Jessica Draper had very little to lose when she rode Workin Mans Blues into the arena for her boxing run in the National Reined Cow Horse Association (NRCHA) Stallion Stakes Non-Pro Limited finals.
The Nipomo, California, non-pro spent two rounds at war with her nerves. She and the Yellow Roan of Texas gelding won the herd work in spite of her show anxiety, but nerves got the better of Draper in a near-disastrous reining run – “I just blew it” – that put them several points behind the leaders going into the cow work.
“I was bummed, of course, but I’m like, well, I just have to go for it in the boxing [and] just give it my all; I mean, hold nothing back,” said Draper, who’d decided victory was probably out of reach. “I couldn’t be safe. I just had to go for it.”
That’s when the nerves finally disappeared.
“I was really calm and I went out there and it felt really good,” she said. “He was so awesome. The cow wasn’t the best, but I think I still got to show him and showed control.”
The 216 boxing score she and her 2012 gelding out of Topi Chexx (by A Cowboy At Heart) earned pushed her composite to 629.5 (213 herd/200.5 rein/216 cow), which just squeaked by the 629 composite earned by Reserve Champions Brent Steward and Arc Rubysinthabag.
The roller coaster of emotions Draper faced during the show made the win one of the most special of her cow horse career, she said.
“I just went through so much at that show with my nerves and being on top and then scoring a [200.5] in the reining, it was really frustrating,” she said. “It was just so disappointing and then coming back and winning it; it was amazing.”
She credited her husband, Mike, with helping her through the challenge of showing, whether it’s finding her a bottle of Gatorade when she’s stressed out or going to look for a piece of lost equipment.
“I’m just all over the place and he’s so nice and he’s so patient and he just wants me to have a good time, and he’s just so happy for me,” said Draper, who also thanked the team at Justin Wright Performance Horses.
The NRCHA Stallion Stakes victory was a first in the show for Draper, who’s found a great deal of success with “Blue.” In October, they won the NRCHA Hackamore Classic Non-Pro Limited Championship. The $2,351.50 first-place check in Las Vegas pushed the Oasis Ranch-bred gelding’s lifetime earnings to more than $15,000.
After much consideration, Draper had decided to sell Blue now that his aged-event career is coming to an end. She wasn’t looking to show a bridle horse, and figured, realistically, now was the time to sell him. In the end, she just couldn’t do it.
The gelding was just too good, too sweet and too honest to sell.
“I’m going to keep him and I’m going to show him the rest of the year and then I’m going to show him in the bridle,” she said. “And, that’s what I’m going to do, because I can’t find another one like him.”
If she keeps him long enough, Blue might end up competing with one of her children. Her three children – sons Mikey, 7; McCoy, 4; and 18-month-old daughter, Malone – all love riding horses. The oldest two already have horses.
“Maybe one day one of them will ride him,” she said. “We’ll see.”
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