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Fall 2017

e Lifetim g Leadin , Horsesires S Riders, ms & Da

Covering and Promoting Ranch Horse Competition

Simple Ways to Succeed in a Complex Event AQHA, ASHA & RHAA Name New Champions

YOUNG & SUPER

Trail Townsend and Other Youth Riders Claim Top Titles RHNMG_170900_0c1_COVER.indd 1

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Volume 2/Number 2

Features

on page 20, Lavert Avent shares his strategies for training a horse for multiple events.

12 Time to Shine

At three championship events, entry numbers displayed a positive trend and youth participation indicated that the future is bright for ranch horse competition. By Kate Bradley Byars and Ross Hecox

20 Smooth, Slow & Simplified

Champion trainer Lavert Avent describes his approach to preparing horses for a difficult, multi-faceted discipline. By Ross Hecox

Two amateur riders describe how they found success in ranch competition without sending their horses to a professional trainer. By Katie Navarra

jENNiFER DENiSoN

24 Flying Solo

Departments 2 Editor’s Note Young riders are making waves in ranch horse competition. 4 Be a Sponge in the Saddle Clinics can offer riders a wealth of learning experiences, as long as you know how to approach the events. 6 Set Up for Success Prep for the ranch conformation class in just five minutes a day. 8 Bloodlines in Mind What role should pedigree play in your next horse-buying decision? 26 Chart Toppers Equi-Stat’s lists of lifetime leading riders, horses and breeders make a statistical impact in the rapidly growing ranch versatility arena. On the Cover: Trail Townsend and TRR Lucky Playgun capture the Ranch Hand division at the Ranch Horse Association of America National Finals. Read more on page 12. Photo by Devin Sisk. Fall 2017

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Ranch Horse News 1 7/18/17 2:43:50 PM


EDITOR’S NOTE

ROSS HECOX

Generation Growth

Kameron Buchanan is one of many young riders making waves in ranch horse competition. Riding Heza Hickory Colonel, the Texas Tech University student won the 2017 RHAA National Championship in the Cowboy division.

I

F ENTRIES FOR 2017 EVENTS are any indication of the state of the industry, the stock horse trend is here to stay. Attending the 2017 American Quarter Horse Association Versatility Ranch Horse World Championships in Houston, Texas, this March was eye-opening. The warm-up arenas were full of exhibitors, many who had traveled from all corners of the United States to vie for their share of the trophies. Having attended five previous world shows in Houston, it was exciting to see growth in all divisions. The uptick in entries was also evident in other associations’ title events. Participation of the younger generation is also on the rise. Both AQHA and Stock Horse of Texas are experiencing an increase in youth entries, and the American Stock Horse Association is advising three new schools looking to build their own collegiate stock horse programs. It is an exciting time to be a part of a niche that has brought the versatile ranch-type horse back to the forefront of the equine industry. Take a look at the next generation of competitors in the 2017 show coverage on page 12. We highlight the top competitors, including youth exhibitors, making strides in their respective associations.

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At the 2017 Ranch Horse Association of America National Finals, 14-year-old Trail Townsend put on a show against adult competitors in the Ranch Hand division. In the Youth division at the AQHA Versatility Ranch Horse World Show, Meredith Graber took home not only a championship, but also third place. Finally, the ASHA year-end Youth division winner, Teagan Joseph, didn’t let a rare genetic disorder that left her legally blind slow her down in the show pen. “The novice and youth really drive ASHA,” says Executive Director Kyla Henninger. The association looks to revamp its show productions in 2018 to include more learning opportunities, like ensuring each show also has a clinic included in the event, which the organization believes will boost long-term membership. “Creating a clinic format for our events doesn’t necessarily mean those participants will show, but it gives them the option to work with multiple clinicians and learn, so they can [have the know-how to] go show.” In recent years, versatility shows added money to award competitors. “Chart Toppers,” on page 26, lays out the industry’s top-paying shows and top-earning horses, riders and breeders. Four shows are listed as awarding more than $50,000 to competitors. Competition purses are boosting the lifetime earnings of younger competitors like Matt Koch, True Burson, Will Wallendorf and Dusty Burson, who are all listed in our top rider standings. Dusty, who clinched the 2016 AQHA Open Versatility Ranch Horse World Championship at the March 2017 championship show, appreciates the challenge of the classes. Though he makes his living horseback on the Four Sixes Ranch in Guthrie, Texas, Dusty could not compete in AQHA’s Cowboy division because his RHAA earnings, coupled with SHTX money, pushed him into the Open. “It is tough to [find] a horse that can do all six events,” Dusty says. “It is fun to try to get through them all. They are very challenging. If you have a horse that is really weak in one event, especially in the Open, there’s no sense going to them because you are not going to do any good.” Indeed, the versatile horse that can work inside and outside the arena has struck a chord with the younger generation. In our third edition of Ranch Horse News, we are excited to highlight the advancement of this unique industry based on the working ranch horse. —Kate Bradley Byars

Administrative Office 2112 Montgomery St. Fort Worth, TX 76107 817-737-6397 Fax: 817-737-9266 Publisher: Ernie King Editor in Chief: Ross Hecox Editor: Kate Bradley Byars Copy Editor: Erin Haynes Art Director: Ron Bonge Fort Worth Production Manager: Sherry Brown Director of Production: Kris Miller Digital Imaging Manager: Erik Lewis Advertising Customer Service: Nancy Hughes 817-569-7107 Emily Trupiano 817-569-7108 Senior Digital Strategist: Sonny Williams Digital Content Manager: Megan Thomas Business Manager: Tonya Ward Warehouse Manager: Tim Gelnaw

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Regional Vice President: Patty Tiberg President: Donna Kessler Director of Circulation: Scott Ferguson Morris Communications Company, LLC Chairman: William S. Morris III President & CEO: Will S. Morris IV © 2017 by Morris Communications Company, LLC. All rights reserved.

Ranch Horse News is published by: Morris Media Network Equine Group 2112 Montgomery St. Fort Worth, Texas 76107 Articles that appear in Ranch Horse News do not necessarily reflect the position or opinion of Ranch Horse News or Morris Communications Company, LLC. Ranch Horse News does not endorse and is not responsible for the contents of any advertisement in this publication. No material from Ranch Horse News can be copied, faxed, electronically transmitted, or otherwise used without expressed written permission. Requests must be submitted in writing.

Fall 2017

7/18/17 2:49:44 PM


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ROSS HECOX

Clinics offer riders a wealth of information. Experts suggest taking notes, asking questions and setting goals in order to get the most out of the experience.

Be a Sponge in the Saddle

Clinics of all sizes can offer riders a wealth of learning, as long as you know how to approach the event. By Katie Navarra

A

RE YOU REGISTERED TO RIDE IN A CLINIC? Clinics are an opportunity to improve upon the skills you already have as well as learn something new. Our panel of experts offers advice for making the most of any clinic experience, whether the clinic is limited to fewer than 10 riders or is open to a larger group. Heading into a clinic you’ll likely have a long list of goals and you’ll be excited to learn from the featured trainer. “Keep it simple and don’t be too analytical,” says Texas-based trainer Kevin Oliver. “Relax and let your horse’s body put your body in the correct position and enjoy the experience.” Regardless of your level of riding or accomplishment in the show pen, go with an open mind. Novice and experienced horsemen and -women can benefit from a clinic when approaching the experience with a positive outlook.

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Jed Lawrence is an accomplished performance horse trainer who has worked with the likes of reining great Shawn Flarida, and he has clinched Open championships at events such as the Bill Horn Derby. In May, the Kentucky-based trainer rode in a Doug Williamson cattle clinic where he picked up sage advice and felt rejuvenated. “Going in with an open heart and an open mind allowed me to leave with an even better understanding of training techniques, and I was able to work through some difficulties I was having,” Lawrence says. Trainers remind riders that participating in a clinic is intended to be a learning experience. “Don’t try to show a clinician how good you are. You are there to learn,” says Jay Henson, a Kansas-based trainer and a Northern Lights Versatility Ranch Horse Association board member. Henson has observed clinics, especially cutting and boxing clinics, where riders overextend the talents of their horses and themselves, trying to demonstrate how much they know. “The clinician can see through your attempt to show off, and you run the risk of messing your horse up,” he says. It is important to have a goal going into the clinic, to retain the information provided and to leave the clinic with clear takeaways. A significant amount of information can be provided in one or two days, so taking notes is one way Texas trainer and clinician Ben Baldus encourages riders to learn. Baldus says that taking notes at the clinic gives you the ability to confirm with the clinician that

Fall 2017

7/14/17 2:14:07 PM


The Art of Hackamore Training A Time-Honored Step in the Bridle-Horse Tradition

ROSS HECOX

Al Dunning and Benny Guitron with Deanna Lally Photographs by Robert Dawson

One-on-one instruction can be difficult at a large clinic. Be sure to approach the clinician with respect for other participants.

you’ve accurately understood all the steps to accomplish the maneuver you’re working on. “If you’re working on a lead change, the process includes multiple steps, and if you skip a couple of those steps it will be harder to execute,” he says. “Writing it down and clarifying any step you’re unsure of will help you practice better at home.” Henson says that if you come away with two or three tips that are useful, then you’re doing well. He encourages riders to ask questions. Clinicians use questions to get a better idea of what level riders are at and what may help them improve. “Don’t be afraid to hold your hand up and ask questions,” he says. “Interaction helps with the flow and makes sure you get the tips you need.” Realistically, it can be difficult to get much one-on-one interaction at a clinic with more than 20 riders. In this case, Baldus suggests pursuing the clinician without being disrespectful to the group.

In larger clinics, Baldus demonstrates a maneuver and then has riders break into smaller groups and practice. It could be 15 or 20 minutes before he gets to each rider. “I suggest that riders try it for a few minutes and then wait for me to get to them or speak up and ask me to watch what they are doing,” he says. “That way they aren’t tiring their horse out while they are waiting for me.” Henson recommends making the most of down time in larger clinic settings by watching and listening while the clinician works with other riders. “Keep your eyes and ears open all day long,” he says. “The rider the clinician is working with may have the same problems you do.” There is a lot to learn from a clinic and the expert presenting the information. Make the most of your opportunity to improve the skills you and your horse already have and learn something new. Most of all, clinicians want you to enjoy the learning experience.

In The Art of Hackamore Training, Al Dunning and Benny Guitron, with the help of award-winning Western photographer Robert Dawson and writer Deanna Lally, explain how to develop the hackamore horse, from groundwork and key points under saddle to advanced horsemanship maneuvers and cattle work. With more than 150 color photographs, this book is visually stunning and destined to become a classic in the mold of Hackamore Reinsman and Reinsman Of The West, by legendary horseman Ed Connell. Product # 96 $24.95 Authors: Al Dunning and Benny Guitron with Deanna Lally Photography by: Robert Dawson More than 150 color photographs 10 chapters • 136 pages

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KATE BRADLEY BYARS

Training for ranch conformation not only helps an exhibitor perform better in the class. It also develops a more well-rounded horse.

Set Up for Success Prep for the ranch conformation class in just five minutes a day. By Stephanie Duquette

T

HE BEST ALL-AROUND HORSES are built to last. One class that serves as a reliable forecast for an enduring career is ranch conformation, the only event in versatility ranch horse competition where exhibitors are afoot, not astride. “Ranch conformation evaluates the soundness and structural correctness that a horse needs in order to stay sound doing his job on a ranch,” says Laurel Walker Denton, an American Quarter Horse Association judge, versatility ranch horse trainer and competitor from Skull Valley, Arizona. Ranch conformation is typically the last class of the day at an AQHA Versatility Ranch Horse show, and it can be a make-or-break event in a competitor’s overall score. Wearing simple halters of rope or un-adorned leather, horses walk, jog and line up for judging.

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Denton points out that ranch conformation has little in common with traditional breed-show halter classes. “It’s practical,” she says. “[AQHA] is trying not to make a class where there’s a ton of showmanship and glitz and tricks. It’s how your horse performs the maneuver and how conformationally correct he is.” Handlers wear functional Western attire, with stretchy, sparkly fabric conspicuously absent. Horses are expected to be groomed and tidy, without excessive decoration. Hoof black and silver halters are not permitted, nor are lead-shank chains that contact the horse’s face. Clipping of whiskers, ears and bridle paths is optional. The judges reward a well-mannered horse with a build that most closely matches the breed’s ideal conformation. “Don’t be worried that your horse doesn’t have a good enough hair coat or isn’t perfect

enough,” Denton says. “The judges in these events take pride in seeing through all that, and they take it seriously.” To prepare, Denton recommends brief daily groundwork sessions. “Take five minutes after you’re through riding, put a halter on and lead him around, and it’s a piece of cake,” she says. Basic skills are walking and jogging, setting up square, and standing quietly. The horse’s position when being led is also important for the overall look: body straight and not lagging behind the handler or surging forward. Denton’s go-to drill involves leading the horse next to an arena fence. The handler should practice in the proper leading position, between the horse’s shoulder and its eye. “Keep your horse between you and the fence, so it can’t get away,” she says. “Use a short whip or the end of your lead rope. Make sure you step back behind your horse’s eye, near the shoulder, and walk forward. Use the whip or rope behind your body as a cue to make him stay up with you.” To speed up to the jog, Denton advises picking up your own pace as you cluck to your horse, enforcing with the whip or rope as needed. After the walk/jog lesson, set the horse up with all four feet square, and allow it to stand quietly. “Have somebody look at your horse from the side, and see which way he looks best, to make sure you know how to set him up to his best advantage. Halter horses set up with their feet very close together, which is unnecessary in ranch conformation,” Denton says, adding that it is acceptable for handlers to touch the horses’ legs and position them during the class. “[Training for ranch conformation] is not hard at all,” she adds. “I think it makes your horse a better-mannered horse, a more well-rounded horse, and it’s a lot of fun.”

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ROSS HECOX

James Gholson (right) visits with Ben Baldus at a ranch horse sale in Abilene, Texas. When purchasing a horse, pedigree is a top priority for the Oklahoma horseman.

Bloodlines in Mind What role should pedigree play in your next horse-buying decision? By Erin Haynes

T

HOSE WHO RIDE the best horses earn the most respect and responsibility. It didn’t take James Gholson long to deduce this cowboy truth after he hired on at the Pitchfork Ranch in Guthrie, Texas, at the ripe age of 13. From that moment on, he observed carefully, asked questions and tried to imitate what those top hands did with their horses.

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After 53 years of training horses for the ranch and the show pen, it’s an understatement to say that the student became the expert. Gholson has accumulated endless titles in the Ranch Horse Association of America, Ranch Cutting Horse Association, Working Ranch Cowboys Association and in American Quarter Horse Association Versatility Ranch Horse events (to name a

few), but his goal has always been to simply “ride good horses.” If that’s your goal, too, as you look for your next great ranch versatility horse, imitate the strategy of this top hand: Consider bloodlines to be of the utmost importance. When Gholson turns his keen eye to a sale catalog, he sorts the prospects by pedigree. He’s looking for bloodlines that complement his personal taste and ability, and that produce the traits needed for success in the arena or purpose for which he’s planning to use the horse. “Pedigree is my first priority,” Gholson says. “There are certain sires that cross better on certain types of mares to make horses that are easier to train, more willing and have the attitude I like. I just have pedigrees that I like, and I have pedigrees that I really don’t like, even though others think very highly of them. I’ll walk by a really pretty son-of-a-gun by a certain bloodline, and I wouldn’t touch him with a 10-foot pole. I know some from those bloodlines have made outstanding horses, but you’re not going to catch me riding them.” Gholson has fine-tuned his preferences the old-fashioned way, by logging countless rides through the years on horses of different bloodlines. If you don’t have the abundance of experience he has, Gholson says, just ask! Don’t assume that because a certain sire is having success in the show pen or because a certain pedigree is popular with some people that it will be a good match for you. “Get with someone who has knowledge and experience with different bloodlines and get them to help you look for a horse,” Gholson recommends. Talk with someone impartial (as in not the stud owner, he says) and be honest about your abilities and style. “There are a lot of people who don’t want to ask. I don’t know if they don’t want people to know that they don’t know. Or maybe they think they know but they really don’t,” he says, laughing. “But, just ask. If you’re a novice trainer and you’re somewhere like the Return to the Remuda sale [which offers horses from the Four Sixes, Pitchfork, Tongue River and Beggs ranches], talk to Dr. Glenn Blodgett [Four Sixes horse division manager] and ask him which bloodlines are hot, which are mellow, which start easy. Top hands might not mind some horses that would be too hard to train for a novice. For example, I love Little Peppy mares.

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7/14/17 2:26:56 PM


INTUITION AND INDICATORS

YEARS OF EXPERIENCE have developed in James Gholson a unique intuition when it comes to selecting a horse for sale. He also considers these indicators:

Head and eye. “I call it an intelligent head when a horse has some width between the eyes—the eye sits out on the corner of the head—and the ears are set out wide and not laid back,” Gholson says. “The eye means a lot to me. I am looking for a big, soft, kind eye where I can see a reflection.”

Mouth and cheek. “I run a finger up in the corner of the horse’s mouth and feel the curve of his lip where the bit would go. If that horse’s mouth is real thick and heavy there, I think he probably won’t be as light and sensitive. “A horse that tapers up real thin in the corners will be a lighter, more sensitive horse. That doesn’t mean a thicker horse might not make a great animal; he’s just not going to be as sensitive in the ring snaffle, for example.”

Hair swirls (or whorls). “I’m not a great big [believer] in swirls, but I do look at them. I don’t like double swirls between the eye, and I don’t like swirls three-fourths of the way down the neck. I like a swirl to be within six inches of their ear.”

Wringing and chomping. “I don’t want one to be chompy and grinding on the bit; they’re not relaxed. If I touch my spur and he wrings his tail, he’s pretty well used up. Inexperienced riders, especially, and horses that aren’t relaxed don’t go together.”

Almost everything I’ve got has Little Peppy [Peppy San Badger] in them, but I know when I put Little Peppy in there, those colts are going to be a little more ‘watchy’ and harder to start.” Breeding also plays a crucial factor in whether a horse will be suited for ranch work and/or the versatility show pen.

Fall 2017

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“Ranch horse breeding has changed dramatically over the years,” Gholson says. “The ranches used to want big, stout horses that could cover lots of rugged ranch country like we were in. They wanted a stronger, Thoroughbred-type horse. They were real sturdy rope horses

but they weren’t great cutters, weren’t as agile on their feet. “They have bred more ‘cow’ into them now. The ranch horses have gotten a little smaller. You certainly see more of the High Brow Cats, Peptoboonsmals, Playguns and those types of bloodlines in there. Ranch horses have evolved.

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The horse that we showed early on wouldn’t have much chance with these horses today.” The competition ranch horse, Gholson explains, demands unique requirements that set it apart from the rest of the specialized Western performance world. The versatility horse must, like a reiner, carry himself with collection and travel smoothly and willingly, but he must be able to work a cow, react, be aggressive and think a little more for himself. The versatility horse must, like a trail horse, navigate obstacles with precision, but he needs to be more alert to his surroundings to demonstrate the way a ranch horse would navigate ranch country while his rider kept his eyes on the cows. The versatility horse must, like a cutter, have cow sense bred into him, but he has to be sturdier with more size and bone to handle his end of a rope and stay sound through the rigors of versatility competition. And while the versatility horse must, like a rope horse, be sturdy and solid, he needs to be agile and quick-footed to cut a cow. “If I were looking for a really nice using ranch horse that I could also go show and

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enjoy on the weekends, I would go with the ranch-bred horse because the chances are better of keeping a sound horse coming out of that program,” Gholson says. “A lot of breeders are seeing the demand for those good stout horses, whether it’s for ranch use, [ranch] competition or the roping pen—getting back to some size and substance but maintaining athletic ability. Dr. Blodgett is one of the top in the field at crossing some of those Thoroughbred [and race-bred] studs to put some substance back into the more athletic-type mares. I’m a big fan of the racehorse Stoli crossed on these ranch-bred, ‘cowy’ mares. I’ve got one now that’s a phenomenal horse.” The reined cow horse bloodlines are a good place to look for well-bred versatility horses intended exclusively for the show pen, Gholson says, because those pedigrees focus on the high level of athleticism needed to be successful in the increasingly competitive versatility field. “The eligibility for ranch horse competition has evolved over the years,” Gholson says. “A horse used to have to be raised by the ranch

and the rider had to work there. Now it’s opened up. They have different groups and anyone can show. It has gotten so competitive that the reined cow horse type horses are dominating.” When selecting a horse, the decision, of course, goes beyond just bloodlines. Gholson begins with considering pedigree, then conformation is second on his priority list. “If I’m looking at a young horse, I’m just going to be able to go off conformation and pedigree,” he says. “If it’s an older horse, I want to watch him ride and get on him.” And don’t forget that each horse is an individual, Gholson says. Good breeding and correct conformation are a great foundation, but there is no magic formula that will take the work away from the cowboy or cowgirl. Some of the best-bred horses have turned out rotten, and some less-than-perfect specimens have flourished with the skill and patience of great horsemen. “Each horse is so different,” Gholson says with excitement in his voice. “I like to see what makes him think. I get a thrill out of seeing what makes each horse’s lights come on.”

Fall 2017

7/20/17 10:15:51 AM 7/19/17 8:35:59 AM


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7/18/17 9:11:01 7/19/17 3:50:55 AM PM


Setting the Standard

Courtesy AsHA/JosepH FAmily

The 2016 ASHA Year-End High point youth was 12-year-old Teagan Joseph. though legally blind, Teagan rode her mare Quixote playn Kat to top the division.

Time to Shine

At three championship events, entry numbers displayed a positive trend and youth participation indicated that the future is bright for ranch horse competition. By Kate Bradley Byars and Ross Hecox

D

EDICATED HORSEMEN and -women took to the highways this spring to compete in championship ranch horse events. In March, the American Quarter Horse Association Versatility Ranch Horse World Championships had so many entries that it became apparent the show had outgrown its current venue. That is just one example of how ranch horse competitions continue to grow in size and popularity. “People are falling in love with the working ranch horse,” says University of Arkansas coach Daniel Potter, whose ranch horse team won the 2017 American Stock Horse Association’s Division II Collegiate Championship. Here, the winners from three major events are highlighted: the AQHA Versatility Ranch Horse World Championships, the ASHA National Collegiate Championships and the Ranch Horse Association of America National Finals.

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One of the longest running championship ranch horse competitions is the RHAA National Finals. The event has been held in May in Abilene, Texas, since 1998. “We’re not the biggest [organization], but there’s a lot of pride in getting to show here,” says RHAA Vice President Bill Smith. “Cowboys want to be here to compete.” While many championship horse shows attract large numbers of entries and few spectators, RHAA is the opposite. Each year its finals draws anywhere from 60 to 100 entries who qualified at shows during the previous year, but a thousand or more people will fill the seats of the Expo Center of Taylor County. RHAA President Jim Frank Richardson says that the show has attracted as many as 4,000 spectators. Much of that is because it is held during the annual three-day Western Heritage Classic and is scheduled between a popular ranch horse sale and the final round of the WHC Ranch Rodeo. Richardson and Smith recognize the exposure their organization receives and hope to capitalize on it more effectively. “We want to stay who we are,” Richardson says. “[Each contestant] performs three events [reining, cow work and roping] in five minutes, with no breaks, so it takes a very competitive horse and contestant to get through this. But our goals are to have more members and offer more money.” To address that, the association is working to add more sponsorships, and it has continued to add divisions to open the door for more competitors. Its newest division, the Wrangler, does not allow professional trainers or members who have won more than $500 in RHAA competition. RHAA leaders should be encouraged by the age of the contestants. The Wrangler division at the National Finals was dominated by youth, and Regan Wheatley, 14, claimed the championship on LM Typical Shadow. The next division, the Cowboy, was won by college student Kameron Buchanan on Heza Hickory Colonel, and Brazos Roberts, 12, qualified for the final round on TRR Sharlenas Pepcid. In the Ranch Hand division, 14-year-old Trail Townsend of Earth, Texas, claimed the National Championship on TRR Lucky Playgun.

Fall 2017

7/14/17 2:31:20 PM


RHAA RUNDOWN

This year the organization added the Wrangler division, which excludes professional trainers and any riders who have earned more than $500 in RHAA. The Cowboy division is for non-professional riders who have earned $1,500 or less. The Ranch Hand division is for non-pros with less than $3,500 in earnings. The Junior and Senior division are based on the age of the horse (Junior horses must be 5 or younger) and are open to any rider as long as the contestant owns the horse or is a full-time employee of its owner. For more information, visit rhaa.org. National Champion: Natural Bottom, ridden by Terry Riddle Reserve Champion: TRR Sharlena Kat, ridden by T.J. Roberts

JUNIOR

National Champion: Bold And Beautiful, ridden by Chris Littlefield Reserve Champion: HR Buttermilk Pepto, ridden by Elwyn McCleskey

DEVIN SISK

SENIOR

Chris Littlefield and Bold And Beautiful won the Junior division at the RHAA National Finals.

RANCH HAND

National Champion: Trail Townsend riding TRR Lucky Playgun Reserve Champion: Landon Brown riding Sheriffs Lady

COWBOY

WRANGLER

DEVIN SISK

National Champion: Regan Wheatley riding LM Typical Shadow Reserve Champion: Cooper McCleskey riding One Eyed Reflection

Fall 2017

RHNMG_170900_012_Show.indd 13

DEVIN SISK

National Champion: Kameron Buchanan riding Heza Hickory Colonel Reserve Champion: Ryan Birkenfield riding TAMU Twista Lilbling

In the Ranch Hand division, Trail Townsend and TRR Lucky Playgun captured the RHAA National Championship.

Riding Natural Bottom, Terry Riddle of Burnett Ranches won the Senior division at the RHAA National Finals.

Ranch Horse News 13

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“It’s intimidating showing against adults, but you try to forget about that,” he says. “You just do the best you can and don’t think about all the other riders and their scores.” RHAA’s Junior and Senior divisions are based on the age of the horse and are open to any rider as long as the contestant owns the horse or is a full-time employee of its owner. Bold And Beautiful, a 5-year-old

stallion owned and shown by Chris Littlefield of Henrietta, Texas, won the Junior and earned $1,250. The horse is by Seven S Big Valley and out of CC Mary Catherine. “I bought [CC Mary Catherine] as a yearling at this [Western Heritage Classic] sale,” says Littlefield. “She’s probably my best broodmare. I rode her daddy [Seven S Keota], and that’s why I bought her.

“I actually had no intentions of raising a stud, but [Bold And Beautiful] has so many things that I think our industry is losing. I like his demeanor, bone, legs and feet. He’s got a good shoulder and set of withers. He travels really smooth, watches a cow, and my kids can ride him.” Natural Bottom and Terry Riddle claimed the Senior title and $900. Owned by Burnett Ranches of Fort Worth, Texas, the stallion is

AQHA RUNDOWN

In 2018, the AQHA Versatility Ranch Horse World Championship Show moves to the Lazy E Arena in Guthrie, Oklahoma. The show will run June 14–17. For more information, visit aqha.com/versatility.

OPEN

World Champion: Paddys Prince, ridden by Dusty Burson Reserve Champion: Metallic Gun, ridden by Lavert Avent

COWBOY

World Champion: Lanham Brown riding Take A Pick Reserve Champion: Holly Dale Gundlach riding Gimmie A Gun

AMATEUR

LIMITED AMATEUR

World Champion: Nonie Casselman Reed riding Zeena Lena Reserve Champion: Jessica Rumbaugh riding Boonful Of Caesar

YOUTH

World Champion: Sidney Dunkel riding Bobbie Can Do Reserve Champion: Jordan Cheek riding KMZ Irish Cowboy

LIMITED YOUTH

DON TROUT PHOTOGRAPHY

World Champion: Sarah Anne McKibben riding Chex Are Cashin Reserve Champion: Sarah Anne McKibben riding Lil Ruf Catalyst

World Champion: Meredith Graber riding CSR Lay Down Sally Reserve Champion: Shanae Major riding Chica Shine

DON TROUT PHOTOGRAPHY

DON TROUT PHOTOGRAPHY

Dusty Burson and Paddys Prince captured the Open World Championship by consistently performing in all six events.

CSR Lay Down Sally and Meredith Graber showed to a Youth World Championship title at Graber’s first AQHA Versatility World Championship Show.

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Sarah Anne McKibben showed Chex Are Cashin (shown) to the Amateur World Championship and rode Lil Ruf Catalyst to Reserve.

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by Playboys Buck Fever and out of Natural Ingredient by Peppy San Badger. “He’s a phenomenal horse,” Riddle says. “He’s got a huge stop, is a pretty mover and is great down the fence with a cow. He’s smart and is just a good all-around horse.” Riddle and Littlefield, neither of whom had shown at the RHAA National Finals in several years, agree that the show has become extremely competitive. “I went to two shows in order to qualify for the finals and told my wife, ‘Abilene isn’t going to be a joke,’ ” Littlefield says. “Starting off Thursday [in the preliminary rounds], I could see that there was no room for error, and you didn’t need to draw a bad cow or you were fixing to be toast.”

Entry Boost The March 2017 AQHA Zoetis Versatility Ranch Horse World

Championships in Houston, Texas, which crowned 2016’s champions, saw a jump in entries across the divisions. Nearly 400 horse-and-rider teams showed at the event. When counting each entry in the six classes across six divisions, the numbers added up to a record amount. With more than 900 entries at the 2017 show, entries were up by 55 percent from last year. “Seventy-one percent of our qualifiers entered the show, which is a huge number for any World Show,” says AQHA Director of Ranching Kim Lindsey. Though AQHA has offered a world championship show for versatility competitors since 2008, recent partnerships with other associations brought greater chances for competitors to qualify for the event. Lindsey says that affiliations with associations like Stock Horse of Texas, the Colorado Wyoming Nebraska Stock

ASHA YEAr-END RUNDOWN

Between January 1 and December 31, 2016, ASHA riders earned points toward year-end titles. For a full list of ASHA events, visit americanstockhorse.org. Collegiate Non-Pro: Lisa Banbury riding Jackpot Collegiate Limited Non-Pro : Isaac Wilkinson riding LR Shady Player Collegiate Novice: Johanna Hodge riding Bet Yer Gin Open: SDP Fancy Peanut ridden by Jennifer Kurtz Non-Pro: Emily Dahle riding Rey Royal Boon Limited Non-Pro: Dona Ramsteck riding BR Winning Rey Novice: Tammy Glenn-Lamb riding Shameless And Sassy Green Horse: Peptos Blue Banjo ridden by Cody Crow Youth: Teagan Joseph riding Quixote Playn Kit Mustang Heritage Foundation Nominated Champion: Diane Steele riding Chopo

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Ranch Horse News 15 7/20/17 10:13:52 AM 7/19/17 8:40:52 AM


ASHA COLLEGIATE CHAMPION RUNDOWN

The American Stock Horse Association Collegiate Championship Show saw 12 teams vie for overall team and individual rider awards during April 20-22, 2017. For more information, visit americanstockhorse.org.

Non-Pro Individual Champion: Jayton Baca (Texas Tech University) Limited Non-Pro Individual Champion: Robert Mitchell (Texas Tech University) Novice Individual Champion: Jennay Terrell (Laramie County Community College)

TEAM CHAMPIONS

Division I

COURTESY ASHA

INDIVIDUAL CHAMPIONS

The Texas A&M University team was named Division I Champion at the ASHA National Collegiate Championships.

Champion: Texas A&M University Coach: Paige Linne

Bailey Barziza riding TAMU Lectric Cowboy Lane Birkenfield riding Sparks Genuine Article Ellen Black riding TAMU Jagsfirstlegacy Taylor Godwin riding Lightin Up Like Whiz Macie Mayes riding TAMU Pop A San Doc Morgan Moreno riding Shesa Ricochet Kylie Reis riding TAMU Reyette Olena Zachary Schaefer riding Nightyeighth Edition Rachel Sembera riding Heza San Jo Hayley B. Walker riding RN Bet Quick

Reserve Champion: North Central Texas College Coach: Cathy Luse

Division II

Kaley Collins riding Miss Chicadual Carson Freeman riding Lil Miss Shiney Nic Whitley Vann riding Cowpony Express Lensey Watson riding Liberty Reins Ashton Williams riding Bango Star SL

Reserve Champion: Middle Tennessee State University Coach: Holly Spooner

Horse Association and others have boosted show numbers. “AQHA and other ranch horse associations are coming together to run classes concurrently [at the association shows],” she says. “This contributes tremendously to both associations and grows membership.” SHTX events were where 2016 AQHA Open World Champion Dusty Burson cut

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COURTESY ASHA

Champion: University of Arkansas Coach: Daniel Potter

ASHA President Robert Hartley congratulates Jayton Baca of Texas Tech University for winning the Non-Pro Individual title at the ASHA National Collegiate Championships.

his teeth in ranch horse events. Burson, who works on the Burnett Ranches’ Four Sixes Ranch in Guthrie, Texas, competed on 2010 gelding Paddys Prince, a horse owned and bred by the ranch. “I’d never shown a horse in my life until joining the ranch horse team at Texas Tech [University], where we competed in SHTX,” Burson says. “I grew up riding

colts on my family’s ranch in Silverton. When I started at the Sixes, that was my first time to show [AQHA] Versatility.” Burson’s show career includes wins at the RHAA National Finals and in AQHA Ranching Heritage Challenge events. The 2017 show was his second World Show qualification in the Open division. While Burson was confident in his horse’s

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ability—the two have been partners working on the ranch—he felt the pressure of competing against longtime professional trainers. Burson held his own against the 53 entries in the Open, taking first in ranch conformation and ranch reining, second in ranch riding, seventh in ranch cow work and ranch trail, and 17th in ranch cutting. “You have to have a horse that is good in all the events,” he says. “Being consistent paid off.” For Sarah Anne McKibben, who captured the Amateur Championship, having a willing horse that showed consistently made up for one bobble. Anticipating stiff competition at her first World Show, she set a goal to simply have a good experience with her horses. That mindset came in handy when she placed poorly in her first class. “Ranch riding is usually one of my better classes, but I didn’t do very good in it,” the Whitesboro, Texas, exhibitor

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says. “Then everything kept getting a little better.” Placing first in ranch reining and fifth in ranch conformation on 2007 gelding Chex Are Cashin, called “Batman,” were keys to McKibben taking home the World title. She also claimed the Reserve title on 2006 stallion Lil Ruf Catalyst. McKibben and her husband, Mozaun, own both horses. Lil Ruf Catalyst is a familiar name in the show arena, having previously won four AQHA Versatility Ranch Horse Open World Championships and the 2010 and 2013 AQHA Ranch Riding World titles with Mozaun in the saddle. McKibben managed her time between the stallion and Batman. “They are both amazing horses and are both the entire package—versatile, good-minded, athletic and have that willing attitude,” she says. “I’ve owned Batman for five years now. He is really pretty and an honest horse.”

A champion rider in team penning and team sorting, McKibben has experience with cattle. However, she didn’t begin taking lessons in ranch versatility until the summer of 2016. She says the learning curve was steep. “I have learned so much. A year ago, I seriously could not even correctly change a lead,” McKibben says. “I felt like I rode a horse decently, but little did I know I had so much to learn. I have enjoyed every bit of it. It’s been a great year!” Another World Show first-timer who won her division was Meredith Graber. The 18-year-old from Cannelburg, Indiana, claimed the Limited Youth World Championship riding CSR Lay Down Sally, or “Sally.” She also placed third on another horse, Hickorys Chic Olena, nicknamed “Smarty.” Graber started ranch horse competition in the American Ranch Horse Association and now competes in AQHA and National Reined Cow Horse Association events. It was

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her goal to qualify for every major event during her last year as a youth rider. Having claimed previous wins on Smarty and riding a competitive new mare in Sally, Graber was confident going into the show. “We knew that if I could keep my head on straight, I had a good chance of coming in first or second,” Graber says. “Me and my third-place horse were neck and neck with Shanae Major coming in to the boxing class. We thought I would do pretty good, but I didn’t think I would finish so close together.” Graber and Sally won on the strength of first-place finishes in ranch cow work and ranch cutting, plus second-place finishes in ranch conformation and ranch cutting. Juggling two horses was a challenge, but Graber says the show staff accommodated her by putting her horses in different cattle sets. It is an event where Graber felt at home. “It felt like a big family. Some other shows, they are too big,” she says. “It feels like you’re camping with a bunch of strangers. The versatility show, people ride by your stalls to

say, ‘Hi.’ It is a great show and it will keep getting bigger.” Next year, Graber hopes to return in the Amateur division. She will have a new title to compete for and a new set of competitors to ride against.

Investing in the Future American Stock Horse Association Executive Director Kyla Henninger says that ASHA prides itself on focusing on how to encourage youth and novice riders. Its National Collegiate Championships is a good example. Held April 21–22 in Sweetwater, Texas, the show featured 12 teams. All contestants ride horses they own or ones provided to the university by team supporters, and teams compete in either Division 1, designated for advanced teams, or Division II, reserved for teams with less experience. In Division II, riders do not turn a cow down the fence in the cow class. The University of Arkansas team was named the Division II Champion.

“We were the newest team at the Championships this year; I’ve been coaching just three semesters,” says UA coach Daniel Potter. “[Having two divisions] is a good idea for younger programs to not be put in the position of having kids that have never worked a cow have to go down the fence, circle or rope when they are not ready.” The format allows for the teams to compete based on skill level, not only team size. The Division I Champion team, Texas A&M University, hails from one of the largest schools in the state, but has one of the smaller stock horse programs. The 2017 team captain and incoming coach Morgan Moreno says stock horse programs make competing an option to students who otherwise wouldn’t be able to show. “I was similar to a lot of riders that come into our program: strong horsemanship skills with limited show experience,” Moreno says. “The opportunity is there for someone that didn’t grow up showing to compete against those kids that had the ‘fancy’ horses and still beat them.

21st Annual

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FRIDAY Sept. 15

SATURDAY Sept. 16

— 12:00 PM —

— 8:00 AM —

PREVIEW OF RIDING HORSES (3 and Up)

— 5:00 PM —

YOUTH BRANDING

PREVIEW OF RIDING HORSES (All) — 1:00 PM —

AUCTION

Webcast

by HorseAuctionsLive.com Absentee Bidding via Phone and Internet Auction plus Friday & Saturday Previews will be webcast

Steve Friskup – Auctioneer

www.VanNormanSale.com For More Information: Linda Bunch • 775-756-6508 • mrsbunch@rtci.net

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Without the team and team horses, some of our riders wouldn’t have had this chance.” In addition to crowning collegiate teams, ASHA recognizes riders of all ages and skill levels by naming Year-End High-Point Champions. Ten riders were named to the top of their respective divisions. Among them was 12-year-old Teagan Joseph. Henninger points to Teagan’s dedication as an example of the kind of exhibitor that drives the association. From Eaton, Colorado, she captured the award riding her 12-year-old mare Quixote Playn Kit, better known as “Kit Kat.” The year-end award was on Teagan’s radar for a few years. “When I accomplished it, it felt good,” she says. “At the first show of the year, I got sick and had to power through that. We didn’t do our best show, but other than that, we didn’t have too many challenges. It was a good year.” Another challenge to Teagan might have been a monumental setback for another rider, given the fact that she is legally blind. At 3 years old, she was diagnosed with leber

congenital amaurosis, a rare genetic disease that often causes infants to be born blind or children to begin going blind in their first year. According to Teagan’s dad, Bret, she has a mild case. “Doctors aren’t able to tell us if she will go blind or if it is stable,” he says. “For the past nine years, [her vision] hasn’t deteriorated. We are trying to give her every opportunity she can while she can do all of this.” Through all four ASHA classes, Kit Kat carefully carries precious cargo. Bret says there were initial reservations to letting his daughter ride. However, Teagan’s natural feel and hard work have made her a “heck of a rider.” “I have to work a little bit harder than the rest to see the signs and the cattle,” she says. “Kit is what I think of as my guide horse, like a Seeing Eye dog. When it comes to seeing where I am going, I mainly rely on her.” Bret says his daughter doesn’t have depth perception, so there’s always a fear she may run into a fence. The family puts great faith in her horse and on Teagan’s memory.

“She works so hard at showing. She can’t read the signs in pleasure or the cones in the dry work, so she has to memorize the gaits and where to find the markers,” he says. “I’m a little bit biased, but I think she is inspiring.” Teagan’s hard work paid off with a Year-End Championship, but her goals don’t stop there. This rider is looking to repeat her win and have fun with her friends while competing. Teagan’s story models ASHA’s goal of welcoming riders of all levels into its organization. Henninger adds that ASHA hopes to ramp up education for both regular and collegiate members. Next year, ASHA is adding a national open show and futurity, to be held in April during the 2018 National Collegiate Championships in Sweetwater, Texas. The show will book multiple clinicians to work with riders in each of the four classes shown. Youth participants will have the bonus of being seen by collegiate stock horse team coaches, and, in turn, interest in college competition can grow.

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Fall 2017

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Ranch Horse News 19 7/20/17 10:19:52 AM 7/19/17 8:36:41 AM


SMOOTH, SLOW & SIMPLIFIED Champion trainer Lavert Avent describes his approach to preparing horses for a difficult, multi-faceted discipline. Story by Ross Hecox • Photography by Jennifer Denison

P

USHING THE GAS pedal seems to be much easier than applying the brakes. At least that’s what Lavert Avent has found from years of working with horses. The Monument, Colorado, horseman says that most riders, himself included at one time, try to go too fast when training, especially when preparing for ranch versatility events. Even novice riders, who don’t always crave blistering rundowns or mad dashes to turn a cow on the fence, tend to mash the accelerator. Avent explains that they unwittingly rev their horses’ engines by expecting quick results, applying unnecessary pressure and hurrying from one exercise to another. “I think people work on too much at a time,” Avent says. “These versatility horses have to be more broke than any horse in any other discipline. At many of these shows, you have to do all the events in one day, and that’s so taxing mentally on these horses. If you start trying to do too much too fast, that’s when you get them to where they can’t take all this [training].”

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Avent, who made his living as a working cowboy for many years before becoming a full-time trainer, has found significant success in reined cow horse and ranch versatility competition. Last year he guided Metallic Gun to win the National Versatility Ranch Horse Association’s World’s Greatest Ranch Horse in the Open division. In March, he rode the same stallion to claim the Open Reserve title at the American Quarter Horse Association Versatility Ranch Horse World Championships. Preparing a horse to show in numerous ranch horse classes—reining, pleasure, trail, cow work and cutting—is a monumental task. But Avent advises riders to remember that going slow and steady—not swift and scattered—wins the race.

SIMPLE APPROACH

With as many as six classes to compete in, Avent says it’s easy to complicate the training process. Cow horse, cutting and reining can be high-octane, while trail, ranch riding and conformation require the horse to be relaxed and easygoing.

Avent selects one class to focus on during each training session. “I’ll work on my ranch riding for an hour or so, and that’s about all I do for that day,” he says. When keeping things simplified, it’s also important to recognize that some maneuvers translate across several classes. So even though one day might be focused on reining, working on lead departures, rollbacks and backups will benefit ranch riding, cow work and trail. Still, Avent focuses on one class, saying that it simplifies the session, making the objective for the day clear for both rider and horse. It also makes it easier to assess progress that was made. This approach doesn’t mean that Avent never works on a second class on the same day. However, it’s usually brief and low-key. “A lot of times I work on ranch riding, and then as I’m coming back to my barn, I go by my trail obstacles and trot over logs or back through an obstacle,” Avent says. “I do that for maybe five minutes. And then we’re done. I might even do that on a day I’m training for the cow horse.”

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Lavert Avent rides Jojo Tari through his trail course at home, trotting over logs at a smooth, steady pace.

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SMOOTH, SLOW & SIMPLIFIED

In cow work, if the horse begins pushing on the bridle and charging down the fence, Avent corrects it by pulling it off the cow and loping a few small circles.

Avent adds that spending a short period of time working on another event can be beneficial, as long as expectations aren’t too high or the exercise isn’t too advanced for the horse. “If I didn’t have the best day—the horse didn’t work a cow or didn’t run and stop—I might work on trail for a while,” he says. “I think it keeps their mind fresh. And I do that for just a little bit. I don’t want to harp on it.”

SLOW PROCESSES

Avent says that more damage is done at high speeds than in slow motion. However, it’s a constant challenge to keep horses from charging through every maneuver. A horse with too much adrenaline often begins to move sloppy, push against the bridle and

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ignore cues. If the rider reacts with the same forcefulness and insensitivity, it can escalate an already unproductive situation. “I know I’ve got a gas pedal when I need it, so I keep everything slowed down and simplified,” Avent says. “I don’t want to get in the arena and get in a fight with them. If the horse isn’t doing a maneuver right, I just keep doing it and doing it until he gets it right or gets better at it. “I still want my horses to do things right. So if I have to get onto them to do what they need to be doing, I will. But afterward, I might go through some trail stuff or walk them around more than normal to calm them down.” Avent says that horses are most likely to get on the muscle while working a cow. “I pull my horses off the cow a lot, especially when going down the fence,” he says. “When you show them as much as we do, it doesn’t take them long to learn that when they come around that corner [and follow the cow down the length of the arena], it’s go time. If they come around and are wanting to run off, then I just pull them off

the cow, lope them around for a few circles, and then eventually go back to the cow. “Yeah, these horses need to be cowy, but they need to respect me and do what I’m telling them to do. I don’t pull them into the ground much. I pull them off and they slow down. Loping some circles redirects their feet and their mind, and teaches them that they’re not in control.” It’s also counter-productive for a horse to charge through a reining pattern. “It doesn’t matter if they’re competing in versatility or not, I think the reining is all about the horse being relaxed,” Avent says. “The more relaxed they are, the better they’re going to lope circles, change leads and turn around.” If a horse is becoming too high-strung in the middle of a session, Avent slows down the lesson to help the horse calm down. Going slow through obstacles or maneuvers gives the horse time to learn functional correctness and teaches it to be deliberate, not hasty. Avent adds that he makes a point to regularly stop and reward his horses when they’ve done their job.

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Although reining maneuvers such as sliding stops require speed, Avent says keeping his horses relaxed througout the pattern is just as important.

“Give them some reward,” he says. “I think letting them think about what they just did is a very essential part of training. If you do something and then go right to doing something else, you never give them time to process what just happened. I think that’s how people fry their brains, just not letting them stop and think, and not praising them for what they did.”

SMOOTH OPERATION

Finally, Avent advises riders to in all things be smooth. And improving in that area

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sometimes requires viewing yourself from a different point of view. “Years ago, I was showing and felt like I was doing as well as [leading ranch versatility rider] Mike Major,” Avent says. “But then I watched video of myself and realized that I wasn’t nearly as smooth and quiet as he was. Watching videos has helped me a bunch. “I tell all my non-pros and amateurs that whatever you do, be smooth through every little maneuver.” Avent adds that there is also a certain amount of strategy involved with a smooth performance. “Another thing is learning what your horse can do and how he does it to make it look best,” he says. “At what speed does his slow trot look the best? At the [AQHA Versatility Ranch Horse] World Show, we had an option

Avent says a key to training is stopping often to reward the horse, letting it mentally process what it has learned before teaching another lesson.

in the trail class to either trot or walk while dragging the log. I advised some riders to walk it. Too many riders tried to trot, and the log would start bouncing and the rope was bouncing, and it didn’t look smooth. I walked with both of my horses because neither one of them are very smooth trotters.” Avent took first and second place in the class. It was yet another example that slow and steady wins the race. “When I coach my amateurs, I’m always saying, ‘Slow down. Slow down. Relax. Don’t try to do too much. Just go out there show your horse.’ ”

Ranch Horse News 23 7/19/17 8:37:07 AM


This year, Terry Dobrovolsky is showing Four Breaks, called “Sandbox,” in Stock Horse of Texas events.

Both women do the majority of training and fitting alone. Here, they share tips that have helped them reach their goals.

ESTABLISH A ROUTINE

KATE BRADLEY BYARS

First and foremost, develop a training routine that works for you. For Delisle, that means committing to five or six days a week in the saddle. Every ride begins with exercises to encourage flexion and softness, plus a lot of long trotting. The extended trot loosens her horse’s muscles and frees up his shoulders. Setting aside time to ride is crucial, especially for riders juggling work, family and other commitments. Dobrovolsky commits to riding three days a week and works cows at least once a month. Most of the time she rides in the pasture behind her barn, but occasionally she hauls to a nearby ranch to ride in a covered, lighted arena. “I work full-time, so scheduling time to ride is a must,” she says.

GET EXPERT HELP

Flying Solo

Two amateur riders describe how they found success in ranch competition without sending their horses to a professional trainer. By Katie Navarra

W

HEN SHOW SUCCESS results from our own blood, sweat and tears, the achievements are all the more gratifying. Professional trainers and seasoned ranch hands have invaluable experience and skills, but for some riders, training their own horses reaps the greatest rewards and is the best fit for their budget. In the heart of Texas ranch country, non-pro rider Terry Dobrovolsky has earned multiple titles through Stock Horse of Texas events. Those honors include Most Improved Rider, Novice Achievement and Constant Competitor awards. In upstate New York, amateur exhibitor Linda Delisle has won American Ranch Horse Association World and Reserve World Championships and has qualified five times for the American Quarter Horse Association World Championship Show.

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Flying solo doesn’t always mean riding alone. Input from others is sometimes necessary. Experienced riders who have a good eye for detail can provide feedback. A knowledgeable observer may notice the little things that can make a huge difference in your performance in the show arena. “I’m blessed to have friends that are experienced. They are honest about what I need to work on and can provide feedback if my spin was a quarter-turn off the mark,” Dobrovolsky says. Clinics and lessons also provide opportunities for helpful critiques. “Riding in or auditing clinics is a huge help,” Delisle says. “I take occasional lessons, especially if there’s something I’m unsure about.” If you decide to use a trainer or clinician for lessons or troubleshooting,

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ask around for recommendations. Whoever you choose should fit you, your horse and the goals you’d like to achieve.

GEAR UP Functional, not fancy, tack and apparel are part of the appeal of ranch horse events. “I sold my ‘blingy’ show saddle and purchased a cow horse style saddle and working style headstalls,” Delisle says. This past year she traded in split reins for romal reins as they maintain even lengths and don’t trip up a horse if one is dropped. “It all comes down to personal preference,” Delisle says. Dobrovolsky purchased a custom saddle when she first got involved in ranch horse events. She later purchased chaps and spur straps to match. “My main reason for doing so was comfort for my horse. It doesn’t hurt that the saddle is gorgeous and fits me well too,” she says. Practical clothing for the rider is required. Embroidery and Western style studs are acceptable, but crystals, rhinestones and other embellishments are not. “My outfits are pretty basic,” Delisle says. “I wear chinks, wild rags, jeans and basic Western style shirts.” Occasionally, Dobrovolsky spices up her outfit with a canvas vest and a wild rag. Wild rags add personality and dress up a basic shirt. “I have an obsession with wild rags; one can never have too many wild rags,” she says.

“In our cattle classes, I choose herd help and turnback riders that know me and my horse, ‘Cisco,’ ” Delisle says. “This gives me a huge advantage because it helps me stay focused and relaxed, and creates confidence. I would tell anyone to do the same if possible.”

FLY SOLO WITH SUPPORT Riding alone isn’t always easy. Maintaining a positive attitude is key. “Surround yourself with positive people, and if you fall down, pick yourself back up and start over,” Delisle says. In reality, even riders who go it alone have a support team. “Most of the blood, sweat and tears are mine, but I could not achieve my dream without a lot of co-pilots and ground crew. My family, especially my husband, friends, co-workers, clinicians and trainers, veterinarians, farrier, feed store staff and, most of all, my willing [horse] partners, ‘Bella’ and ‘Sandbox,’” Dobrovolsky says.

CHECK IT OFF WITH A CHECKLIST IN HAND, your trailer and horse show gear can stay organized and ready to haul. Personal Items: • Hat with pins • Show clothes (jeans, shirt, belt, chaps) • Toiletries • Boots and socks; spurs • Chargers for phone, etc. • Ice chest with water Horse & Trailer Items: • Saddle, saddle pad with saddle rack • Halter, bridles • Feed, buckets, hay and hay bag • Water hose, rake, manure bucket • Grooming supplies • Trailer tire block and hitch lock

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KATIE NAVARRA

FOCUS ON SHOW DAY Nerves can cause months of training to unravel. Both riders advise employing strategies that can put your mind at ease, allowing you to focus on the task at hand. Dobrovolsky says that organization soothes her nerves. “I’m at peace when I know I have all the things I need; there are no last-minute frantic searches for a safety pin or hay bag,” she says. “By maintaining organization, I can relax and focus on my horse.” She relies on a detailed checklist to keep her organized. “Dr. Amy Swinford [a fellow competitor] shared her list with me, and I’ve since expanded the list to include additional things that I don’t want to do without when I go to a show,” Dobrovolsky adds. Delisle says that hand-selecting turnback riders to help in ranch cutting keeps her calm.

Linda Delisle and “Cisco” have earned more than 1,400 ARHA points as of June 2017, and at time of print, have unofficially earned their Register of Merit with ARHA.

Ranch Horse News 25 7/19/17 8:38:06 AM


ROSS HECOX

Mozaun McKibben and Lil Ruf Catalyst have been partnered up since McKibben purchased the horse as a yearling in 2007. Today, Lil Ruf Catalyst is the all-time leading money earning horse in ranch versatility, and McKibben is the all-time leading open rider.

Chart Toppers

Notable riders, horses and breeders make a statistical impact in the rapidly growing versatility ranch horse arena. By Stephanie Duquette

T

HE KIND OF HORSE every versatility ranch competitor wants to ride is the total package. The horse handles the rankest cow, makes judges nod in approval as they plus its reining maneuvers, confronts trail obstacles with unflappable calm, works the end of a rope and turns heads in the ranch conformation class at the end of the day. Highly trained and thoroughly seasoned, the best versatility horses require patience, dedication, consistency and time. Those same principles went into building the versatility ranch horse discipline itself. From its early

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beginnings in the late 1990s with the fledgling Stock Horse of Texas events, the popular sport gained widespread appeal among the authentic, punchy horsemen and -women who ranch for a living. It has also attracted legions of riders who had found no reason to stray from their reined cow horse, cutting or reining show arenas; that is, until they discovered new ways to challenge themselves and their mounts through versatility ranch horse competition. As the sport has evolved to greater participation, larger payouts and a broader stage, the statistics have kept pace, tracking the

dynamic population of riders, horses and breeders, as well as the biggest events. The official numbers for these stories and charts are acquired from Equi-Stat, a division of Cowboy Publishing Group. Widely acknowledged as the official standard for recordkeeping and statistics in the cutting, reining, reined cow horse and barrel racing industries, Equi-Stat obtains its data directly from various breed and performance associations. Since 2004, Equi-Stat has tracked versatility ranch horse earnings from the American Quarter Horse Association, Stock Horse of Texas, Ranch Horse Association of America, American Stock Horse Association, American Ranch Horse Association and other selected versatility ranch horse events. The statistics include only versatility ranch horse earnings. Money earned in classes such as ranch cutting, ranch riding or ranch sorting that may have been a part of an association or club-level event are not included here. Ranch Horse News has used these statistics, which include earnings from 2004 through June 8, 2017, to compile these “lifetime� ranch versatility rankings. While they do not constitute official awards or designations, they add greater dimension and focus to the versatility ranch horse discipline.

View from the Top

Perennial chart-toppers Mozaun McKibben, a professional horseman from Whitesboro, Texas, and his enduring equine partner Lil Ruf Catalyst (Lil Ruf Peppy x Foxy Catalyst x Taris Catalyst) maintained their respective positions as No. 1 on the top open riders and the top horses lists. McKibben’s lifetime versatility ranch horse money totals $71,347, and nearly half of that money ($33,567) was earned with Lil Ruf Catalyst under his saddle. Together, this highly decorated team claimed the AQHA Versatility Ranch Horse Open World Championship in

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ROSS HECOX

ABOVE: Holly Major tops the list of lifetime leading non-pro riders, having won more than $19,000. Much of her success is due to three-time AQHA Versatility Ranch Horse World Champion Black Hope Stik. ROSS HECOX

LEFT: Dusty Burson and Paddys Prince compete at an AQHA Ranching Heritage Challenge in Billings, Montana. The pair won an AQHA World Championship in Open Versatility Ranch Horse this year, and the gelding is the highest earning horse of leading breeder and owner Burnett Ranches.

2011, 2012, 2013 and 2015. They won the SHTX Open All-Around World Championship in 2010, 2013 and 2014, and were the 2012 RHAA Open World Champions. Lil Ruf Catalyst was bred by Werner Hermus, Valley View, Texas, and is owned by McKibben’s wife, Sarah Anne McKibben. As successful as the pairing between McKibben and the 2006 stallion, nicknamed “Stud,” has been, it was not premeditated. “I stumbled on him,” McKibben recalls, describing how he purchased Lil Ruf Catalyst as a yearling through the 2007 Legacy Reining Breeder’s Sale. “I hadn’t looked at him ahead of time. They were leading him into the ring, and I thought, ‘What a pretty, soft-eyed, nicelooking horse.’ ” Admiration made McKibben’s hand go up. When the gavel fell, McKibben owned the colt in co-ownership, at the time, with Hillary Zimmerman. At first, McKibben’s intent was to start and sell Lil Ruf Catalyst at the 2009 National Reined Cow Horse Association Snaffle Bit Futurity Sale. “He didn’t sell. We started riding him after that, did some cow horse stuff on him when he

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was 3 and then started taking him to the versatility events,” McKibben says. His horseman’s instinct guided him well in selecting Lil Ruf Catalyst, who in turn, as a successful champion, helped McKibben establish a solid niche in the versatility ranch horse industry. With its many events, the versatility arena is a natural fit for the ranch-raised kid who never outgrew his desire for new challenges. “It kind of suits what I grew up with. I get bored pretty easily just doing one thing. I’m too quick-minded. I wouldn’t have made a good horse,” McKibben says, chuckling. “The versatility, I think, is the hardest thing there is in the whole Quarter Horse deal. What makes it hard is they have to be pretty and conformationally correct, where they can stand up in the halter. They have to cut a cow, run a reining pattern and slide 20 feet. They have to do the trail course and not booger at the obstacles.” Lil Ruf Catalyst has done all of the above and more during a long career untroubled by lameness, illness or injury. McKibben says the talented performer has never required more than good basic care.

“We never injected his hocks,” McKibben says. “We hardly ride him. He’s out in the pasture all day and we put him up at night. Before a show, we ride him for a few days and then go show him. He’s easy. He’s been a good horse.” The customary next move for a successful stallion is to the breeding shed, but quite the opposite path is in store for Lil Ruf Catalyst. The stallion has sired 32 AQHA-registered foals, a few of which have achieved modest versatility earnings. However, McKibben prefers riding prospects to raising them and wants his longtime equine partner to have the best possible quality of life. Bottom line: “Stud” will lose legitimate claim to his nickname. “I’m going to cut him because he lives kind of a lonely life as a stallion. His life will be better as a gelding. He can go be kicked out into the group and live with other geldings. It makes the most sense because the breeding deal isn’t for me,” McKibben says. His advice to an aspiring versatility ranch horse competitor who wants to find his own version of Lil Ruf Catalyst? Seek out trainability above all.

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$22,854 in lifetime earnings. Dusty Burson of Guthrie, Texas, guided Paddys Prince to the 2016 AQHA Zoetis Versatility Ranch Horse Open World Championship, and the gelding was also last year’s RHAA Junior World Champion, ridden by Burson. Second on the Burnett Ranches’ list of money-earners is the 2005 mare Western Sequel (Ikes Double Drift x Western Lena x Mr Sun O Lena), who is owned by Baru Forell and claims just over $13,000.

CAM ESSICK

Event Appeal

WR This Cats Smart, owned by Wagonhound Land & Livestock, is the leading sire of ranch versatility money-earners.

“The older I get, the more my ways have changed. I used to look for ones that were pretty to stand up in halter,” McKibben says. “I used to look for ones that were cowy and athletic. I’m not so big on that any more. I’m looking for a horse that is trainable. To me, a soft-eyed, kind expression is the sign of a trainable horse. It doesn’t matter how athletic they are. If you can’t train the darn things, you’re beating your head against the wall. “I used to want one that could get across there and drag his butt and turn around. We can train them to do that if they have any physical ability at all, but the attitude has to come first. They have to want to be trained.” Coming in at No. 2 on the lifetime open rider earnings list is professional horseman Mike Major of Bowie, Texas. Major’s career money in versatility ranch events is nearly $51,000. The veteran horseman found a winning formula and repeated it, as his top-two money-earning horses are full siblings, both bred by Kimberly Wilson of Las Animas, Colorado. Teamed up with the 2009 gelding Cowpony Express (CDS Boonolena x Roosters Note x Roosters Shorty), owned by Diamond JK Ranches/ Mayme Pierce of Cyril, Oklahoma, Major

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brought in nearly $19,000. His secondhighest money-earning horse is the 2011 full sibling, the mare Reata B Rejoicing. She helped Major achieve just over $11,000 in versatility ranch horse money for owner Jody Wilson Brooks of Lipan, Texas. On the top-earning horse side, the gelding Judys Ten (Ten O Sea x Crows Judy x Black Chick Gold) comes in behind Lil Ruf Catalyst with $25,510 in versatility ranch horse earnings. The 2006 gelding owned by Kim Lindsey of Dickens, Texas, was bred by Bill and Dana Smith of Spur, Texas. Lindsey and her son, Zinn Lindsey, whose life was tragically cut short in a 2012 car crash, both contributed to “Reno’s” successful show record.

Ranching Roots

Once again, Burnett Ranches LLC of Fort Worth, Texas, emerges as the leading breeder of money-earning versatility ranch mounts. Horses backed by the Burnett family’s famous Four Sixes Ranch breeding program, with more than 150 years of history in Guthrie, Texas, have earned $189,927 in the versatility arena. The top Burnett-bred horse is the 2010 gelding Paddys Prince (Playin Attraction x Cowgirl Paddy x Paddys Irish Whiskey), with

Growth in entries and participation naturally leads to growth in added money and payouts. According to the Equi-Stat numbers, all those categories are steadily on the rise in the versatility ranch horse scene. The juiciest paychecks were found at two AQHA events produced in tandem with each other. Boasting the biggest payout at $63,753 and the largest number of competitors entered (931) was the AQHA Versatility Ranch Horse World Championships, held March 25, 2017, in Houston, Texas. That payout is up from the previous year’s $50,666. The companion show to the World Championships was the AQHA Zoetis Ranching Heritage Challenge on March 26, 2017, held in conjunction with the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo. A field of 121 entries ran at a total payout of just over $55,000. Third on the list and not far behind was the Pitzer Ranch Horse Invitational, held in September of 2016 in Ericson, Nebraska. A total of 367 entries vied for their share of the $53,450 total payout, of which $18,200 was added money.

All-Time Leaders in Ranch Competition

Equi-Stat, a division of Cowboy Publishing Group, tracks the show results of numerous Western performance horse events, including ranch horse competitions. These figures are based on results submitted to Equi-Stat and indicate lifetime earnings of horses, riders, breeders, owners, sires and dams. Statistics include ranch-type events with a versatility/all-around component. What comprises a versatility ranch horse competition varies with different associations and events. Ranch Horse News leaves the reins in the hands of associations and competitors to determine what format best displays a versatile ranch horse.

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7/19/17 8:35:20 AM


TOP SHOWS 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Name Entries Purse AQHA Versatility Ranch Horse World Championships (2017) ..............................................................................931 ............................................... $63,753 AQHA Ranching Heritage Challenge – Houston, TX (2017) ................................................................................. 134 .............................................$55,050 Pitzer Ranch Horse Invitational (2016) ....................................................................................................................367 ..............................................$53,450 AQHA Versatility Ranch Horse World Championships (2016)............................................................................ 508 .............................................$50,065 Stock Horse of Texas World Championship, Derby & Futurity (2014) ................................................................ 319 .............................................. $32,525 Stock Horse of Texas World Championship, Derby & Futurity (2013) ............................................................... 405 ..............................................$32,023 Stock Horse of Texas World Championship, Derby & Futurity (2015) ................................................................364 ...............................................$31,632 AQHA Versatility Ranch Horse World Championships (2015)..............................................................................157 .............................................$28,600 AQHA Ranching Heritage Challenge – Fort Worth, TX (2015)..............................................................................125 ..............................................$27,660 AQHA Ranching Heritage Challenge – Fort Worth, TX (2013) ...............................................................................75 ...............................................$26,250

TOP HORSES 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Name Owner Location Earnings Lil Ruf Catalyst ..............................Sarah Anne McKibben ......................Whitesboro, TX .......................................................................................... $37,277 Judys Ten ........................................Kim Lindsey.........................................Dickens, TX..................................................................................................$25,510 Paddys Prince.................................Burnett Ranches LLC .........................Fort Worth, TX...........................................................................................$22,854 Greyt Socks ...................................Thomas Hicks .....................................Hawley, TX .................................................................................................$20,275 Josephs Catchum All....................Jimbo Humphreys ..............................Dickens, TX..................................................................................................$19,345 Quigley Dun Under.......................Stephani Wagley ................................Abilene, TX ..................................................................................................$19,250 Cowpony Express ........................Diamond JK Ranches .........................Cyril, OK...................................................................................................... $19,083 Boots Be Tuff .................................Ashton Dunkel ...................................Archer City, TX ............................................................................................$18,592 Show Me A River...........................Rodney Doggett .................................Stapleton, NE ............................................................................................. $17,258 Lees Doc O Sunrise .......................Bryan & Christine Lee ........................North Platte, NE.........................................................................................$17,508

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Ranch Horse News 29 7/20/17 10:19:53 AM 7/14/17 5:57:19 PM


TOP OPEN RIDERS 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Name Location Earnings Mozaun McKibben........................ Whitesboro, TX ........................................................................................................................................................$71,347 Mike Major ..................................... Bowie, TX .................................................................................................................................................................$50,635 Tripp Townsend ............................. Earth, TX...................................................................................................................................................................$50,234 Ben Baldus ..................................... Bowie, TX .................................................................................................................................................................$43,750 Fielding (Bozo) Rogers.................. Gainesville, TX .........................................................................................................................................................$43,637 Dusty Burson ................................. Guthrie, TX................................................................................................................................................................$42,491 Matt Koch ...................................... Ault, CO ....................................................................................................................................................................$35,701 True Burson .................................... Guthrie, TX................................................................................................................................................................$29,321 Boyd Rice ........................................ Weatherford, TX .......................................................................................................................................................$21,217 Will Wallendorff............................ Guthrie, TX............................................................................................................................................................... $21,085

TOP NON-PRO RIDERS 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Name Location Earnings Holly Major .....................................Bowie, TX .................................................................................................................................................................... $19,113 Jecca Ostrander..............................Gordon, NE............................................................................................................................................................... $18,369 Kim Lindsey ....................................Dickens, TX ................................................................................................................................................................$16,326 Bryan Lee ........................................North Platte, NE .......................................................................................................................................................$14,676 Baru Forell ......................................Wingate, TX.............................................................................................................................................................. $13,209 Stefani Wagley ...............................Abilene, TX ................................................................................................................................................................$11,949 William Lewis .................................Anderson, TX ............................................................................................................................................................$10,279 Thomas Hicks.................................Hawley, TX................................................................................................................................................................. $9,840 Rhoda Rein......................................Watkins, CO ...............................................................................................................................................................$8,786 Myles Brown ..................................Stinnett, TX ................................................................................................................................................................$8,240

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TOP BREEDERS 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Name Location Earnings Burnett Ranches LLC ......................................Fort Worth, TX.................................................................................................................................... $189,928 W.T. Waggoner Estate ....................................Vernon, TX..............................................................................................................................................$92,201 Spur Ranch.......................................................Spur, TX.................................................................................................................................................. $91,863 Wagonhound Land & Livestock ...................Douglas, WY ........................................................................................................................................ $55,805 Tongue River Ranch .......................................Paducah, TX ..........................................................................................................................................$40,941 Werner & Linda Hermus ................................Valley View, TX.......................................................................................................................................$37,277 Pitzer Ranch ....................................................Ericson, NE ............................................................................................................................................$33,406 Mike & Holly Major.........................................Bowie, TX...............................................................................................................................................$30,928 Kimberley Wilson............................................Las Animas, CO .....................................................................................................................................$30,147 Kit & Charles Moncrief...................................Fort Worth, TX......................................................................................................................................$28,042

TOP OWNERS 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Name Location Earnings Burnett Ranches LLC.......................................Fort Worth, TX .....................................................................................................................................$126,043 Mozaun McKibben & Hillary Zimmerman.. Whitesboro, TX..................................................................................................................................... $58,996 Wes & Sarah Williams ....................................Rhome, TX.............................................................................................................................................. $43,742 W.T. Waggoner Estate .....................................Vernon, TX ............................................................................................................................................... $38,511 Wagonhound Land & Livestock ...................Douglas, WY ..........................................................................................................................................$38,074 Mike & Holly Major .........................................Bowie, TX................................................................................................................................................ $37,829 Jimbo Humphreys ...........................................Spur, TX....................................................................................................................................................$33,136 Tongue River Ranch ........................................Paducah, TX .......................................................................................................................................... $32,400 Tripp Townsend................................................Earth, TX ................................................................................................................................................. $31,998 Kim Lindsey ......................................................Dickens, TX.............................................................................................................................................$29,058

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Ranch Horse News 31 7/20/17 10:26:10 AM 7/14/17 5:57:19 PM


TOP SIRES 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10.

Horse # Performers Earnings WR This Cats Smart ..................................................19....................................................................................................................................................$42,078 Playin Attraction..........................................................7..................................................................................................................................................... $39,731 Lil Ruf Peppy ................................................................ 4....................................................................................................................................................$38,578 Woody Be Tuff............................................................. 3.....................................................................................................................................................$35,763 Ten O Sea ..................................................................... 8....................................................................................................................................................$35,590 Playin Stylish ..............................................................16.................................................................................................................................................... $34,225 Playgun........................................................................17.....................................................................................................................................................$34,182 Show Me A Song Joes .................................................7....................................................................................................................................................$33,368 Pepcid ..........................................................................14.....................................................................................................................................................$31,039 Paddys Irish Whiskey .................................................18....................................................................................................................................................$30,832

TOP DAMS 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10.

Horse # Performers Earnings Foxy Catalyst ...............................................................1.....................................................................................................................................................$37,277 Roosters Note ............................................................ 2.....................................................................................................................................................$30,147 Crows Judy ...................................................................1.....................................................................................................................................................$25,510 Cowgirl Paddy ............................................................. 2.....................................................................................................................................................$25,148 Hope Stik .....................................................................4.....................................................................................................................................................$23,514 Frosty Bo Socks ...........................................................1....................................................................................................................................................$20,275 Watch This Sunrise .................................................... 2.....................................................................................................................................................$20,167 Olenas Magpie ............................................................1.....................................................................................................................................................$19,345 Willy N Tivio Babe .......................................................1.....................................................................................................................................................$19,250 Pretty Poco Boots........................................................1.....................................................................................................................................................$18,592

I’m not coming out

until you get me a

what are you

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waiting for!

ADVERTISER INDEX Advertiser PG Wagon Wheel Ranch ...............................................................C2 Soft Ride Boots ...........................................................................C3 Martin Saddlery..........................................................................C4 Tru-Test ............................................................................................. 3 Western Horseman ..............................................................5, 11 Olathe Boot Co. ............................................................................ 7 Double Diamond Halter Co..................................................... 9 JT International Dist., Tough1...............................................10 5 Star Equine Products..............................................................15 Dennis Moreland Tack .............................................................17 K Bar J Leather Co. .....................................................................18 Van Norman & Friends ............................................................18 Standlee Forage............................................................................19 Carter Ranch Horse...................................................................29 Stock Horse of Texas..................................................................29 Ken Raye’s Custom Saddlery .................................................30 Jacob’s Properties.........................................................................30 Phil Haugen Performance Horses........................................31 American Stock Horse Association.....................................31 Hoof Jack ........................................................................................32

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7/14/17 2:52:06 7/18/17 8:45:48 PM AM


G R E E N V I L L E • T E X A S

The Wade design was inspired by California vaqueros many years ago. Its classic style is highly traditional, time tested and ranch cowboy proven. Well known for its comfort for long days in the saddle.

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1/17/17 2:49:34 7/18/17 1:36:55 PM

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