National Reined Cow Horse Association (NRCHA) Hall of Fame Banquet, held during the NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity, shone the spotlight on four new Hall of Fame inductees and one new Hall of Merit inductee.The
Sandy Collier, of Buellton, Calif., began her horsemanship journey in an English saddle, showing at age 6 and later moving into the fast-paced world of three-day eventing. At age 19, Collier began working at the Tajiguas Ranch in Santa Barbara, Calif., where her diverse duties included barn chores, shoeing horses, colt-starting, saddle making and rawhide braiding. She started her own training business in 1980.
In 1992, her customers, David and Paula Hunsicker, sent her in search of a Snaffle Bit Futurity prospect. Collier found what she was looking for in Miss Rey Dry at the Tejon Ranch.
Collier bought the mare (Dry Doc x Starlita Seguin x Rey Jay) and the duo went on to win the 1993 Snaffle Bit Futurity Open Championship. In 2001, Collier took the Futurity Open Reserve Championship, and in 2002, she won the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) Junior Working Cow Horse World Championship riding Sheza Shinette. Collier is a AAA-rated NRCHA Judge and an NRCHA Board of Directors member.
“When I saw my first cow horse, I just knew I had come home,” she said. “I’ve had the most amazing clients, great horses, good friends. It’s been a way of life and it’s been so special, and it’s all because of horses.”
Dema Paul, of Cave Creek, Ariz., remembers being a horse-crazy California girl, standing in the front seat of the family pickup to point at the horse on the Salinas rodeo sign every time her parents drove by.
When Paul was 8, her father began purchasing horses for her to ride and re-sell. The profit went into a savings account, and when Paul was 16, she had enough to buy her first car.
“I learned a lot through trial and error,” said Paul, who began showing cow horses at 8 or 9. “I’d sit in the stands and watch, and learn by watching the trainers school their horses, and go home and try it. What worked, worked and what didn’t, didn’t. I couldn’t afford to have a trainer. I just did it all.”
Eventually, Paul began training professionally with some success, but when she met her husband, Jim Paul Sr., her career took off.
“He started tuning on me, and buying me better horses, and it really made a difference. We made a pretty good team,” she said.
The Pauls are now the only husband-and-wife pair in the NRCHA Hall of Fame.
Dema Paul eventually re-acquired her non-pro and was the Futurity Non-Pro Reserve Champion in 1999 on Cant Find My Sock. She won her first Futurity Non-Pro Championship in 2000 aboard Missn No Chex. In 2004, Paul took first and second, winning the Futurity Non-Pro on Shiners Dulena and finishing Reserve on Maggie Hickory. In 2008, she won the Futurity Non-Pro title on Smart Shiney Lena.
“The whole industry’s been pretty good to me,” she said. “It’s like one big happy family. It’s such an honor to be included with these horsemen who are already in the Hall of Fame.”
The first time NRCHA Hall of Fame horseman Benny Guitron laid eyes on 1973 mare Kit’s Smoke (Mr Gun Smoke x Mac’s Sujo x Fourble Joe), bred by Laura Bruce, he knew she was something special.
Guitron heard about Kit’s Smoke and flew to Georgia to look at the filly for his customer, Bert Crane. When he saw her, she had 30 days under saddle.
“I called home, and I said, ‘Bert, you probably aren’t going to like her because she looks like she belongs on top of your fireplace, but there’s something special about this little mare,’ and he said ‘Go ahead and buy her.'”
Three weeks later, Kit’s Smoke arrived in California to begin training.
“She just adapted and kept coming. I was very fortunate. She never had a bad day. She was so willing, and tried so much,” Guitron said. “That’s the thing about that little mare that is so special. It seemed like everybody loved her. She was kind of like a Secretariat to all of us.”
Kit’s Smoke and Guitron made the 1976 Futurity Open finals, receiving a standing ovation as they entered the arena for the cow work. They won the Championship by four and one-half points, a record-setting margin at the time.
Kit’s Smoke and Guitron continued to win together and she went on to become the first NRCHA Supreme Reined Cow Horse.
“Every major event she won, she left no doubt. She was truly a great show mare,” Guitron said.
He looked like a “little red skinny horse when he was born,” according to NRCHA Hall of Famer Jim Paul, Sr., but 1957 gelding Right Now matured into what Paul and many of his peers believe was the greatest cow horse to ever look through a bridle.
Right Now, by Poco Willy and out of the Satin Coat (TB) daughter Lark Satin, was bred by NRCHA Hall of Fame horsewoman Barbara Worth, who was married to Don Dodge.
Worth and Dodge divorced by the time the colt came of riding age, and Right Now stayed in Dodge’s program. The meticulous horseman coaxed out Right Now’s talent in a manner that Guitron said would be unlikely today.
“That horse was so bold. He was all horse. Don knew if he kept riding him and taking his time, it was going to come. We were very fortunate in that era; our owners allowed us to nurture and take our time with horses. He would have been a throwaway today, and it would have been a crime to the horse industry, because that was a great horse.”
Dodge rode Right Now to a multitude of titles, and then the gelding was sold to Carol Rose who continued his formidable performance career.
“Carol won just about everything on him that she showed him in,” Paul remembered. “You couldn’t get him wrong. He was so cow smart. He was just a unique horse; he’d figure the cow out in spite of you.”
Rose eventually sold Right Now to his last owner, Ken Sutton, who kept the gelding for the remainder of his life.
Nancy Crawford-Hall: NRCHA Hall of Merit Inductee
Nancy Crawford-Hall was raised on San Lucas Ranch, a 10,000-acre cattle operation near Santa Ynez, Calif., which she now owns. Although horses were used for daily chores, Crawford-Hall’s parents did not permit her to spend time horseback. She was 42 by the time she learned to ride.
She established Holy Cow Performances Horses in 1999, and recently opened a second facility in Weatherford, Texas.
She has assembled an elite band of broodmares, including leading NRCHA producer Sheza Shinette (Shining Spark x Chick And Chex x Smart Chic Olena). Crawford-Hall’s goal is to raise top prospects for the cow horse, cutting and reining arenas.
Crawford-Hall also has built an impressive stallion roster, with Shady Lil Starlight (Grays Starlight x Shady Little Cat x High Brow Cat); Nabisco Roan (Boonlight Dancer x Crackin x Smart Little Lena) and Once A Von A Time (Von Reminic x Sheza Shinette x Shining Spark).
Crawford-Hall, a stalwart NRCHA Breeder Sponsor, established the $50,000-added Holy Cow Performance Horses Open Bridle Spectacular at the NRCHA Derby in memory of her late stallion CD Survivor (CD Olena x Have A Lil Lena x Peppy San Badger).
“I said, years ago, that you have to win by numbers and longevity,” she asserted. “It takes a lot of time. I’ve never won the Futurity. I hope, one day, I will, but that won’t stop me because it’s such a wonderful sport, and there are wonderful people in the organization.”