining in 2001. Lee and their daughter Shellisa compete in O-Mok-See and Lee has won the Senior Men’s title at the local and state level and even placed at the national level too.
“Shellisa competed until she graduated from high school. Throughout high school, she and Clint Dagel challenged each other in 12-15 and 16-39 age groups. The two became high school sweethearts and were married in 2007,” Maria explained. “To follow that, were three little cowboys, Ray, Beau and Wesley, with all three of them learning to ride at the age of two. Leading little ones through the Candy Bar race is a fantastic way to begin this sport.”
Ray is 11 years old now and is in the process of training his horse Krystal on the patterns involved in O-Mok-See races. He rides in the 8-11 age group and Maria said he has placed at the local, state and national levels.
Beau is five and Wesley is four and are learning to ride on a couple different horses. Both boys received the Youngest Rider award at state competitions at the age of four.
“O-Mok-See has taught our family how to compete, have good sportsmanship, discipline and enjoy friends in a healthy environment,” Maria shared. “Family support, a great horse and creating precious moments made this sport unique and open to anyone at any age. We are so blessed to be members of the Cut Bank Saddle Club who also contribute to our community through holding benefits, clinics and helping out when needed.”
Some records for the “family” of Cut Bank Saddle Club should be noted. Doug Norman and Lee Peterson tied for the record in Senior Men’s Arena Race at state this year. Doug also holds the Senior Men’s Speed Barrel and Pole Bending records. Lee holds several state records as well and set the Half 8 Race record and broke his old Team Speed Barrels record and took another State High Point Championship title this year too. Joshua Owens set a record this year in the 8-11 Pair Turn ‘n Burn with his partner Cassie Gibson from Big Sandy. Hanna Manley set the 16-30 Women’s Arena Race record and won Speed Barrels.
The Cut Bank Saddle Club was started in the late 1940s and was originally located on Tank Hill. When a fire destroyed the clubhouse, it was moved to its current location on Highway 2 east of Cut Bank where a new clubhouse was built for meetings, dances and concessions.
The club built a racetrack for horse racing and chariot racing and a huge arena where cowboy polo was played and many team ropings and rodeos took place, along with horseshows and of course, O-Mok-See competitions.
In 1948, the Cut Bank Saddle Club won high point at the first recorded state O-Mok-See in Helena. They have repeated that title in 2017 and 2018 and while points for 2019 are still being tallied, the club is hopeful to make it three high point wins in a row.