Everyone is familiar with the Todd Graham story. He was Australia’s first million-dollar cutter and has now amassed over 2 million dollars. Indeed, Todd continues to set new levels of excellence within the cutting industry as he adds new NCHA titles to his list of achievements as well as adding to the earnings of the horses he rides.
His story revolves around the ideals that Todd lives by – hard work, dedication, personal commitment and a continual vision of his goals.
Todd grew up on acreage in the Brisbane Valley and although his parents didn’t ride, he and his brother, Scott, soon got ponies and joined the local Pony Club. By the time Todd was 10, Pony Club led into Quarter Horse shows, and the Western Pleasure, English Riding, Reining and Cowhorse events.
As Todd and Scott’s enthusiasm increased so did their parents, and to this day Todd credits their continual support as being a tremendous part of his rise through the ranks. As children, Trevor and Marilyn were always happy to spend the time and money needed to support their kids and this included trading up to bigger places and better horses.
The family soon became keen on the breeding side of the industry and Todd gained his initial experience of breeding, breaking, training and competing on these family horses. As a family, they travelled all over Australia to the bigger shows and as an 11-year-old Todd trained and rode the Hi Point Trail Horse of Australia two years in a row, Mr Holly Mingo. He remembers this as his first big achievement in the Open Age arena competing against adults.
By the age of 14 or 15 the need for more action had set in, so the family started to branch into the cutting field. At that time pleasure events and cutting events were held at the same show so this was just a natural progression. Dave Christiensen was a big help to the young brothers as they started in the cutting pen, offering help with their horses and lessons on technique.
In 1982 they watched Doc’s Spinifex win the NCHA Futurity and they immediately bred to him, and their first purpose bred cutter was born. The Graham family continued to sell pleasure horses to finance their cutting horse purchases and together the brothers attended as many schools and clinics as possible.
Todd’s father was always keen to promote whatever the boys were doing and as they became more involved in cutting he became more involved in promoting the sport. He was a vital part of the committee which started the Comet Cutting and he also organised international trainers to come and do clinics in Australia. These trainers included Larry Reeder as well as Kathy Daughn – a talented US trainer who was to have a huge impact on Todd’s career.
Todd left school after Year 12, a year which involved making the A.Q.H.A. Youth World Cup team. This opportunity was Todd’s first overseas experience as the team travelled to Fort Worth to compete in the Western Performance Horse Championships.
Teams from America, Canada, Brazil and Australia were involved. The Aussie team included Todd, Roger Wagner, John Mitchell and Rodney Peachey. Todd finished the event as the Hi Point Horsemanship Champion.
After leaving school he soon returned to the States to work for Kathy Daughn for 3 months. This was a huge learning experience and a great eye opener as to the professionalism that was needed to succeed. This time spent with Kathy was invaluable and during this time Todd developed his training methods and developed his own individual style.
Returning home, Todd and Scott continued to ride horses and prepare them for the major shows. They travelled between 6 to 12 horses and competed in the Non Pro Futurity, Derby and Classic events. They were still very much a family campaigning, family owned, bred and trained horses.
In 1991, Todd decided to take the big step and turned Pro. He had won the NCHA Non Pro Derby with Ima Niner Too and felt it was time to step up. His reasons for the decision were the same as most who make the commitment, to see if he was good enough and to see if he enjoyed working with other people’s horses. Futurity wins in 1995, 1996 and 1997 proved very early that this decision was totally justified.
When Todd turned Pro, Scott continued to compete in the Non Pro events and together they proved a formidable team until Scott decided to focus on other interests and he gave up the horses for a life in the city.
Cutting has provided Todd and his family with hundreds of highlights, including trips to the US to test himself in the biggest arenas. He has been to the US NCHA where he catch-rode at the Futurity and made the semi-finals, a result he is happy with.
Todd also went to the US with the One Stylish Pepto’s Syndicate, when they decided to take the Australian horse over to test him against the best in the Super Stakes. He rates these trips as great experiences and considers himself fortunate to have had the opportunities.
Todd credits a big part of his development as a trainer to one remarkable horse, the legendary mare One Moore Spin. Todd was just 22 when he started training the mare and showed her in the NCHA Futurity at 23. He freely admits that this special mare was a rare gift.
“I knew she was very special. I had never ridden anything like her. Training her was trial and error. I had to slow her down more than anything, because she wanted to be too quick and too cowy – she wanted to take over. Looking back, I didn’t have her trained enough, she was still a little wild. We had a back fence in the Futurity because she missed a cow. If I had her now I might train her a little differently”.
Todd said he felt the pressure in that Futurity. “No-one else had one that good, she was a stand out in the ranks. I knew she would be exceptional down the track”.
One Moore Spin went on to win the Goondiwindi Futurity, then had a stellar career as an aged event and open horse. She won over $111,000 and is well known for holding the equal world record score for an astounding 15 years. Todd and One Moore Spin’s Gold Cup Open run in 2001 earned that 232-point score, which stood as a record until 2016. [View video]
Todd describes this amazing mare as ‘a freak’. “It didn’t matter where we went, she could handle it. From the fast cattle in the north to the slower cattle in Victoria, it didn’t worry her”.
The year after One Moore Spin made her show debut, Todd won the NCHA Futurity. He would win this coveted prize in 3 consecutive years. He says his experience with One Moore Spin was a big part of setting him up for those successes. “I learned a lot from training and showing her. I had so many big runs on her and it gave me confidence. She wasn’t easy, you had to figure out how to work her. She helped me understand that all horses are different and they have to all be treated and trained as individuals”.
One Moore Spin didn’t just set up Todd’s career, she became a legend in her on right, as both an individual, and as a broodmare and matriarch. She produced 21 progeny. All competed and most of them are elite athletes in their own right. They include greats like No Moore One Moore, One Stylish Pepto, One Roan Peptos, One Moore Smarty, One Moore Senor, One Moore Playboy, One Moore Daddy and Spins Miss Kitty. They have set show and sale records and are also producing great horses.
One Moore Spin could well be a once-in-a-lifetime horse – both for Todd Graham, and for Australia. Todd recently added up the sale results for her descendants that sold at the 2016 Landmark Classic Sale. They averaged over $25,000 and sold for a total just shy of one-million-dollars. Her legacy will go on and on. “Some of her progeny have gone close but none have matched her yet. I hope one day to ride another one as good as her”.
Staying at the top of a fiercely competitive sport requires professional sportsmen to adapt to changes as they arise and cutting is certainly no different. Todd sees that horses have changed dramatically from the 80’s to now, as has the level of competition. He knows that for longevity he needs to maintain the level of ability and the drive that have taken him to the top, but he also has to continually focus on the business side of his stable. He sees maintaining these business skills as probably the hardest aspect of training, as business can’t be neglected and after a big day in the saddle and it’s hard to give it the priority demanded.
Working for a variety of owners also needs commitment, as different owners expect different outcomes. Todd stays true to his training principles throughout and this is the formula that the owners respect. He likes all horses he has trained to “stay trained” and this is the first and foremost concern throughout his program.
He also believes that the more runs a horse has the less they will end up winning. “They only have so many big runs in them over a show”, and he surrounds himself with owners who recognise this philosophy.
Todd and his wife Jackie share a passion for this sport and with Jackie actively involved in every way the future seems bright for “Todd Graham Cutting Horses”.
Even after so many titles and so many great horses Todd remains focused and enthusiastic.
Yes, Todd’s had a go with One Moore Smarty. He reckons it was good fun, but a return to the Campdraft arena isn’t likely. He says cutting just consumes him and if the family do get a day off he can think of better ways to spend it!