The Rundown: Riding For a Cure

These organizations have two things in common: horses and aiding cancer patients.

By Tara Christiansen
The American Quarter Horse Journal
February 20, 2012

Mary Darnell

Mary Darnell, daughter of American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame inductee Clarence “Casey” Darnell, has been waging a war against cancer without medical insurance. (Photo courtesy of Rope-4-Hope)

Devastating – it’s one way to describe a cancer diagnosis. It’s devastating for patients, and it’s devastating for their family. This is something we all know; there aren’t too many people out there who haven’t been affected by cancer. My family has had its own close calls with the disease: My mom has been diagnosed with cancer three times, and has kicked its butt all three times. Here’s to hoping there won’t be one more.

In trying times, that’s when your friends and family step in, and the horse community is certainly as close-knit as a family. At The American Quarter Horse Journal, we hear a lot of stories about the family atmosphere that exists with owning an American Quarter Horse. For instance, Sheryl Budde’s life had been doused with heartache – in the span of a year and a half, she lost her husband, sister-in-law, father and boss. However, as we learned from Sheryl last fall (she was a competitor at the 2011 AQHA World Championship), it was her horse-show family that got her through life’s wreckage.

How about you? Has your life been healed by horses and their compassionate owners?


Even though great prizes are up for grabs, the Rope-4-Hope benefit roping March 10 in Belen, New Mexico, is about a whole lot more than winning a new trailer. It’s about Mary Darnell and her fight against Stage 3 breast cancer.

Mary, daughter of American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame inductee Clarence “Casey” Darnell, has been waging a war against cancer without medical insurance. With some luck, Mary has been paying for her medical expenses, including chemotherapy, with funds from a grant. Unfortunately, that grant runs out in March; and that’s when the ropers at Belen Horseman’s Arena will run in.

To attract contestants, the Rope-4-Hope benefit roping is offering buckles, a pair of Greg Darnall spurs and a two-horse bumper-pull trailer as prizes. However, all of this comes at a cost, and that’s where a supportive horse community steps in. The Rope-4-Hope benefit is in need of donations to cover these award costs so that their ultimate goal can be achieved: all proceeds will go to Mary to help pay for her next surgery.

If you’re interested entering the event or being a sponsor, check out this flyer.  

Rein In Cancer

What began five years ago as a heartfelt movement that swept the performance-horse community, is on the right track to becoming one the largest charities in the horse industry. From its humble beginnings, Rein In Cancer has grown to an organization that will aid AQHA, National Reined Cow Horse Association, National Reining Horse Association and National Cutting Horse Association members who are diagnosed with cancer.

Rein In Cancer came to be through the efforts of three committed women: Shorty Koger, Tracie Anderson and Cheryl Magoteaux-Cody. Each was new to fundraising, but each of their lives had been touched by cancer, and they all had very personal reasons to tackle a new project.

Shorty, who owns the well-known Shorty's Caboy Hattery in Oklahoma City, is a cancer survivor and she also lost her sister to the disease; Tracie’s husband is a cancer survivor; and Cheryl learned about cancer first-hand when her sister was diagnosed with the disease. These three women pledged to do their best to raise money to defeat the disease.

Close to $600,000 later, the Shirley Bowman Nutrition Center (named after Shorty’s late sister) has become a reality. It is housed in the Charles and Peggy Stephenson Cancer Center in Oklahoma City, and now actively provides nutritional counseling to cancer patients regardless of their ability to pay, as insurance often doesn't cover this expense.

Their determination in tapping into the horse world's generosity helped fill a critical need, according to Dr. Robert Mannel, director of the cancer center.

"Nutrition means that you can get through chemotherapy," Dr. Mannel explains. "Nutrition means that your immune system stays activated so you can fight the cancer with all your internal resources."

It was an emotional moment when the three women recently toured the center. Shorty notes, "Words cannot express how grateful we are to all the people who have helped make this dream a reality – especially those in the equine industry."

"Seeing the patients who are benefiting from this service has made all of the hard work so rewarding, and we thank all the individuals, groups and clubs that have aided us so far," Tracie says.

"The three of us met in early January to discuss the future of Rein In Cancer, and as we began to talk, each of us admitted to having given direct monetary support, personally, to someone who had cancer," Cheryl explains.

"The financial burden is so great," notes Shorty, "that it can take everything a person has to pay for the medical bills. Or worse, they are unable to pay for some medications and procedures not covered by insurance that might make a difference."

"Sometimes it's just a matter of figuring out how to pay the power bill or buy horse feed, because the family goes from two incomes to one – or because the insurance does not do enough," Tracie says.

From that discussion came the new direction for Rein In Cancer. Beginning February 1, 2012, members of AQHA, NRCHA, NCHA and the NRHA who are diagnosed with cancer can receive a one-time donation of $500 from Rein In Cancer. The organization will also create a venue for loved ones of the patient to give a directed donation as well to benefit their friend or relative.

One great benefit to donating to Rein-In Cancer is the lack of red tape. The support application process is as simple as downloading the application from www.reinincancer.com, and sending the form to Rein In Cancer with an accompanying current pathology report. Funding will be done immediately upon receipt and approval.

Tracie says, "We want to make a difference, give someone that little boost when they feel they're at the end of the rope. Sometimes that can really turn things around."

"We are hoping that the horse world will continue to be just as supportive as it has been as we begin this new, even more direct route to helping cancer patients and their families," Shorty adds.

Rein In Cancer is a 501C3, tax deductible corporation, so it offers tax benefits to people who donate.

"Even as we move into this new phase, we will continue to support the Shirley Bowman Nutrition Center,” Cheryl adds. “For both pursuits, we have the momentum and we want to keep going. Remember, one in three women and about one in two men will develop cancer at some time in their life. We want to be there for them."

For information on Rein In Cancer, visit the website at www.reinincancer.com.

The Rundown – 2012 Archive

  • People "Like" Us – The American Quarter Horse industry really is just one big social network.
  • The Bright Side – In a world of doom and gloom, our industry’s young competitors provide a good deal of bright.
  • A Great Granddam – Here's to you, Fillinic, and your induction into the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame.
  • My Apologies, Mr. Fence – Why can’t they just do horse-y yoga or at least something productive (aside from destroying my barn)?
  • Thanks, Mom – Moms have a knack for putting things into perspective.
  • Quotable Quotes – The secrets to horsemanship, raising a champion and learning from AQHA Professional Horseman Lynn Palm are unlocked in the April Journal.
  • Quotable Quotes – The March issue of The American Quarter Horse Journal is chock-full of memorable quotes.
  • Small-Time – You don’t have to be big-time to win big things in AQHA competition.
  • "The Look" – Do you know what “the Look” is?
  • Riding For a Cure – These organizations have two things in common: horses and aiding cancer patients.
  • Quotable Quotes – Kick back and enjoy the best quotes from the February issue of The American Quarter Horse Journal.
  • The Breeders – One of the strengths that The American Quarter Horse Journal has is its contacts with American Quarter Horse breeders, and we pack each issue with those contacts.
  • Go, Matt! – In just a few more days, Matt Budge, winner of the 2011 Battle in the Saddle World’s Greatest Horseman Shootout, will take on the NRCHA World’s Greatest Horseman competition.
  • News Roundup – The show industry says goodbye to great horses, hello to a smartphone app and free medical procedures.