The reined cow horse world’s finest athletes, the bridle horses, claimed the spotlight Friday night at the South Point Equestrian Center in Las Vegas, Nev., as riders chased the National Reined Cow Horse Association (NRCHA) Open and Non-Pro Bridle Spectacular Championships.
The grueling three-event test, herd work, rein work and cow work, drew 28 dynamic Open performers who left nothing on the table as they spun, slid and chased testy cattle down the fence.
Open Bridle Spectacular
A familiar horse and rider pair topped the results sheet to claim the Championship – Smart Luck (Very Smart Remedy x Gunna Be Lucky), shown by leading NRCHA professional Todd Bergen, Eagle Point, Ore., for owner Cable Creek Ranch. They scored a total 659.5 on three events (218 herd/222.5 rein/219 cow) to earn $6,650, a CR Morrison Trophy and Gist buckle from the NRCHA, and a $50 gift certificate and cooler bag from Santa Cruz Biotechnologies.
It was only the second time for Smart Luck, a 7-year-old stallion, to show in the bridle. His first outing was in June 2012, at the NRCHA Derby, where he and Bergen won the Holy Cow Performance Horses Open Bridle Spectacular. The Championship in Las Vegas elevated Smart Luck’s career earnings nearly to the $200,000 mark.
“I was thrilled,” Bergen said. “He was good everywhere. he’s getting pretty solid, and he’s so good minded and so honest – he’s just fun to show. That’s the fun thing about a horse like him. You can just go show him. Those types of horses – you can’t wait to go out in the show pen because they’re fun to go show. You know they’re going to go perform for you. It’s just a matter of you piloting them in the right places.”
Bergen’s cow in the fence work threw some tricks at him, testing Smart Luck’s ability to maintain control.
“That was a pretty tough cow. On the back fence, he made me get real close to him to drive around, and then he would come to me when I did. That told me right there that he was not real honest. But down the wall, that cow was wanting to roll off the fence and I was having to get up and steer it around and when I did, it shut down. We barely made it past the middle marker. But he read it very good and then came back and made a really good right turn off the fence. That cow wasn’t wanting to be real honest about anything or line out and those kind are hard to go mark on, but he handled it very well,” he said.
Bergen had two other horses in the Open Bridle Spectacular, both owned by Shannon and Hershel Reid. He finished third aboard Solano Cat (High Brow Cat x Smartest Solano) with a total 653.5 score, earning $3,591, and took the $1,596 7th place check CD Dee Vee Dee (CD Olena x Shiners Missy Jay)
The Open Bridle Spectacular Reserve Champion was Skeets Oak Peppy (Skeets Peppy x Oak Ill Be), owned and shown by Clayton Edsall. They scored a 655 (217 herd/217 rein/221 cow), earning $5,320. The Reserve Championship also came with a $50 gift certificate and a cooler bag sponsored by Santa Cruz Biotechnologies.
Non-Pro Bridle Spectacular
Shelly Franklin, Camarillo, Calif., shared some “girl time” with her mare, A Dazzlin Prize (Smokums Prize x Two B Dazzled) before they competed in the NRCHA Stakes Non-Pro Bridle Spectacular in Las Vegas, Nev.
“I went up to her this morning, and she looked at me and put her head in the middle of my chest. I laughed and then gave her a kiss on the head. We just have a good relationship,” Franklin said.
Franklin’s typical show nerves did not bother her much Friday as she rode “Mitzy” to a total 637.5 score (212 herd/216.5 rein/209 cow), winning the NRCHA Non-Pro Bridle Spectacular Championship. The title came with a $3,420 check, a CR Morrison Trophy from the NRCHA, and a $50 gift certificate and cooler bag sponsored by Santa Cruz Biotechnologies.
“I was really pleased with where we drew in the herd work, and I just trusted my horse,” Franklin said. “Prepping for the dry work and the cow work – I know her ability and I click really well with her, so my attitude is, ‘Go for it.’ She was good in the reining today. It’s her very first show straight up in the bridle, and it was my best rein work on her, ever. She was just perfect. She’s a lot of fun.”
Franklin drew a tough cow down the fence, but remembered the advice of her trainer, Justin Wright.
“I remember Justin saying if it popped off the fence, to just go make a turn in the open and she’ll do it. That’s what I did. It wasn’t as high a mark as I would have liked, but it was enough!
Franklin also was the Intermediate Non-Pro Bridle Reserve Champion, and collected another $1,075 for the placing.
Complete NRCHA Stakes results are online.