Retired physician Margaret Mehle is enjoying cutting again, after moving to Minnesota from Oklahoma.
The first cutting horse Margaret Mehle bought taught her a lesson — but not the one she wanted to learn.
This was in the early 1980s, in Oklahoma, and Margaret, a physician, had recently returned from Texas, where she had watched the National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) World Championships.
“I was dating a cowboy at the time and he took me to the Texas cuttings,’’ she recalled. “All my life I wanted a horse, from the time I was a little girl. But I never got one. And as I watched those championships in Texas, I thought, ‘I can do that.’ ’’
Returning to Oklahoma, Margaret soon attended her first horse sale. A mare caught her eye, and when that horse left the sale ring, Margaret owned her.
“But when I got that horse to my trainer’s barn, the drugs she had been given at the sale wore off, and she was a completely different mare,’’ Margaret recalled. “My trainer couldn’t ride her, and he wouldn’t let me ride her. She was too dangerous.’’
Undaunted, Margaret, a Minnesota Cutting Horse Association member who today owns eight horses, and who rides out of trainer Bob Janssen’s barn near Rush City, Minn., soon returned to another Oklahoma sale.
A Virginia native, she had attended medical school on a public health scholarship, and upon graduation, she was assigned to provide medical care at a federal prison in El Reno, Okla.
“I loved Oklahoma then, and I still do,’’ she said.
Margaret’s second horse sale ended more positively. This time she left with two horses, one of which, a Doc Bar-bred gelding, was her buddy for 31 years.
“We called him Cowboy,’’ she said. “I loved that horse. He was the first one I won a class on.’’
In the late 1980s and 1990s, Oklahoma was alive with cutters, cutting horses and cutting competitions. “You didn’t have to travel much more
than an hour and you could find a cutting most every weekend,’’ Margaret said.
When she retired in 2014 after a long career as a family practice physician, Margaret moved north to St. Paul, drawn there by her two adult children, Susan and Josef, both of whom live in Minnesota’s Capitol City.
“I figured with the move and everything, I would get out of cutting,’’ she said. “But eight months later, I found myself at a cutting in Winona, where I met Mary Farr, who was riding at the time with Bob Janssen. One thing led to another and before long I went to Bob’s place and rode one of his horses.’’
Physicians don’t use the word “addict’’ lightly. But that’s how Margaret describes herself when the subject is cutting.
“My thing always has been young horses, and the first horse I bought from Bob was a 5-year-old,’’ she said. “I started enjoying cutting again immediately.’’
In the years since, Margaret has surrounded herself with a small remuda. Among her eight cutting-bred horses is a 13-year-old gelding; a 6-year-old mare; two 5-year-old mares; one 4-year-old mare; one 3-year-old mare; a 2-year-old stud; and a yearling filly.
Each was acquired from Janssen, or with his help, and this summer, at cuttings in Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, Oklahoma and Colorado, Margaret has regularly found herself at the pay window, as has Janssen, riding her horses in novice classes.
“Bob has helped me a lot,’’ she said. “I’m at his place two or three days a week in the summer. In winter, I’m probably there, riding, as many as five days a week.’’
Janssen says working with Margaret is a trainer’s dream.
“Margaret is so passionate about the sport of cutting,’’ he said. “She genuinely supports everyone in the sport, and while she’s a fierce competitor, she’s very real about all the facets that go into success.’’
This fall, she and Janssen will show her 3-year-old mare, who’s by Kit Kat Sugar, in small futurities.
“She’s really a nice horse,’’ she said. “Next year I hope to show at the big Futurity in Fort Worth. My 2-year-old stud is by Hottish and he’s coming along really well.’’
Said Janssen: “Margaret is such a gracious woman to be around, and her enthusiasm is contagious — not just to my wife, Anita, and me, but to our entire team. She’s become a part of our family. The sport is lucky to have her.’’