PARKERSBURG - After beating cancer and surviving a heart attack, Holmes "Butch" Shaver decided it was time to get back in the saddle again.
A longtime Parkersburg realtor who served 24 years as a Wood County commissioner, Shaver took top honors at the Amateur Finals of the National Cutting Horse Association Eastern National Championships earlier this month in Jackson, Miss., walking away with a purse of $11,000.
"My dream was just to make the finals," he said.
Photo provided courtesy of HartPhotos
Seventy-four-year-old former Wood County commissioner Holmes “Butch” Shaver won the Amateur Finals at the National Cutting Horse Association Eastern National Championships earlier this month in Jackson, Miss., with his horse Lasso My Colors.
Shaver, 74, and his horse, Lasso My Colors, the only American Paint Horse in the competition, earned 217 points to edge out his closest competition. Lasso My Colors is an American Paint Horse Association World Show champion.
Shaver was an NCHA Super Stakes Amateur finalist on the mare in 2006. He has been an NCHA member since 2003 and has been a finalist in several NCHA Triple Crown events, but this was his first ride in the finals at the Eastern National Championships.
A 10-plus-year survivor of esophageal cancer and a heart attack, nothing was going to stop Shaver from coming back.
"This competition originated from the Old West. When a cow was sick, they would go into the herd and separate it out. At the competition, there were about 60 head of cattle. There are 12 to 15 participants working a certain set of cattle. A specific cow is driven from the herd. The horses are bred to do this. I bought my horse when she was five months old; she's 10 years old now. The sport is very physically demanding on the horse," Shaver said.
Shaver said he started cutting cows about 35 years ago. He quit for a while when his son, Steve, was growing up so he could spend more time with his family.
"Then I got back into it about 10 years ago," he said.
Shaver and Donna, his wife of 50 years, have had a farm for many years and he credits Donna with conditioning and taking care of the horses.
After winning the preliminaries, Shaver said he told his wife he wanted to go to the national championships to compete. He drove for about 13 hours to Jackson, Miss., with his truck pulling a trailer and his horse.
"It took 210 (points) to make the finals. I made it," he said.
"There were 26 in the finals split into two sections. Then you draw for position to show. I drew the first in the second set, which is not really a good draw. In the first set someone got 216, then I got 217. That's when I started to realize I might actually have a shot at it, but I had to sweat out 12 more people, and they were all tough, but it held up. The closer it got, I kept thinking I couldn't believe it," Shaver said. "My mare was spot on; she was awesome."
Shaver said those attending the competitions and the competitors themselves are great people, and they cheer for each other.
"What really made it special for me was that Stevie, his wife Ami and my grandkids and wife got to watch the competition live on the Internet. The kids went crazy. They were yelling and screaming," Shaver said.
Shaver's son Steve is a professional race car driver and Steve's wife, Ami, works for United Bank. His two grandchildren, Dylan and Calli, hold a special place in Shaver's heart.
Shaver said he was obviously the oldest one participating in the competition.
"It made me really proud - a lot of people came up to me and said you don't look it and you don't act it," he said of his 74 years.
Shaver's next stop is Fort Worth, Texas, in December. He described the competition as the National Cutting Horse Association equivalent of the Kentucky Derby.