BELLE FOURCHE | Weeks of peering through a pickup's windshield and on the back of a cutting horse paid off for Dannica Percevich in 2018.
The Belle Fourche woman claimed not one, but two National Cutting Horse Association national titles at the NCHA’s World Finals in Fort Worth, Texas, Nov. 28-Dec. 1.
Percevich, 32, clinched the $15,000 Amateur class cutting championship, as well as the reserve (runner-up) championship in the $35,000 Non-Pro division.
Competitive cutting events involve a 2-1/2-minute run for a horse and rider to “cut” or separate, two or more animals from a herd of cattle and keep them separated. Judges score the performance of both horse and rider in how they handle the meticulous process of safely working the individual animals from the herd.
Percevich and her two 9-year-old quarter horses, Wild Haired Lilly and I’m A Smooth Little Cat, put in an estimated 60,000 road miles through many western states and as far away as Louisiana and Mississippi, trying to stay in the top-15 in NCHA standings, based on money earned for the year.
Percevich, an accountant by trade, traveled mostly with her horse trainer, Todd Adolf, or would join up with other groups to haul to events, but trying to stay at the top of the standings also meant she had to travel by herself at times.
“We hauled all year for this. I think we maybe skipped six weekends all year to make the finals,” she said.
The diligence paid off, with Percevich leading the Amateur class standings all year, holding a substantial earnings margin going into the World Finals.
She led runner-up Madison Melasky by nearly $5,000 going into the finals and ended the event with more than $17,745 in earnings for the year. Reserve champion Melasky, of Alamo, Calif., had more than $11,305 in earnings.
“I was so much money ahead, I could not be caught,” Percevich said.
She was within striking distance of leader Melissa Corcoran, of Groesbeck, Texas, for the top spot in the $35,000 Non-Pro division, but would have needed to win both go-rounds at the Finals.
She said her nerves got the better of her on the first day, with her finishing out of the money, but, with the pressure off, she bounced back to win both Amateur class go-rounds to put an exclamation on her national title and cinched the Non-Pro reserve championship winning her second go-round.
Corcoran earned $15,387 for the Non-Pro title, with reserve champion Percevich banking $13,588.
After that (first round), it didn’t matter anymore,” she said.
Percevich graduated from Belle Fourche High School in 2005. Her family lived just outside Belle Fourche, owning horses and just a few cattle. She grew up participating in 4-H and other ranch-oriented events.
“I’ve been doing horse stuff all my life,” she said.
In 2017, Percevich won the $50,000 Amateur division at the NCHA Denver Nationals aboard Smooth.
For 2018, she decided to chase a spot in the NCHA World Finals. As with the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and Women’s Professional Rodeo Association, competitors must finish in the top-15 of their event standings to earn a berth in their championship finals, Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas at year’s end.
Percevich’s year started out well. She maintained at least the top-3 in both the Amateur and Non-Pro standings through the year.
“As the year went on and we did well, I decided I did want to win a world championship,” she said.
There were ups and downs. Some weekend events left her without taking home a paycheck, but she persisted.
Her goals for the 2019 season, beginning already this week, include making a top-15 in the NCHA standings once again, although Percevich said she hopes to not travel as much this year.
She said the 2018 championship and reserve titles mean a lot to her, and she thanked the many people at home and with her work chipping in to make it possible.
“It’s pretty cool. I don’t really have a lot of words for it,” she said.