A Finals to Remember at the 2019 NRHA Futurity

After a bizarre scenario left Luca Fappani and his mount Gotta Get Diamonds with a re-ride, Fappani kept his cool during his NRHA Futurity debut to win NRHA CINCH Level 2 and Youth Non Pro Futurity titles, while also claiming the L4 and L3 reserve championships.

By Nichole Chirico; Photos by Waltenberry

After an exciting finals, which involved a re-ride and a runoff, Luca Fappani was able to keep his composure and claim the L2 and Youth titles at his first NRHA CINCH Non Pro Futurity.

Luca Fappani had always dreamed about competing at the NRHA Futurity, wanting to follow in the footsteps of both his dad, Andrea, and mom, Tish, who’ve both won multiple Futurity championships in their respective divisions. However, the 15-year-old had no idea what he was in for when he entered the show pen to compete in his first Level 4 Futurity finals, but he walked away with an experience he’ll never forget.

The Doggone Finals

As Luca headed through the Gateway of Champions aboard Gotta Get Diamonds, he wasn’t sure what
would happen in his first finals, but it never crossed his mind he’d end up with an unexpected guest in the arena with him. 

The excitement first started as Luca completed his first set of circles and was headed to the opposite end of the pen when a young border collie named Brady—who’d escaped from his stalls—sprung into the arena from the stands and joined Luca in his pattern.

As the bizarre scenario unfolded, Luca continued to show his horse—dog in tandem—but as he came back to the center of the pen, he noticed the dog getting closer to him. To avoid a mishap that could leave him, his horse, and the loose dog severely injured, Luca made the decision to pull up.  

“I just remember seeing a dog in the middle of the arena and thinking ‘This can’t be happening,’” Luca shared. “I was determined to keep going and put together a great pattern, but once I noticed the dog getting closer to my horse, I decided to stop.”  

Re-Rides and Runoffs

Once safely out of the arena, it was decided there would be a re-ride at the end of the second section, giving Luca only nine horses to prepare for yet another run. 

“I didn’t want to let what happened in my first ride affect my next one,” he explained. “When I got out of the arena, I watched the half of the first run that I had and figured out what I could improve on in my next ride.”

Tish—who beamed with pride talking about her son—was so impressed with how well Luca handled everything that was thrown at him. 

“Luca was amazing throughout the night and handled the pressure so well,” she shared. “He regrouped himself, and immediately got focused for his next ride.”

Once Luca completed his second run of the night, this time dog-free, he ended up with a score of 220, meaning he would claim the L2 and Youth Futurity titles and tie Jesse Asmussen for the lead in the L4 and L3 divisions. Luca and his horse would once again have to go back into the arena—this time in the runoff for first place. 

With only a few minutes to prepare for the runoff, Luca gave his horse some water, briefly touched a few buttons, and then let his horse do the rest. 

“I knew a 220 was probably the max I could get on my horse after already riding one-and-half patterns, so my goal going into the runoff was to let my horse do what he did previously and put my hand down and let the judges mark me,” he explained.

By the end of the night, Luca Fappani and Gotta Get Diamonds had performed two-and-a-half reining patterns and took home $56,910 in earnings.

Reaching Goals

While Andrea has been part of Gotta Get Diamonds’ show career from the start, it wasn’t until October when the family purchased the 3-year-old by NRHA Two Million Dollar Sire Spooks Gotta Whiz and out of Tinker With Diamonds from Rancho Oso Rio. 

But the two connected quickly and with Luca’s L2 and Youth wins at the Futurity, Gotta Get Diamonds would also help Luca reach his ultimate goal of crossing the $200,000-earning mark for the year and claiming the title of highest-earning non pro for 2019.

“Last year, I started showing in the money-earning events, and barely made the top 20,” he shared. “I got a taste for it, and in 2019 my goal was originally to be the highest money-earner. About halfway through the year I was around the $100,000 mark and decided I wanted to try and reach $200,000. I knew that Gotta Get Diamonds was capable of helping me.” 

Between claiming a win at his first Futurity and becoming the highest-earning non pro, it’s safe to say that 2019 was a year that Luca Fappani will never forget. 

Fit Tips to Help You Feel Your Best at Horse Shows

Increase your energy using these fit tips so you can stay strong and feel your best through long horse shows.

By Kelly Altschwager, With Nichole Chirico; Photos by Nichole Chirico

When you’re in the saddle, pay attention to what your body is trying to tell you. If parts of your body feel tight or unbalanced, take extra time to stretch.

Reining competitions can last anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks, and when it comes to being at a show for an extended period of time, you need to provide energy to your body so you can perform at your best. While these tips are designed with horse shows in mind, they’re also great to practice at home so long days at the barn become a breeze.

Stay well rested. As basic as it sounds, it’s important to give your body a chance to rest when you can. If you have to ride in the middle of the night, adjust your schedule to ensure that you get some sleep, even if it’s just a 20-minute nap. If you struggle with sleeping, try melatonin before bed.

Drink plenty of water. When you’re busy at a show, it’s easy to get dehydrated. Water regulates your body temperature, improves sleep, and helps with digestion. Staying hydrated increases your body’s energy and keeps you firing on all cylinders. 

Meal prep. Avoid filling yourself with processed, greasy concession-stand food that leaves you feeling tired. Bring foods that fuel your body, including pre-cooked chicken, low-sodium lunch meat, canned tuna, string cheese, salads, hard-boiled eggs, and fresh veggies and fruit. 

Keep moving. Take 15 minutes to get blood pumping through your body and increase oxygen flow. Go for a run, do some jumping jacks, stretch, or do this quick high-intensity interval training (HIIT) exercise. 

  • High knees: Stand with your feet hip-width apart and lift your left leg to your chest, then switch to your right leg and continue the movement by alternating your legs and moving at a running pace. 
  • Burpees: Begin standing and move into a squat with your hands touching the ground. Kick your feet back into plank position while keeping your arms extended and perform a push-up. Return your feet to squat position and drive forward with your glutes as you stand. For a modified version, keep your stance wide (like you would for a sumo squat) and skip the push-up when in position.
  • Mountain climbers: Start in push-up position and pull your left knee into your chest. Keep your abs tight as you drive through with your glutes to maintain the correct push-up (or plank) position. Quickly switch legs pulling your right knee in as your left leg goes back to your start position. Move your feet as fast as you can without compromising your plank position.

Do each exercise for 30 seconds to one minute in succession and then rest for 30 seconds to one minute. Depending on the amount of time you have, do three to five rounds. 

Listen to your body. Anytime you’re in the saddle, pay attention to what your body is trying to tell you. If you feel any imbalances, adjust your plan accordingly. For example, if your hips and quads feel tight, work on stretching your hip flexors and quads before you ride again.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kelly Altschwager, Wellington, Colorado, is an ACE-certified personal trainer and nutrition specialist; PiYo instructor; fitness expert at Fitness1 Club Wellington; and owns and operates Western Workouts, a personal-training service geared toward helping the busy horseperson. Learn more at  westernworkouts.com.

Find Your Next Reining Prospect

Find your next reining prospect with tips from horse-shopping experts Nathan Piper, Gabe Hutchins, and Shannon Quinlan.

Article and Photos by Abigail Boatwright

Before you purchase a prospect, do your research to make sure you’re making an informed decision. Three NRHA Professionals offer their advice for navigating the process.

Find your next reining prospect and start your journey with a new horse using these tips from the experts. There’s seemingly endless potential for greatness yet untapped in any young horse embarking on a quest to what could be futurity fame, derby titles, or a career as a weekend warrior. To increase your chances of finding the right prospect to achieve your goals, we asked three trainers to weigh in on what they look for—and where.

Why Choose a Prospect? 

If you want to take a horse to the NRHA Futurity, buying a finished horse at that level can be quite expensive, says NRHA professional Nathan Piper. Choosing to invest in a prospect is a riskier decision, but one with more potential on the upside.

“You don’t know how a prospect is going to turn out,” Piper said. “But you have the opportunity to use less funds to buy a prospect, and if you find a good one, there’s an opportunity to have a great horse to show or sell, and you can end up making money.”

It’s important to determine and plan your goals before going horse hunting, Piper says. Your desired outcome helps you decide your budget and the level of horse you’re looking for.

NRHA Professional Shannon Quinlan said one of the biggest benefits of buying a prospect is the possibility of success on a smaller budget.

“If you spend your money smart, you might come out ahead because you’re not paying the finished-horse price,” Quinlan said. “And you get to choose who starts and finishes the horse, and that’s big for some people.”

Developing a Wish List

Piper prefers a good track record on the dam’s side along with a great sire.

“I really look for one where the mother has produced [offspring] that have earned more than $100,000,” Piper said. “You can buy some reasonably priced horses in that range. Having a great bottom side helps our chances of success. If the mother has produced a lot and the father has produced a lot, the odds are, we’re going to have one that’s more successful.”

With conformation, Piper wants a horse that’s functionally built and attractive.

“I love a pretty-necked horse with a big, soft eye,” Piper said. “I want to watch the horse carry his neck level and low. That makes my job easier, when the horse naturally has good head carriage, because that’s often followed with carrying his shoulders and body well. I also want straight legs, and for me, I like a shorter, athletic build.” 

Temperament-wise, Piper looks for a level-headed horse, even when considering a stallion.

“If I find one that’s attractive that I like, and if he’s acting studdy, he’s going to have to really convince me that he’s the one,” Piper said. “I try to stay away from a horse like that, or a horse that runs to the back of the stall and pins his ears. I want to see one that has good muscle development and a good haircoat—I want to make sure the horse is the whole package.”

When looking for a non pro horse, Piper wants one with quite a bit more riding on it, so the non pro can test-ride the prospect.

“I want the non pro to ride that horse and feel if it’s a fit,” Piper said. “I want the non pro to love the horse. Ultimately, they’ll make the choice to go with what feels right to them.”

NRHA Professional Gabe Hutchins looks at the horse’s mental capacity first and foremost.

“I want to know that the horse’s mind and brain are going to make him a horse that wants to be on my team,” Hutchins said. “With as good as the reining is today, and as good as we’re breeding our horses, it’s very rare to find a horse that doesn’t stop and turn. The breeding is getting better and better all the time, so when you try to set yourself apart at a competitive level, you need a horse with a good mind.”

Conformation and the way the horse moves are also top priorities for Hutchins, because he’s building a breeding program at Tamarack Ranch and wants it based on well-built horses.

“The way our shows have progressed in the last five years, the degree of difficulty is where it’s at,” Hutchins said. “In the reining, if a horse isn’t a good mover, it’s going to be hard to be competitive.”

Talk to the prospect’s handler for an idea of how the youngster does in day-to-day routines—this can lend valuable insight on the horse’s mind.

Bloodlines are part of why modern reiners have good movement and conformation, Hutchins says. He sees good bloodlines as key to the quality of the next set of horses coming up in five to 10 years.

Quinlan says it’s important to determine your horse’s purpose before you start looking—are you buying a prospect to train and resell? A yearling to sell as a 2-year-old? Are you looking for a show horse, and will it be an open horse or a non pro horse?

“As I’m looking for an open rider or a non pro, I look for a set of bloodlines that fit my program and my style, based on bloodlines that have worked for my program in the past,” Quinlan said.

She wants a modern set of papers: a stallion that’s hot at the moment and has produced a lot of winners. She also looks at full siblings, their accomplishments, and the training programs that they worked well under. She’s interested in other crosses with that pair and the mare’s percentage of money-earning offspring. However, Quinlan says pedigree isn’t everything when looking at a prospect.

“You need to take the individual prospect that you’re looking at into account as well,” she said. “Not every horse matches his set of papers. You need to look at the individual horse, too. But for resale, papers are huge, especially if it’s a mare.” 

Conformation is also important to Quinlan, particularly a low hock set, low tail set, short back, and low neckline.  

“You want a horse that’s built to do his job and one whose body makes it easy,” Quinlan said. “A horse that’s built right is going to be healthier. If his legs aren’t straight, or he’s not built for the job, he’s more apt to get hurt.”

Quinlan also looks for a horse that’s a good mover—specifically, one that picks up his leads consistently. 

“If he’s good-leaded, that’s helpful for a non pro horse,” Quinlan said. “A lot of people get in trouble with lead changes, so that’s important.”

Red Flags

All three sources agree: There are signposts that tell you when a horse isn’t right for you or for reining.

“I’ve made the mistake in the past of thinking that I could feed the prospect and he’s going to bulk up and look more mature,” Piper said about assuming a horse will gain size and muscle. “The horse will obviously grow and change, but don’t think you can make a horse big, strong, and fat if he’s on the lighter side.”

Hutchins emphasizes that the rider and the horse need to be able to work together. If the horse doesn’t want to be part of your team, you can’t force it. He’s also picky about clean radiographs.

“When I look at prospects, I’m not looking at a horse that’s just going to be a futurity horse,” Hutchins said. “I’m looking at a horse to be a futurity horse and a derby horse, and when he ages out of the derbies, he’s going to be an ancillary horse. So to me, those radiographs are important so the horse can hopefully go for the long haul.”

Looking at videos of prospects, Quinlan watches out for a horse that seems like he’s struggling through his paces, or has a hard time picking up his leads. She also rules out horses that lack conformation suitable for reining.

“If a horse isn’t built to do it, you’ll constantly fight it in your training,” Quinlan said.  

Before horse shopping at a sale, spend time educating yourself by studying the sale catalog, pedigrees, and videos.

When to Look

Purchase timing can be everything. Piper says if you want an open rider to show your horse, you may want to purchase earlier when you can get the most bang for your buck.

“With a smaller budget, I may look for a yearling or early 2-year-old prospect,” he said. “If you wait to buy a prospect at the end of his 2-year-old year, a L4 prospect will be very expensive, but you’re gambling less because you can sit on him and try him out. You’ll know how he spins and stops, and you’ll have a better idea of what you’re purchasing.”

Hutchins said if you’re looking for a yearling, you’ll be working with more unknown factors. But there are pluses to starting young. 

“You’ll need to do all your homework with a yearling,” Hutchins said. “You don’t know as much as you would with a 2-year-old. But the nicer thing about buying a yearling is that if he’s unstarted, you’ll know everything he’s done from the time he’s started to the time he goes to the show pen.”

Hutchins starts looking for prospects—yearlings and 2-year-olds—in the fall leading up to the NRHA Futurity. He does this for several reasons. With a yearling, there’s the least amount of cost in the horse, because he’ll often start training in January. For a 2-year-old, the horse is farther along in his training at that point versus earlier in the year.

Where to Look

Piper likes to purchase prospects from familiar families of horses, where he knows the people selling the horse, has purchased from them before, or has ridden full siblings of that horse. If he’s unfamiliar with a horse or its pedigree, Piper reaches out to friends in the reining community for info on the dam or a sibling’s personality, buttons, and style to see if it’s a horse he might get along with. Most of the purchases Piper facilitates are private, within his network in North Texas.

Hutchins says if he goes to a horse sale, he does a lot of homework beforehand.

“Look through the sale catalog; look at the black type and the pedigrees. I’ll watch any videos available—over and over again,” Hutchins said. “I’ll make a long list, and a short list—and then a real short list.”

From that short list, he makes calls to the people who are fitting the horses to get a feel for each prospect’s ground manners and personality. Over the years, Hutchins has developed relationships with horse fitters, so he knows he can depend on their perspective on a horse’s mindset.

“I want to know how the horse is every day when he gets out of his stall, and when you put him in the wash rack, for example,” Hutchins said. “It might sound silly, but that’s the daily regimen of what the horse does. That daily regimen is going to turn into his training every day. And if he’s the kind of horse that pins his ears when you go in his stall and doesn’t want you to put a halter on him, then I really don’t want that one.”

Hutchins also looks at radiographs, which many sales offer, and discusses them with his veterinarian. If possible, Hutchins looks over prospects in person several times before the actual sale begins to see how the horse behaves in and out of the stall.

“I really try to get to know these horses as much as I can before I decide if I’m going to buy one in a sale,” Hutchins said.

Quinlan says the rise of social media makes finding good horses on those platforms even easier. 

She also finds horse sales helpful, due to the ready access to more than one prospect in one location, at one time. She looks at the sale catalog for pedigree info, and then logs on to nrha.com to dig into records, other crosses on the mare, and additional info.  She’ll peruse videos of prospects, paying attention to how each one moves, their strengths, and where they are in the training process. She also talks to people who may have ridden the dam, sire, or full siblings about their experiences.

“Going into a sale with a game plan and having professional help is huge,” Quinlan said. “Bring a trusted professional you’ve worked with to help you pick one out.”

Vet Checks

All three experts said a prepurchase exam and radiographs are important before making a decision on a prospect. Piper relies on the guidance of his veterinarian to anticipate if a horse’s maintenance requirements will be extensive and how the horse could possibly re-sell.

A prepurchase exam provides important medical information to help you make a good buying decision now and identify selling potential in the horse’s future.

“The vet check is important for resale,” Piper explained. “We want to go in knowing if there are issues that could prevent selling that horse in the future.”

Hutchins feels a vet check is a crucial step, but says a perfect evaluation is not the goal.

“A vet check is more or less for me to find out if the horse has issues that the veterinarian thinks will be a problem; if they’re things that can be managed or not,” Hutchins said. 

Quinlan encourages owners to take horses to be checked out by a veterinarian to make sure there are no issues that need to be addressed before training. 

Final Thoughts

Piper feels that, when making the final decision to purchase a chosen prospect, it’s valuable to have the whole team on the same page. He finds that a final consult with the clients buying the horse and his wife, Jean, help to ensure that no red flags are being overlooked and that everyone is excited about the purchase and on board.

“Buying a prospect is definitely a game of odds,” Piper said. “You’re trying to alleviate as many risks as you can by doing your homework and trying to hedge your bets for the best possible outcome.”

Hutchins said if you’re going to buy a prospect for a trainer to work with, it’s a good idea to ask the trainer’s opinion before purchasing the horse.

“A lot of times the communication between the trainer and owner aren’t clear enough,” Hutchins said. “You need to be clear about what you want to do with the horse, and make sure the horse fits the training program where that horse will be sent. There will always be a horse out there that will fit what you’re looking for. You just have to be patient.”

ABOUT THE EXPERTS

Nathan Piper, Pilot Point, Texas, is the owner of Nathan Piper Reining Horses, LLC, which is located at Toyon Ranch. He has finished in the top five at both the NRHA Futurity and Derby.

Shannon Quinlan, Sharpsville, Pennsylvania, and her husband Vincienzo Santos operate iSlide Performance Horses. She’s an NRHA world and reserve world champion and a four-time All American Quarter Horse Congress champion.

Gabe Hutchins, Joseph, Oregon, trains out of Tamarack Ranch. He’s been a finalist at all major NRHA events and was reserve in the 2007 NRHA Futurity Intermediate Open.

Why I Rein­: Ric Keele, Spanish Fork, Utah

Ric Keele has worked hard at being the best he can be and enjoying every minute with his reiners. Keele has won a considerable number of awards in a short time, jumping from competing in rookie and limited non pro ancillary classes to earning top spots in just one year.

As Told to  Wendy Lind

Man rides a red horse in a sliding stop
“What I love about reining is that almost anything can happen, even if you’re on the best horse.” –Ric Keele

How long have horses been a part of your life?

I grew up around horses, in large part because of my grandfather. My father wasn’t really into horses, but my grandfather raised and supplied remount horses to the US Army. They were largely a cross of drafts and Thoroughbreds. 

When I was 9 years old, my grandfather gave me an untrained mare and said if I got her trained, I could have her. He stuck me on her; ponied us around while he was riding another horse; and before too long, just let me loose. I rode that mare about every day for four years. 

I was really lucky to have my grandfather give that mare to me. I just loved riding. As I grew up, I felt like I wasn’t a good enough rider to be competitive, so I started showing halter horses. Overall, I’ve won 31 world and reserve world championships in halter competition in AQHA, APHA, and PtHA shows. 

How did you get into reining?

I started helping [NRHA Professional] Nathan Ivie manage his breeding program. One day he let me cool out one of his reiners. Then he told me to spin him, and I was pretty much hooked! I was always intrigued by reining, but I didn’t think I was a good enough to ride a reining horse. Once I got that chance to ride a good reining horse and see how cool it is, I jumped in with both feet. I bought some reining horses, and less than a year later I was showing. At my first show—the Reining by the Bay—I won a saddle riding Moonshine N Juice, a stallion I leased from Nathan. 

Are you a competitive person?

Yes. However, in terms of reining,
it’s about being competitive with myself; I’m always trying to be
better than the last time I showed. Part of that is setting goals for myself—sometimes daily, sometimes for a run at a show, or even long-term. Nathan and I recently sat down and outlined my goals for 2020. What I love about reining is that almost anything can happen, even if you’re on the best horse. 

Do you have any especially meaningful reining memories?

I actually have a lot of great reining memories, including making the L1 non pro derby finals at the 2019 NRBC in Katy, Texas. 

I’ll always love conformation horses, but when I showed halter horses, there wasn’t the degree of camaraderie that there is in reining, and I really enjoy that.

Do you have a favorite maneuver?

To be honest, it depends on the
horse I happen to be riding. If I’m riding a good turner, it’s pretty awesome to do spins. If I’m on a
really good-circling horse or a great stopper, then those maneuvers are my favorite. 

One thing I’d like to point out, however, is that I hope our industry begins highlighting freestyle reining a little more. With the costumes, music, and a good reining horse, freestyle reining really attracts people who might not have otherwise [been interested]. You still do all the maneuvers, but going out there and doing them in a different way really has helped me just relax and work on my nerves in a different scenario. The same goes for our horses—there probably isn’t a better way to school than to do a freestyle pattern! 

Make Every Show Worth Your Money

Before you sign the entry check, ensure you have all your questions answered so you can get the most out of every dollar at your next horse show.

By Megan Arszman, Photos by Kaycie Timm

The process of entering a show can stir many emotions in even the most experienced exhibitor. Maybe you start excited, but that can turn to uncertainty as you go through the process, which in turn can affect your sanity and memory for entering the right classes and being able to enjoy that particular show. 

Woman in show office types on computer
Focus your energy on competing instead of getting anxious about entries. It’s possible with this advice.

That said, you want to ensure that you get your money’s worth at each show. So, how do you make sure a particular event is worth your time and money? Keep these considerations in mind when making your choices.

Consider Your Level

Amanda Brumley and her Brumley Event Management team has handled NRHA events of all sizes and prestige, notably the successful Run for a Million in Las Vegas last year. She advises that you consider your level when looking at what shows to enter in 2020—are you still trying to get experience in the show pen, or do you want to push yourself by stepping up?

“If you’re getting your foot in the door and becoming comfortable in the show pen, the best place to go is one of your local affiliate shows,” Brumley advises. “[Many] affiliate shows have good ground and quality management that can give you a good experience off the bat without a lot of pressure or expense.” 

Most times your local affiliate shows are a great way to get some in-ring training (for you or your horse) and get a feel for showing a reiner, hopefully with some success, without costing an arm and a leg. (See the next point to manage costs.) 

Look at Your Budget

Your budget is likely one of the key—if not the main—parameters for showing your horse. While exhibiting at a show under the bright lights of Las Vegas might get you excited, it might not be the best fit when you have to cover all the expenses to show in one or two classes. Instead, use those prestigious events as a motivational goal and work toward that as you gain experience and knowledge.

Once you identify the shows within your area and price range, see what levels they offer, so you can get as much bang for the entry fee as possible. If the show also hosts breed association classes, paid warmups, or even a free clinic or seminar, it’ll allow you to do more with your time off work and away from home. 

Remember Your Eligibility

One issue entrants often have during the first shows of the year is eligibility. Before you start entering, be sure you know your level and which classes you’re eligible for as well as your horse’s eligibility in terms of levels and classes. 

“That is a big one,” Brumley says. “We see this at the Cactus Classic a lot, and the riders don’t do it intentionally. It could be like two 

dollars that they’re out [of a level]. But, make sure you know you’re eligible for each of those divisions that you enter.” 

Brumley points out that there are still moments of questioning eligibility through the first half of the year, especially if you purchase a new horse. 

“It’s not the responsibility of the show staff to say who’s eligible for what; that’s your responsibility,” Brumley points out.

Put Yourself First

When you’re selecting shows to attend, there should be one big consideration: You. 

Look at individual shows and what they have to offer, closely examine your show budget, know what expenses you can and cannot afford, and know your expectations for each show you plan to attend. 

Now that you’ve made all these considerations, it’s time to make sure you’re entry- booth ready, making sure everything is smooth, including your pattern.

Be Entry Booth-Ready

Brumley and her staff have processed thousands of entries and seen it all, from the over-prepared showman to someone who’s completely spaced every detail. 

“I think it even starts before the entry point, when you’re coming to a show,” she says. “If you’re leaving the state, you need to make sure you have your health papers and updated Coggins that’s correct and up to date for that state and horse-show requirements.” 

Have a paper trail. Organize a binder with your horse’s veterinarian papers, copies of registration and competition licenses, and association membership cards. Brumley recommends carrying copies instead of originals for all documents in case they’re lost. 

“We don’t require the originals,” she points out. “And, if we’re not co-hosting a breed show, we won’t require you to have the breed papers, just a copy of the competition license.”

Boxes full of folders with paperwork
Keep your original paperwork organized and safe at home. Copies suffice in almost all cases for show management needs.

Don’t get in a panic if you’ve purchased a new horse and still need to send a transfer before heading to the show. Thanks to a recent rule change, show secretaries can make changes to the owners on competition licenses, and they can take new memberships. 

“That has helped tremendously,” Brumley says. “Show secretaries can make the change on the competition license, but that’s one time we’ll need to have the originals so we can submit the originals with the transfer to NRHA.”

There’s no additional fee on the horse-show side of it; it’s the same price as if you went through NRHA. 

Don’t forget about submitting your tax information. The show secretary is responsible for sending 1099 forms for all the earnings from each show, and if they don’t have your tax identification number, they can’t send the tax form. Without the tax form, you can’t get your money. 

“It’s the owner’s and exhibitor’s responsibilities to be accountable for themselves to get the tax forms back to the show secretary so the forms can be submitted,” Brumley says. “It’s not the show management’s responsibility to chase you down to get your tax information—you send it in with your entries.”

Ask questions. There’s never a stupid question, and show secretaries want you to know that it’s OK to come into the office and ask questions. 

“When we have new people in the show office, they need to understand that just because they don’t know and they haven’t experienced it before, it doesn’t mean we won’t help them,” Brumley offers. “My staff is always ready to help with the entry form, stall form, etc. People should never feel that they’re asking stupid questions just because they don’t understand or don’t know because they’re new to the sport.” 

Confirmation is comfort. To avoid frustration, Brumley suggests that when you come into the show office to pick up your number, always look at what classes you’ve entered. Understand that show secretary’s process and rules for adding or dropping classes, and realize that if you want to add classes, you must do so before the deadline. 

Woman in horse show office types on computer keyboard
When you pick up your number from the show management staff, double-check which classes you’re entered in so there’s no confusion.

Sorting stalls. Any show manager will probably tell you the biggest pain in organizing and managing a show is making stall reservations. Brumley says the best and most efficient entrants submit one stall form that lists the horse’s name, owner’s name, and number of tack stalls needed, and then pays for it all with one check. If you’re stalling with your trainer, communication is key to avoiding problems.

“I’ve seen stalls paid for twice, so a trainer shows up and has too many stalls, and I’ve seen trainers show up without enough stalls,” Brumley says. “It’s a communication issue.”

Brumley recommends trainers have a clip board by their tack room at home and tell their clients that if they plan on attending a certain show, they must write down their name, their horse’s registered name, and how many stalls are needed, and enforce a solid deadline for reservations. This provides accountability, which helps the trainer have more accountability for his or her barn.

Be sure to consider these stall questions: Do you need a grooming stall? Storage stall for your grain and hay? Even if you’re going to a show by yourself, you need to think about all of these factors. 

Start Off Strong

Don’t be afraid to reach out to the show’s management team prior to the show with any questions or confusion. The management team wants provide a positive experience for each entrant. Just remember to take a little time to consider pertinent questions and review your checklist so you can have a strong show season.

Prepare your Mare for Breeding Season

Breeding season is fast-approaching. Here are five tips to prepare your mare—whether she’s a donor, a recipient, or carrying full-term—and ensure she stays healthy.

By Thiago Boechat, With Kaycie Timm

Group of mares walking along fence in pasture
Keeping your mares under lights allows you to regulate their cycles by extending the amount of time they perceive as “daylight.” You’ll want to bring your herd in before dark and keep them in a well-lit area until around 10 p.m., then again starting from about 5 a.m. until full daylight.

The key to a successful breeding season starts with a healthy mare. Whether you have one broodmare or a full-scale operation, these proven tips will help you prepare before it’s time to breed.

Tip 1: Culture your mare to check for infection. Ensuring that your mare starts breeding season on a healthy note begins long before spring. In fact, the best time to start preparing is at the end of the preceding season. 

Before you shut down your mare, culture her to check for infection. If your veterinarian discovers anything that causes concern, treat the infection, then, at the start of the next breeding season, culture her again to ensure that she’s clean before making plans to breed. 

Quick Tip: If you only have one or two mares to breed, it’s likely most convenient to haul them to your vet’s office to be cultured. If you have a barn full of broodmares, schedule an appointment for your vet to come check all your mares at your property at the beginning and end of breeding season.

Tip 2: Use light to regulate your mare’s cycle. You want your mare to foal out as early in the season as possible, so she needs to start cycling close to the beginning of breeding season. Whether you plan to flush your mare or breed her to carry her own foal to term, you’ll need to control the length of time her body perceives as daylight hours. 

The most obvious option to accomplish this goal is to bring her inside before dark and keep her under lights until around 10 p.m. You can use a timer or manually turn the lights back on around 5 a.m., then leave them on until it’s full daylight. Depending on the size of your breeding operation, you can either bring one mare into a stall with lights set on a timer or keep a group of mares in a lighted pen. Both strategies accomplish the same goal of shortening the period of darkness and causing your mare to begin cycling sooner.

Quick Tip: If you don’t have a space to bring your mare(s) inside under lights, you can purchase a mask designed specifically to regulate the amount of light your mare perceives without interrupting her turnout schedule. That way, your mare can stay outside and still get the amount of the light she needs to regulate her cycle. Light-blocking masks can also be helpful with a horse you need to separate before breeding, such as an older mare who can’t stay out with a herd. of broodmares. 

Blaze faced mare with her head through metal stall door
If possible, it’s ideal for your mare to stay near the stallion’s location so the semen is fresh when she’s inseminated.

Tip 3: Provide your mare with the hormones she needs. When you’re preparing to breed a mare, whether she’s a recipient mare, a donor being flushed, or a mare that will carry her own foal, you’ll need to give her hormone supplements. Work with your veterinarian to develop a regimen including hormones to encourage your mare to cycle; hormones to make her ovulate on schedule; and progesterone (or synthetic progesterone) to keep her pregnant, even if it’s only long enough for an embryo to develop. 

Quick Tip: In most cases, it’s helpful to check hormone levels before breeding, then modify your regimen accordingly. For example, if you find your mare’s progesterone level is low, you’ll want to supplement her until at least 100 days after breeding to keep her levels high enough to maintain pregnancy. After that, a healthy diet will keep her hormone levels strong. 

Healthy for the Duration

Once your mare has been successfully inseminated, it’s important to keep her healthy throughout the pregnancy. In addition to key hormones early on, your mare may need vitamin and mineral supplements as she reaches the third quarter of the gestation period. This will help prevent her foal from developing deficiencies or bone problems while still in the womb. About 30 to 45 days before your mare’s foaling date, monitor her closely. When she’s close to foaling, using a foal-alert system can help ensure that you’re on-hand to help when she’s ready to foal. 

Tip 4: Know the semen that you plan to use. While your mare’s preparation plays a major role in the success of the breeding, some stallions have more delicate semen. In that case, you’ll need to inseminate very close to ovulation or consider using deep-horn insemination methods. The best way to ensure success is to have your vet palpate the mare frequently so he knows when she’s about to ovulate.

Quick Tip: You might think a larger semen sample would make it easier for your mare to conceive, but that’s not usually the case. In fact, a low-volume, highly concentrated dose offers the greatest chance for success. That’s because a larger volume often means there’s more semen extender, not more semen. 

Tip 5: Get everyone on the calendar. Coordinate with your veterinarian and the stallion’s owner to schedule insemination with fresh semen at the optimum time in your mare’s cycle. It’s always best to keep your mare near the stallion’s location so the semen is fresh. This prevents any unwanted mishaps if she ovulates sooner or later than anticipated. 

Quick Tip: Remember, even if your mare’s cycle appears normal from the outside, that doesn’t always mean she’s ready to carry a foal. Work with your veterinarian to prevent infection and check for any complications that could hinder her pregnancy before you attempt to breed. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Thiago Boechat first came to the U.S. from Brazil in 1993. He returned home to attend veterinary school at Universidade Do Oeste Paulista, but returned to the States in 2004. Since then, he’s achieved success at multiple NRHA major events, including the NRHA Futurity and Derby, and currently serves as ranch manager at Silver Spurs Equine–Oklahoma. 

Outrunning the Rain at the 2019 NRHA Futurity

A 223 clinched the win for Emily Emerson and Give Me Starbucks in the $20,000 Invitational Freestyle Reining Presented by Oklahoma City Convention & Visitors Bureau at the 2019 NRHA Futurity.

Article & Photos by Kaycie Timm

NRHA Professional Emily Emerson and Give Me Starbucks earned plenty of cheers from the crowd of spectators with their bridleless performance.

Two spotlights lit the pitch-black arena as NRHA Professional Emily Emerson and Give Me Starbucks (Walla Walla Whiz x Starbucks Rosy Blend) stood in the center of the pen. Emerson’s simple duster and cowboy hat contrasted the blue glitter and shimmering streamers that adorned her mount. More notable than the pair’s costume, however, was something the crowd couldn’t see. Emerson had arrived in Oklahoma City just that morning, missing her chance to school “Mocha” in the Jim Norick Coliseum arena—and Mocha was bridleless.

“I took the bridle off of her not knowing how she was going to be out here, because this is the first time I’ve gotten to be super serious with her,” Emerson explained. “She was rock-solid. She locked right in and gave me the ride I was looking for.”

As Gary Allen’s “Every Storm Runs Out of Rain” began to play, Emerson and Mocha moved easily from a walk to a jog before stopping to perform an impressive set of spins. With each successful maneuver, the crowd cheered
louder, sensing the emotion of the run and the weight of Emerson’s chosen song.

“This song just hits a certain spot inside of you when you have a year that you’d hoped would be better,” Emerson revealed.

Growing up on a ranch in Montana, Emerson knows the power of a rainstorm—and during 13 years working for NRHA Professional Shane Brown, she’s seen her share of less-than-perfect show seasons, too. 

Dramatic lighting in the dark arena intensified Mocha’s powerful stops and showed off her connection with Emerson.

“Emily wasn’t planning to come to the Futurity,” shared Mocha’s owner, Kelly Rainford. “She didn’t have any Futurity horses this year and needed to stay home to take care of everything there.”

  But when Emerson received a call inviting her to compete in the Freestyle, Brown encouraged her to go. Rainford, who was planning to show her 9-year-old mare in the Adequan® NAAC and ancillary portion of the Futurity, offered Mocha as a partner for the ride.

“Emily has helped me a ton with Mocha,” Rainford continued. “She tried her out bridleless, and Mocha was just awesome. She rides just like she has a bridle, so I thought, ‘This might work.’”

Emerson’s song choice held special meaning for Rainford, too, who has owned her mare since 2016.  

“We’ve all seen that darkness, and we’ve all had hard times,” she shared. “In a lot of ways, Mocha was my dawn after the dark. I was close to quitting when my mom found Mocha and encouraged me to try her. She’s the first mare I’ve really connected with, and I feel like we’re teammates when we show up to work. She’s very special.”

Emerson showcased Mocha’s talent throughout their run, flowing through the required maneuvers in perfect time with the moving song. Mocha stayed in sync with her rider, responding to each cue without missing a beat—despite the missing bridle. 

Emerson’s song choice reflected her determination to persist despite setbacks and overcome every storm she faced both in and out of the arena.

“Turning her around can be a challenge, because every now and then she over-tries,” Emerson revealed. “But when you take that bridle off, she turns better every time.”

A beautifully timed final stop brought the crowd to life with cheers as Emerson and Mocha exited the arena and awaited their score. The resulting 223 held the lead through the remaining runs, clinching championship honors for the deserving pair.

“I’m very excited to come out at the top and start out hopefully having a good year next year,” Emerson said. “I’m very happy.”

As for Mocha’s future, Rainford has big goals to keep improving and return to the show pen for another season. 

“I have some things to learn about riding her and getting her to do as good for me as she did for Emily,” Rainford shared. “I think she’ll make a really nice broodmare someday, so we’ve been shopping the boys, too.”

Veteran freestyler Dan James took reserve aboard Don Magnum with a score of 222.5 with a tribute to his home country of Australia.


A Homegrown Win at the 2019 NRHA Futurity

No stranger to the NRHA Futurity finals, Jose Vazquez took home the 2019 NRHA CINCH Prime Time championship on his homebred stallion Xtra Winding Step.

By Nichole Chirico; Photos by Waltenberry

It’s not often a rider wins a Futurity championship on a horse they bred, raised, and trained, but Jose Vazquez did just that when he won the Prime Time Non Pro Futurity Championship.

For more than a decade, NRHA Million Dollar Rider Jose Vazquez has been showing horses that come from his own breeding program, creating his own reining empire. The 2019 NRHA Futurity was no different. After winning the Prime Time championship aboard Xtra Winding Step, a stallion sired by NRHA Eleven Million Dollar Sire Wimpys Little Step and out of SLJ Smartlikewhinny, Vazquez described the win as extra special because of his background showing Xtra Winding Step’s dam and granddam in years past, making the young stallion the third generation of offspring Vazquez has ridden and shown.

“We’re very proud of the breeding and showing program we’ve developed,” he shared. “Not many people can say they do what we’ve done over the years. We breed, raise, and train all of the horses we show, which makes showing them even more special. It’s always great to be able to make the Futurity finals year after year on our homegrown horses, but this one is very special because I showed Xtra Winding Step’s mother, SLJ Smartlikewhinny, at the Futurity, I’ve shown his grandmother [on the dam’s side], and I’ve shown [NRHA Four Million Dollar Sire] Smart Like Juice, who’s his granddad [on the dam’s side].”

The Complete Horse

Vazquez gives a lot of credit to his Smart Like Juice mares when talking about his breeding decisions. 

“I’ve kept all my ‘Juice’ broodmares because they’re just such great mares, and it’s really paid off for my showing program,” he explained. “I had been breeding to several of Xtra Quarter Horse’s stallions, trying different crosses, and this particular one worked great.” 

Since the beginning, Vazquez knew that he had a Futurity contender with Xtra Winding Step, going as far to describe the stud as the complete horse. 

“To do well at a higher level of competition like the Futurity, you have to have a horse that can plus-one all the maneuvers and make the hard stuff look easy,” Vazquez explained. “He has the same personality traits as his mother did when I showed her, which is why I knew he was going to be the complete horse. During the show he stopped big, circled big, turned great—he’s the type of horse you know will turn out to be a big-time horse.”

Vazquez knew Xtra Winding Step was going to be a great show horse because he showed similar traits to his dam, a horse Vazquez owns and showed.

Just the Start

This Futurity win is only the beginning of Xtra Winding Step’s career. Vazquez believes his horse’s personality and work ethic makes him a great contender for future competitions.

“When you have a horse at this level, you keep him happy,” he shared. “This horse is always really happy, easy-going, and doesn’t need a lot of work to get ready. He’s going to be a great show horse with a lot of longevity in his career!”

A Dream Come True at the 2019 NRHA Futurity

In the short amount of time they’ve been a team, Blair McFarlin and Starlight N Dreams were able to come together and win the 2019 NRHA CINCH L1 Non Pro Futurity Championship.

By Nichole Chirico; Photos by Waltenberry

After taking a break from showing to compete for her university’s equestrian team, McFarlin came back to the show pen to claim the L1 championship.

It takes some horse-and-rider teams years to fully understand each other in the show pen, but when Blair McFarlin threw her leg over Starlight N Dreams, a mare by NRHA Six Million Dollar Sire Magnum Chic Dream and out of Strike A Star, three months prior to the 2019 NRHA Futurity, she knew they had an instant connection. McFarlin’s gut feeling was right, and the two took home the win in the NRHA CINCH L1 Non Pro Futurity.

Mare Power

When breeders and nominators Todd and Angie Albers had the chance to buy back their former show mare Strike A Star, they knew she would do well in the next chapter of her life as a broodmare. 

“Strike A Star was such an athletic, pretty, and good-minded show horse,” Angie shared. “We knew we wanted to try breeding Strike A Star to some of the top reining studs in the country to see how she did as a broodmare. When we met Magnum Chic Dream in person, we fell in love with him and knew the baby would be super gorgeous and athletic. As breeders, we were just beaming with excitement knowing that one of our babies made the NRHA Futurity finals.”

The Perfect Match

McFarlin, no stranger to the show pen, started her reining career at the young age of 12. However, for the last four years her main focus has been competing on Auburn University’s equestrian team—leaving her without a futurity mount. This year, McFarlin decided it was finally time to return to the NRHA show pen, working with NRHA Professional Nathan Piper to find the perfect horse. 

When they came across “Vanna,” who was in training with NRHA Professional Kole Price at the time, they knew she was the one. 

“We had tried several horses before her, and she was actually the greenest one we’d ridden so far, but I connected with her instantly,” McFarlin shared. “We would’ve been fools if we didn’t get her.”

While Starlight N Dreams may have been considered green, Price said she had no problem making up for lost time when she got to his house. 

“I got this mare in February of 2019 after my buddy Jason Donahue started her, and he did a great job,” Price explained. “She was fairly green at the start of the year but picked up on things really fast. 

“When Nathan [Piper] tried her at the end of summer, I told him, ‘You’re going to feel like she’s a nice horse, but you have no idea how far she came. If you take the time needed with her, she’ll be a really nice show horse for you.’”

It was an exciting win for McFarlin who only had her mount, Starlight N Dreams, for three months before attending the NRHA Futurity.

Piper agreed with Price, adding that within the last few months before the show the mare just kept getting better and better with each ride. 

“This little mare has been a team player the whole time,” Piper gushed. “The two just keep getting better and better with each ride.” 

With college graduation coming up, McFarlin wasn’t sure how much she’d be able to show in 2020 but planned to take it easy and attend a couple of derbies to see how Vanna feels going into her 4-year-old year.

Piper, on the other hand, joked that after some of the schooling rides he had on the young mare at the 2019 Futurity that he was thinking about flipping a coin with McFarlin to see who gets to show her in 2020. 

“We’re going to flip a coin, and I have a coin with heads on both sides,” he said with a smile. “She’s just going to have to pick tails.” 

An Unforgettable Night at the 2019 NRHA Futurity

After an exciting runoff, Jesse Asmussen claimed the NRHA CINCH L4 and L3 Non Pro Futurity Championships aboard Ruf Style Of Play.

By Nichole Chirico

When Jesse Asmussen drew up first in the Level 4 finals, he knew he’d have to blow the judges away to claim the L4 championship.

When Jesse Asmussen drew up first in the 2019 NRHA CINCH Non Pro Futurity finals aboard his mare Ruf Style Of Play (Not Ruf At All x UB Stylin With Me), he knew he needed to set the bar high if he wanted to claim the Level 4 and L3 championships. But little did he know that was only the beginning of an exciting non pro finals that’ll go down in reining history.

Make That Three

Thirty horses into the draw, Asmussen clung to the lead with the 220 he marked early in the night, until a bizarre incident left Luca Fappani with a re-ride after a dog sprung into the arena during his second set of circles. When Fappani came back in for his re-ride, he matched Asmussen’s 220, leaving Asmussen and Fappani with the tough decision about taking the tie or running it off for the win. 

“You don’t expect to have someone tie your score; you just assume they’ll beat you,” Asmussen explained. “I’d been pacing back and forth at the stalls trying to keep busy when I heard we’d tied. I looked over at my horse, who wasn’t saddled or ready to go, and thought, ‘What are we going to do?’” 

Ultimately the two decided to ride again, giving Asmussen only 15 minutes to warm up his horse before heading back into the arena for his second run of the night. 

“In the runoff, she was phenomenal,” Asmussen gushed. “She stopped big, had great turnarounds, and pretty circles. I couldn’t believe she was better there than she was the first time I showed her in the finals.” 

By the end of his run it was clear from the audience’s reaction that Asmussen had once again set the bar high, and with a score of 222 Asmussen would go on to win his third L4 championship and also claim the L3 title. 

However, that wasn’t the part that stood out the most to Asmussen, who says it’s always a dream come true when you have a horse that’s special enough to win an NRHA Futurity championship. For the first time, Asmussen’s dear friend Dave Kunkle was sitting in the stands, cheering him on as he competed in the Futurity finals.

“Dave [Kunkle] was the person who got me into reining,” shared Asmussen. “The first two times I won he was back in Iowa; it was really special to have him here tonight.”

While Asmussen is no stranger to winning the NRHA Non Pro Futurity—he’s done it twice before—this was the first time Asmussen’s longtime friend Dave Kunkle, the man who introduced Asmussen to reining, was able to be in Oklahoma City to watch him win. Photo by Carolyn Simancik.

Sight Unseen

It was never the plan to buy another horse. In fact, when Bobby Avila Jr. originally called to tell Asmussen about Ruf Style Of Play, Asmussen turned him down. 

“I begged Jesse to buy [Ruf Style Of Play],” Avila joked after he was asked about selling the horse. “I knew that if I could pick the rider of this horse, she’d be successful. I know how Jesse rides, and I knew he would get along great with this mare. She has a ton of talent and wants to be trained; she just needed someone who’s patient and willing to put in the work to get her ready for a show like the Futurity. Jesse was the perfect fit.”

Asmussen finally gave in to Avila and decided to buy the mare sight unseen. 

“When I told my wife I ended up buying this mare, she just rolled her eyes at me because we already had too many horses,” Asmussen said with a smile. “When we got her home, I was really excited about her. Bobby had told me she was really good-minded and a great stopper, and he was spot on.” 

After Asmussen decided to pull the trigger on buying Ruf Style Of Play, she originally came back to Iowa to be under his guidance, and for the first couple of months Asmussen did the majority of the riding himself. It wasn’t until the weather in Iowa began to get colder that he decided it was time to send the mare to NRHA Professional Kole Price to prepare for NRHA’s premier 3-year-old event.

Asmussen’s L4 and L3 wins came with a bounty of prizes, including checks totaling $61,455.

“This mare really surprised me,” Price exclaimed. “She had a few green spots when she got to my house, but she stepped up to the plate fast. When Jesse came out to ride her, he couldn’t believe it’s the same horse.” 

Asmussen agreed, and credited Price’s help as to why the two were able to put everything together in the show pen. “I felt that I changed her a lot, but he really got her ready for this show. I don’t think I could’ve done it without his help and guidance.”

‘She’s a Show Horse’

It’s not often you find a 3-year-old capable of so easily handling the pressure of a long event like the NRHA Futurity, but Ruf Style Of Play was ready for the challenge and handled the workload like a seasoned veteran, even beating her previous score each time she went to compete in the show pen throughout the NRHA Futurity.

“It’s really hard to stay this consistent, especially with a 3-year-old, but every ride Jesse and this mare had together was a productive ride,” Price shared. “They just kept getting better and better each time they went into the show pen, and
the end result was great.”

After the consistency Ruf Style Of Play demonstrated in the show pen at the NRHA Futurity, it’s no surprise both Price and Asmussen agree that she’s the definition of a
show horse.

“You can tell that she really enjoys her work,” Asmussen explained. “She never gets mad, she’s always happy and tries so hard every time you get on her. She truly wants to be a show horse.” 

Price added, “It’s not an ideal situation to only get 15 minutes to warm up to runoff at an event like this, especially after going so early in the draw and sitting for as long as she did. But you can tell she’s a show horse because she went in that arena with very little warm-up and managed to get even better in the show pen.” 

Before going into the show pen, Asmussen took a quick minute to himself to pray. Photo by Carolyn Simancik.

Next to Come

Asmussen doesn’t have his game plan finalized going into 2020, and jokes that he still has too many horses, but one thing they know for sure is Ruf Style Of Play will be getting a well-deserved break.

“When she’s on a break there will still probably be some light riding involved because she’s fresh every day,” Price laughed. “Even after an event like the Futurity she’ll be fresh the next day.”  

And while Asmussen’s not sure what’s next for the mare at this moment, Price knows that whatever it is she does, she’ll be great at it. “Just judging by how she showed at the Futurity, this mare has a really long career ahead of her. She’s going to make a really nice derby horse.”