The American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) welcomed its members to Fort Worth, Texas, on March 6-9 for the 2015 AQHA Convention. In honor of the association’s 75th year, the city of Fort Worth presented locals and convention attendees with a unique event – the Markel AQHA Cowtown Showdown. For those who were not able to attend in person, RFD-TV will broadcast the event March 11 at 8 p.m. CST.
The Cowtown Showdown, held March 7 in the famed coliseum at the Will Rogers Memorial Center, treated spectators to a taste of different Western performance horse disciplines. The event kicked off with Lyle Lovett’s rendition of the national anthem and a visit from the Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders, but the horseback action was quick to follow.
The cutting participants were first to take the big stage in the arena. Four competitors – three of which are million-dollar-plus riders – performed on talented horses, each with lifetime earnings in excess of $100,000.
Once In A Blu Bloon (Peptoboonsmal x Autumn Boon x Dual Pep), shown by Equi-Stat Elite $1 Million Rider James Payne, of Overbrook, Oklahoma, captured the Championship after marking a smooth 229 from the final draw. The 7-year-old stallion, owned by Charlotte Farms Inc., of Rosston, Texas, boasts an Equi-Stat record of more than $300,000.
The reining competition was quick to follow. Equi-Stat Elite $5 Million Rider Shawn Flarida, of Springfield, Ohio, dazzled the audience as he showed Equi-Stat Elite $2 Million Sire Smart Spook, whose lifetime earnings reflect $405,650, to a 222 for the win. The 14-year-old stallion, who is a product of Rosanne Sternberg’s breeding program, carried Flarida to the National Reining Horse Association Futurity Open Championship in 2004.
The lights dimmed and the spotlight came on as the final reiner exited the arena. The Dynamite Dames quickly ran in and showed off their trick-riding skills with ease, bringing wide-eyed kids of all ages to the edges of their seats. And when the lights turned back on, the crowd was ready to see top ranch horses compete from seven ranches who were honored as 75-year AQHA breeders.
Ben Baldus, who saw his share of Fort Worth spotlight at February’s National Reined Cow Horse Association (NRCHA) Celebration of Champions, piloted Cruze Mode (Wimpys Little Step x Smart Lassie Chick x Smart Chic Olena) for the W.T. Waggoner Ranch, of Vernon, Texas. A composite score of 669 sent the 6-year-old stallion home with Championship honors.
Before the final event, bid-takers took to the arena sand for a live auction to benefit the American Quarter Horse Foundation. The Dallas Cowboys cheerleaders also returned to the arena to showcase the items up for auction, including a custom, limited edition 75th anniversary rifle that brought a $15,500 bid.
The original slate of reined cow horse competitors shifted before Saturday’s event. After suffering a leg injury from a fall at the NRCHA Celebration of Champions, Jake Telford was forced to withdraw. In his place, 2014 NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity Open Champion Corey Cushing happily stepped in.
Mounted on Boyd Rice’s 2007 NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity Open Champion, Oh Cay N Short, Cushing wowed the judges from his final draw. The duo’s score of 222.5 won the event by a .5-point margin.
Oh Cay N Short (Oh Cay Quixote x Bit of Shorty x Shorty Lena), an 11-year-old gelding, boasts an Equi-Stat record of more than $226,000, and his following World’s Greatest Horseman Championship this February, Cushing, of Scottsdale, Arizona, is approaching the $2 million milestone.
As the crowd filtered out of the Will Roger’s Coliseum, talk of an exciting and educational event filled the air. And as the contestants collected their awards, they shook hands with each other and commented on the show’s success. All in all, everyone agreed it was a hit.
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