KR Lil Conquistador & Shawn Flairda, pictured during the gelding's final performance at the Kentucky Reining Cup • Photo by Waltenberry

Futurity Champion KR Lil Conquistador Laid to Rest

A horse that lived life to pester others and become a champion has passed away. KR Lil Conquistador, the 2005 All American Quarter Horse Congress and National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) Futurity Open Champion under the hand of Shawn Flarida, was euthanized due to founder. The gelding was 16.

Owned for the length of his life by renowned equine photographer Jeff Kirkbride and his late wife, Cheree, the bay gelding out of the Kirkbride’s mare Smart Little Prize (by Smart And Trouble) was among the first foal crop by Equi-Stat Elite $2 Million Sire Conquistador Whiz, the 1999 Congress Reining Open Champion, as well as 2000 NRHA Derby Open Champion and American Quarter Horse Association Junior Reining World Champion.

“From the time he was foal, he was always into stuff, opening his stall and pestering the other horses in the barn,” said Kirkbride, who enjoyed competing on the horse, as did Cheree. “That’s what made him fun. He really made Cheree and I laugh. There will never be another one like him.”

“KR,” as he was known, earned nearly $165,000 at the 2005 NRHA Futurity, and he added to that number significantly over the years with a Reserve Championship at the 2006 NRHA Derby and top performances at the National Reining Breeders Classic (NRBC), where he tied for the Level 3 Open Championship under Robin Schoeller in 2009, a year in which he earned nearly $100,000. He took his last great victory lap in 2011 when he won at the Kentucky Reining Cup.

Having seen literally thousands of horses throughout his photography career, Kirkbride has a unique perspective for great conformation and performance, the first of which he admitted KR did not have.

“When you looked at him, you had to wonder how he could do what he did,” said the Ocala, Florida-based photographer, who rode the horse to the 2011 NRBC Non-Pro Reserve Championship. “But, he had a ton of heart and a ton of will to do it.”

Retired to Charlie and Stephanie Rome’s facility in Ocala after earning more than $462,000, KR, whom Kirkbride said never wanted to be an outside horse, spent his days in a stall with the door open near the cross ties, where he could pester the horses there.

“I will really miss getting the chance to visit him when I’m home,” Kirkbride said. “He was a truly great horse.”