The Challenger Series: The Blair Family
The place: Southern Arizona Cutting Horse Association
The date: Saturday, February 11, 2017
The people: Ray Blair (79), Mary Ann Blair (younger than 79), Clay Blair (48)
Some families go to the movies together; others enjoy hikes or picnics. The Blair family, however, go to cuttings. Ray has been cutting since 1971. He is proud to share that he won the Gelding Stakes in 1972 in Los Angeles, California. He tied to win the Non-Pro in the late 1990s at the Hartland Futurity held in Ada, Oklahoma.
Nowadays, however, the objective of winning money isn’t front and foremost on his list of reasons why he still cuts. Now, he just does it for the pure fun and enjoyment of it. “I’ll quit when it stops being fun,” he says. His friend, Jim Simpson, 83, of Wickenburg, is still cutting and Ray says he’s just trying to keep up with Jim. Ray also trains his own horses because he claims that it is far more fun to compete on a horse that he has trained himself.
But the focus of this story isn’t so much on Ray and his history in cutting. The focus is on the Blair family and how the experience cuttings together. Ray and Mary Ann’s son, Clay, finds more joy in cuttings than just about anyone they know. Clay serves as his dad’s cow picker at shows and he is good at it. He can read a cow like an air traffic controller reads flight patterns. Clay has been in a wheelchair for 32 years following a horrific car accident that claimed the mobility of his legs and right arm. He is now able to use his left arm to a degree which he utilizes to help point out cows to his dad. What the accident couldn’t claim is his zest for life and upbeat attitude. Clay, who was a great wrestler in high school, was learning to ride cutting horses at the time of his accident. Now, he finds joy in attending cuttings with his parents and helping make sure his dad goes after the best cows. Clay and Mary Ann were also instrumental in developing the therapeutic riding program at Hendrick Rehab Hospital in Abilene, Texas.
What the Blair family gets out of these Challenger Events isn’t the chance to win money or gain notoriety, but the chance to have a day of fun doing what they love to do. Together.