Ladies Take the Lead

The top three scores in the non pro go-round at the 2020 NRHA Derby presented by Markel—218.5, 218, and 217.5— came from female riders.

By Jennifer Paulson

McKinnon Larcombe and Gunners Bar Fly one of the seven pairs to top the non pro go-round at the 2020 NRHA Derby presented by Markel. Photo by Waltenberry

Reining inherently has a level playing field. The scoring system alone is meant to be objective—giving no favor to a horse’s color or a rider’s age or gender. 

But it is remarkable when you look at the go-round scores in the non pro of the 2020 NRHA Derby presented by Markel and see five females (and two mares) take the top seven slots in the super-tough field of finalist riders. 

  • Mandy McCutcheon and Party Nite: 218.5
  • McKinnon Larcombe and Gunners Bar Fly: 218.5
  • Indy Roper and Lil Patron: 218.5
  • Mandy McCutcheon and Tidal To The Buckles: 218.5
  • Jennifer Neudorf and Shining In Town: 218
  • Kim Muehlstaetter and Spooks Grand Slam: 218
  • Indy Roper and Spooks Show Time: 217.5

On top of that, three riders in the top 10 are youths—McKinnon Larcombe, Jennifer Neudorf, and Addisyn Schmersal on Black Gun Face (10th place in the go-round).

“With those names [above], it’s not surprising or hard to come up with a reason [they performed so well],” NRHA Professional Carol Metcalf said. “Most of them have been riding since they were little kids. They have a great sensibility for horses because many of them have competed in multiple disciplines and have been in it all their lives.”

Metcalf asserts mindset is the most important factor in competing with the “big boys.”

“I tell female riders who come to me that this can be a man’s world—welcome to it,” she said with a laugh. “You need thick skin, but mostly you have to be willing to work as hard if not harder than the men in the sport. I’ve never considered gender a factor. Whatever event I was doing, if I was on the right horse, I won.”

The idea of being mounted on the right horse is a key factor to success and comes down to more than just “being well mounted.” It’s about knowing the qualities you need in a horse to show well.

“Men are bigger and stronger so they tend to ride more of the stallions,” Metcalf shared. “I’m not strong enough to ride those studs like some of the guys are, so I pick a different style of horse that fits me better.”

NRHA Professional Crystal McNutt agrees.

“Women riders can’t be intimidated,” she said. “You can’t show up with the attitude that you can’t do it.”

The fountain of youth that’s springing up in non pro aged events excites McNutt.

“For me, there’s something about these kids when they ride,” she said. “They just go—they don’t worry about if it’s not going to work or it doesn’t happen. There’s something pure about it. They go show and throw it all out there, and it’s really cool to see them compete at that level. They turn into great showmen and -women. The way these girls ride, I think they could give anyone a run for their money.”

Find the complete results from the non pro go-round here, the draw for the non pro finals here, and the livestream of the 2020 NRHA Derby presented by Markel here. The non pro finals begin at 10 a.m., CT, for the first section and 4 p.m., CT, for the Level 4 finals.