Four-year-old mare GI’s Kitten D’amureindicated to owner/breeders Joel and Julie Duff of Manilla that she could be a chip off the old block by taking out both the Open Snaffle Bit Futurity and Non-Pro Snaffle Bit Futurity at the National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) Autumn Spectacular held at Scone’s White Park recently.
Her dam is GI Jane – a “pretty good mare” according to Joel who rode Kitten to victory in both futurities at Scone. GI Jane’s progenyhas already racked up an impressive $120,000 worth of money earners.
“After each of the snaffle bit rounds, Kitten (by Smooth As A Cat) was the second highest aggregate with 231points, guaranteeing her a position in both the Open Snaffle Bit and Non-Pro Snaffle Bit finals. She top scored with 227 points to win the open snaffle then registered that same score the following day to win the non-pro snaffle,” Joel said.
With these scores, Kitten and Joel registered the highest scores both days to take out the 4Cyte highest run of the day awards.
The Scone spectacular was Kitten’s third official competition. In her debut she took out the snaffle bit futurity at Walchalast year then followed that with a strong second – beaten only a half point in a similar event again at Walcha earlier this year.
“She’s now four years old, and we’re pretty pleased with her performances so far. She’ll probably go out now for a spell, then get ready for the big NCHA Futurity Campdraft in Tamworth in August. Julie will probably ride her in that – I reckon it’s her turn this time,” he joked.
GI’s Kitten D’amure is an example of what’s being produced through Joel and Julie Duff’s breeding program at Manilla where they currently run around 15 horses.
Growing up as a kid in Queensland, Joel is from a non-horsey family, and jokes that he must have inherited the gene from his granddad Jack Duff who was a well-known jackeroo/shearing contractor/woolclasser around the Charleville area.
“When I finished Grade 12, I had to wait three months to start my apprenticeship (as a boilermaker), so I went to the States for some cutting experience. When I completed my apprenticeship, I juggled travelling the countryside for work with learning more about cutting.
“I spent 12 months with Todd Graham (well-known Taroom, Queensland cutting trainer) who taught me patience, skills and horsemanship, but my main mentor now is Aaron Wheatley (another well-known Victorian cutting trainer) who has helped me a lot with Kitten’s progress.”
But cutting isn’t the only discipline Joel enjoys now. He’s also added campdrafting to his competitive itinerary, something he and Julie and their daughters Josie (8) and Pippa (6) also compete in – Julie adding two ABCRA (Australian Bushmen’s Campdraft& Rodeo Association) ladies titles in 2013 and 2019 plus another 50 campdraft victories to her portfolio.
Joel though didn’t pull on the campdrafting cap until 2010, when he attended a draft at Dungowanwith a campdrafting workmate. That’s where he met Julie – “I didn’t win a ribbon, but I sure did win a heart” he joked.
Four years ago, the family moved to Manilla from Tamworth where they purchased a local school bus run which Julie currently operates, and Joel continued his broadacre spraying business in Manilla and surrounding areas.
Both cutting and campdrafting are popular family sports, but Joel leans towards the drafting, particularly with he and Julie’s busy work itinerary.
“I love the cutting, but am more into drafting now. It’s less crucial in keeping the horses worked and isn’t as full on in training, whereas the cutters have to be worked and ridden every day. Cutting though is a great foundation for campdrafting.”