Past NRHA World Champion Hayley Stubbs and Thesegunsrsmokin clinched the 2019 NRHA Novice Horse Non Pro Level 1 World Champion title.
By Kaycie Timm
The 2019 NRHA Novice Horse Non Pro Level 1 World Championship isn’t Hayley Stubbs’ first NRHA World title, but it’s certainly high on her list of most meaningful wins. That’s due in part to the special history with her mount, Thesegunsrsmokin (Gunners Peppy Oak x Finer Shiner), a 2015 mare Stubbs has owned and trained since purchasing her as a yearling.
“This title means so much to me because I bought the mare out of a field of 12 other yearlings, trained her, and took care of her. It all built up to this moment,” Stubbs gushed. “She’s that once-in-a-lifetime mare. It means the world to me.”
Although, at the time, Stubbs wasn’t in the market to purchase a new horse, she knew she had to take “Riata” home with her from the moment she saw the flashy buckskin mare in the pasture.
“She completely stood out to me,” Stubbs recalled. “She was cute as a button as a baby. Conformationally, she’s really well-put-together, and she has the prettiest face. I knew she was the one for me.”
But it’s more than her connection with Riata that makes this title special. Before purchasing the horse, Stubbs worked for John Fletcher, Riata’s breeder, held her NRHA Professional card, and competed as an open rider. She chose to pursue a different path and regain her non pro status, but upon her return to the show pen, Stubbs found herself struggling.
“When you get in a rut, it’s hard to come out of that,” Stubbs admitted. “I hadn’t shown for two years prior to Riata’s 3-year-old year, so I was rusty. She did well, but I couldn’t get myself together.
“Coming into 2019, my goals were to get her shown like I knew she could be and put $5,000 on her,” she continued. “It wasn’t even a thought in my mind that I could run for a title. I wanted to get my confidence back up. At the first show of the year, we marked a 73. From then on, she was just on a roll—and I guess I was on a roll with her.”
That winning streak carried the pair through a successful season, but the title came down to the CNYRHA Fall Classic in Syracuse, New York. During that show, several top novice horse non pro competitors vied for a slice of the $2,000 purse to help secure the world title.
“We were all very close, and that show was basically make-it-or-break-it,” Stubbs revealed. “It was as if my mare knew. I don’t think she’s ever shown as good as she showed that day. That’s definitely my proudest moment of the season.”
Stubbs credited her boyfriend, Matt Wilson; her mother, Kimmy Stubbs; and fellow non pro Dan Fletcher for helping her through the highs and lows to achieve the World Championship win. This season, the pair will return to the show pen to add a few more dollars to Riata’s show record before the mare retires to the breeding shed.