In the Past: John Ward

Smart Little Pepinic & John Ward • Photo by Kat Rogers

Ten years ago, John Ward, of Kingsburg, California, gave Smart Little Pepinic a pat on the neck following the pair’s victory run at the second annual National Stock Horse Association (NSHA) World’s Richest Stock Horse contest.

Ward and the 1993 stallion (Smart Little Uno x Pepinic x Peppy San Badger) were among 15 entries, including some of the nation’s leading bridle horses, that competed for a $75,000 purse.

Spectators attending the event didn’t agree with Smart Little Pepinic’s 217.5 herd work score and openly booed when it was announced. Ward, who had been pleased and happy with Smart Little Pepinic’s efforts, remained calm and focused as they began their rein work – another good work that resulted in a 221 score.

Next came the cow work and the excited crowd began screaming, stomping and cheering to the Guns N Roses song that blared over the loudspeakers as they awaited Smart Little Pepinic and Ward’s final attempt to win the championship.

Ward, now an Equi-Stat Elite $2 Million Rider, was more than ready for the challenge, as he commented following the victory, “I looked down that 400-foot arena and thought, ‘What the hell, let’s just pull the hat down and go for all of it.’”

When the steer was turned into the arena, Smart Little Pepinic, bred by Sheila Head, of Bodega Bay, California, was solidly hooked. Ward laughingly remarked, “Away we went and [the steer] went like a striped ape. We were running wide open and my horse handled it the whole way!”

The pair’s 225 fence score pushed their winning cumulative score to a 663.5, which was 4 points higher than reserve champions Brother White (Smart Little Lena x White On Right x Doc Quixote) and Bob Avila.

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