Holly Jackson Muench was born in Ada, Oklahoma on January 15, 1981 to Bob and Phyllis Jackson.
She has been horseback as long as she can remember. One of her earliest memories is asking her dad to make the pony spin. Both of her parents were horse enthusiasts. Her Dad trained and sold horses, mostly cutting horses.
Holly began competing with 4H in pleasure and halter and AQHA shows. At 13 she decided to be a cutter and that is all she has done ever since. The one horse that sticks out in her mind that really impacted her was Diamond Bar Stretch, a stud horse sent to her Dad for training. The owner allowed her to show him and she won a saddle at the very first showing. Holly remembers him as the horse that taught her to cut, he didn't lose cattle or make mistakes. He was 15 years old the last time she showed him before going back to his owner.
Holly's Dad was the most influential in her cutting. He kept her horse tuned up and made sure she was prepared for the shows. There were two other men that influenced and helped her as well. She recalls Teddy Johnson and Steve Miles helping her especially when her Dad couldn't be there. At 15, she was the ACHA Youth World Champion. Holly is hooked on cutting and since then, has won the Texas Cutting Horse Futurity (2005) and was the Nebraska Futurity Reserve Champion that same year.
Enter Another Horseman...
She met Teryn Muench at a cutting in Sulphur Springs, Texas in 2007. They struck up a friendship that later developed into a romance. Their first date was about six months after they met at a Bar-B-Q restaurant near Gainesville, Texas.
The relationship grew and Teryn proposed to her on his property after they planted a Crepe Myrtle bush. This cowgirl married her horseman (Teryn) on January 3rd, 2009.
Teryn and Holly took on their first mustang in 2009 after watching others in competition. She had no idea how much she would enjoy it and they have shared many victories with the mustangs.
When asked what it's like watching Teryn compete, Holly says she gets nervous. She knows the horses are prepared, but she still worries. Watching him rope doesn't bother her but, frets the most at Working Cow Horse events when Teryn takes the cow past the first fence turn, although she finds it exciting at the same time.
Holly is strictly a cutter. Teryn is the teacher and trainer. She likes it like that and enjoys working with her husband. They live and work on their ranch in Marietta, Oklahoma with their horses, including two celebrity mustangs - Maverick and Cheatgrass, and their dogs.
Holly's keys to success:
1.Don't let yourself get discouraged.
2. Be patient - even when you don't want to be.
3. There are a lot of people out there that will help you. Let them help you.
You can learn more about them at
Tara Gaines has been working with and riding horses as long as she can remember. She participated in 4H and Quarter Horse shows as a youngster – She was a header in team roping and ran barrels. She was her high school rodeo queen and wore the Miss California Rodeo crown in 1998. Competition is no stranger to this California girl.
When she was the manager of an English Saddle shop, she met Lindy Burch ( Cowgirl Hall of Famer) and ended up moving to Texas where she managed the barns and gained her first experience in caring for cutting horses. She went on to work for Dean Sanders where she gained more experience around the cutting horses.
In 2003 Classic Equine and Equi-Brand put her to work and this is where she met Matt. They married in 2007 and Tara took to working with her husband. That same year she ruptured three discs in her back and ended up having surgery. Matt eventually bought Patrick La Dual for her and she debuted her cutting career at the Silverado in Weatherford, Texas.
Tara is currently the Non-Pro World Champion in the cutting arena. She also manages the barns and business with Matt. I asked her what her biggest challenge was and she stated it was "organization." All the angles of horse care and making sure each one was on a schedule for that care as well as being acutely aware of their movements and performance each day is among the tasks at hand. Team work was also stressed in our conversation – the veterinarians, farriers, chiropractors, acupuncturists, and dentists all have to be coordinated in that scheduling. Sounds like choreographing a movie! In this environment an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure for sure. Tara expressed true care and concern about all of the horses in her barn. The level of care these horses get sounds better than my own care plan. Perhaps the Gaines family has an extra stall for me!
Cutting has many variables to contend with. There are generally five judges, four turn back riders, a whole herd of cattle, you and your horse. With this many variables to deal with – a competitor has to prepare for many different scenarios.
Tara didn't set out to compete in cutting. This developed after Matt bought Patrick La Dual for her as a surprise. She rode Patrick in her first competition and ended up with a check – Wow! I figured she trained under Matt's watchful eye a good bit of the time – Not so! She expressed a desire to ride with him more, but they are very busy right now and seem to be in different locations much of the time.
Tara has her sights set on the NCHA Non-Pro Hall of Fame and she certainly is off to a strong start.
She is also working with a couple of young horses to see if there is a future there in competing with them. The three year old filly out of her Peptacular and Smooth As A Cat is proving to be much fun for her.
Tara looks forward to the days when she and Matt can ride and travel together more.
Tara's keys to success:
When asked what her keys to success are for her business, she pointed out the following:
Plan for events – all angles of the event.
Keep emotions out of it. It is business.
Make decisions based on the team and ultimately, the big picture.
Use reliable support professionals.
Get to competitions in a timely manner so horses are rested before competing.
Put the horse first – Plan according to what is best for the horse.
Cutting is a mental game – don't beat yourself up.
Matt and Tara have a spacious facility in Weatherford, Texas, where they train and house their horses. Patrick La Dual has carried Tara to the Non-Pro Championship and I look forward to seeing these two compete again – keeps you on the edge of your seat. Tara truly walks her talk. It shows in her performance and the horses they ride.