The National Reined Cow Horse Association (NRCHA) Celebration of Champions came to a close on Feb. 18, with the finals of the World’s Greatest Horseman. Thirty-six horse-and-rider combinations took part in the prelims, which began on Feb. 14. The top 10 earned a spot in the action-packed finals, and it came down to the last event – the fence work – to decide this year’s World’s Greatest Horseman.
The stands were packed in the John Justin Arena in Forth Worth, Texas, and fans were not disappointed with what they saw. At the end of the evening, John Swales and 7 P Ranch’s Heza Diamond Spark (Diamond J Star x Sheza Shinette x Shining Spark) took home the prestigious title with a composite score of 874.
They had to fight their way to the top, though. After the herd work, where Swales and the 2005 stallion, who was bred by Holy Cow Performance Horses LLC, marked a 207, they sat in eighth place. They returned in the rein work and marked the highest rein score of 222.5, which moved them into fourth place overall. A score of 218 in the steer stopping gave them a 647.5 total on three heading into the fence work. The duo laid down an impressive run, which was rewarded with a 226.5, giving them their winning 874 – 4.5 points higher than Reserve Champions Luke Jones and Tommy Boon (Thomas E Hughes x Chitas Blue Boon x Duals Blue Boon), who finished with a composite score of 869.5 (216 herd/213 rein/222 steer/218.5 fence).
Swales, of Millarville, Alberta, Canada, took home a check for $35,000, along with many other prizes, and said he was in “disbelief” following his win.
“Today we had a miss in the cutting. I didn’t get very good cows cut, so we had quite a bit of ground to make up,” Swales explained. “He was awesome in the reining for me. In the fence work, when I was trotting down there, I just thought, ‘Well, we’re going to leave with as much cow as I think he can handle,’ and he handled it.”
NRCHA $1 Million Rider Jay McLaughlin, who topped the herd work portion of the competition with Blind Sided (Peptoboonsmal x Lil Miss Shiney Chex x Shining Spark), rounded out the top three with an 864 composite (221 herd/217 rein/210 steer/216 fence).
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