Bob’s Custom Saddles Novice Horse Open Derby: Where Are They Now?

Catch up with 2019 Bob’s Custom Saddles Novice Horse Open Derby winners, Mathieu Buton and Smart As Hail.

By Lindsay Humphrey

Mathieu Buton and Smart As Hail won the 2019 Bob’s Custom Saddles Novice Horse Open Derby. (Photo by Waltenberry)

2019 Bob’s Custom Saddles Novice Horse Open Derby winner: Smart As Hail (Smart Spook x Hailstorm Jaci)
Rider: Mathieu Buton
Owner: Addie Shelton McNeel, Bluffdale, Utah
2019 winning score: 222.5
Barn name: Leannie

Picked out of a pasture as just a yearling, Smart As Hail (“Leannie”) was destined for greatness, and owner Addie McNeel knew it from the start. 

With plans to start a breeding program, Addie was looking for the perfect mare. Her friend, John Carricaburu, owned Hailstorm Jaci, a mare with a decorated past in both non pro and open competition. John’s praise of his mare prompted Addie to buy one of her offspring, Leannie.

“Leannie was kind of a diamond in the rough for me,” she said.

Leannie competes in both the novice horse division and in lead-in with Addie’s 5-year-old daughter. (Photo courtesy of Addie McNeel)

Addie drove to the middle of Wyoming to pick up her new acquisition, and she hasn’t looked back since. As a 2-year-old, Leannie went to Texas for training with NRHA Professional Mathieu Buton.

At the 2018 Tulsa Reining Classic, Leannie and Mathieu took reserve in the L3 open futurity and sixth in the L4 open futurity. After that success, the pair set their sights on the 2018 NRHA Futurity. However, during a schooling run just before the Futurity, Leannie pulled a shoe, sustaining a bruise that kept her out of the show pen through the winter.

In 2019, Leannie returned to the arena and found the perfect place to compete: in the novice horse division.

“Watching Mathieu win the 2019 Bob’s Custom Saddles Open Novice Horse Derby on Leannie was really exciting because we had to cut our futurity year short,” Addie shared. “Being able to re-debut and enter this novice class was perfect.” 

If her registered name doesn’t speak to her sound mind, then watching Addie’s 5-year-old daughter riding the mare around certainly should. 

“She’s a really sweet mare,” Addie said. “She’s like a machine—just goes right to work when you ask her to do something. But what I love most about her is watching my daughter do leadline on her and then seeing her ability step up to L4. Mathieu and his team have done such a great job with her.” 

Leannie’s demeanor makes her the perfect pal for Addie’s young daughter. (Photo courtesy of Addie McNeel)

Early in 2020, Addie planned to send Leannie back to Mathieu for a tune up before heading to the 2020 NRHA Derby presented by Markel. But, since the 2020 show season changed course due to COVID-19, Addie had to reevaluate her plans. 

“I was at a loss on what was going to happen for a few months,” she admitted. 

While Addie and her mare won’t be in Oklahoma City this June, they’re planning to make an appearance in Tulsa at the rescheduled National Reining Breeders Classic set for August 26–September 6.

“My husband and I are trying to start a small breeding operation, so it’s neat to have a mare with a title on her to get some nice babies on the ground,” she shared. “We’re so excited for her future.” 

The Bob’s Custom Saddles Novice Horse Derby was introduced at the 2019 NRHA Derby presented by Markel. The $25,000-added event showcases horses that might have missed their futurity year or haven’t yet hit their stride in the show pen. Click here to livestream the 2020 NRHA Derby presented by Markel.