In the world of competition, the circles can be rather small, and from specific disciplines to varying categories in those disciplines, they can grow even smaller. At the Oklahoma Reining Horse Association Ride & Slide, it was no surprise the Derby Level 4 Non-Pro Co-Champions turned out to be pretty good friends.
Cade McCutcheon, riding Customized Dually (Mister Nicadual x Customized Gunner x Colonels Smoking Gun [Gunner]), and Jack Medows, riding Frame Draggin (Einsteins Revolution x Coronas Major x Major Vaquero), both scored a 222.5 to split the win March 9 in Tulsa.
McCutcheon, 17, and Medows, 20, have shown against each other for a while, from youth competition to the non-pro, but perhaps the better term would be to say they have shown “with” each other.
“We’re good friends,” said Medows, now an engineering student in Missouri. “Cade and I actually sat and watched the end of the Derby together and talked about the horses, so it was good to be able to share this with him.”
McCutcheon was the first to work of the two as the 36th horse in the draw. His mother, Mandy, had already set the bar with a 221.5 as the 13th horse. A solidly built gelding with a white face branding him as a “Gunner,” Customized Dually worked with a great deal of power and was particularly good in his turns and figure eights, McCutcheon said.
“I think he’s getting better all the time,” said McCutcheon, who is a senior at Aubrey High School. “He was smoother in his turns than he’s ever been and his changes in the figure eights were really good. We don’t get a lot of patterns with figure eights, but he handles those changes really well.”
He topped his mother’s score by one point and also rode Always A Specialnite to a tie for fifth with Sandy Bentien and Gotta Twist It Up.
Medow’s interpretation of the pattern came down to riding “Corona” with a great deal of aggression. A lighter-boned gelding, the horse made quick work of the pattern, with his movements to slower gaits noticeably soft and stops that were incredibly balanced.
“I’ve had him at home since the NRHA [National Reining Horse Association] Derby, and I think since then we’ve really connected,” said Medows, who lives with his father, Jeff, mother, Amy, and sister, Georgia, in Cuba, Missouri. “I came in the night before and rode him a couple of times, put him in his stall and then showed him. He’s just gotten really easy and knows his job. He was so pure, everything felt like it should.”
Medows also loves the Jackspar Enterprises LLC-bred stallion’s quirky habit of sticking out his tongue for people to tug on, while McCutcheon said his horse is just a horse that does what he needs to do and enjoys it.
“My grand-dad [Tim McQuay] bred him, so he’s been with us all of his life and we really know him,” McCutcheon said.
Both earned $4,435 for the win, with McCutcheon earning an additional $6,003 for his fifth place tie on Always A Specialnite, along with taking first with Customized Dually and second with Always A Specialnite in the Level 4 Novice Horse. Frame Draggin, who is for sale, will continue to be shown by Medows. Both young men planned on next attending the National Reining Breeders Classic (NRBC).
Level 3 Non-Pro
She might be a Level 3 Non-Pro rider, but Sandy Bentien, of Alvord, Texas, is no amateur when it comes to handling horses.
Riding her home-bred stallion Gotta Twist It Up (Spooks Gotta Whiz x Make It With A Twist x Dun It With A Twist), Bentien scored a 220.5 to top the Level 3 by 2.5 points, earning $2,816 for the win.
A striking dappled buckskin, “Ace” had already shown his mettle, having won the 2016 NRHA Futurity Levels 3 and 2 Non-Pro championships and placed fourth in the Level 4. He was also the 2017 NRHA Derby Level 4 Non-Pro Reserve Champion.
“One of his trademarks is his really big stop, and he’s been that way since he was a baby,” said Bentien, who moved from California with her family to Texas in August. “I’ve done 95 percent of the training on him and he is so much like his mother, and I trained her too. It’s really gratifying to have one of her babies do this well.”
Bentien said she wasn’t particularly surprised to hear her score as she rode from the arena because her first stop had been so powerful, followed by some really easy circles and gait changes.
“He’s just been phenomenal,” she said. “I’ve never been a stallion person, but his mother has had only one filly and when I started riding him, I told my husband, Dale, that I really felt like I could win the Futurity on him, so he gave me permission to keep him.”
Bentien and Ace also split fifth in the Level 4 for an additional $1,798. She said the young stallion, who is standing for his first book this year, is getting better and better. So much better, she’s even mused over a potential international showing.
“I always thought that kind of competition was for the trainers, but Mandy’s done it and he’s getting so good, I just might have to think about that,” she said with a laugh.
For now, though, she’s headed to the NRBC, and makes occasional trips to watch her daughter, Grace, compete on the Texas A&M Equestrian reining horse team.
Tying for second in the Level 3 were Kay Gould and Cromed Out Sunset (Cromed Out Mercedes x Sunset Whiz x Topsail Whiz), who was bred by Mike and Barbi Boyle, along with Taylor Zimmerman and Hide Your Magnum (Magnum Chic Dream x Hide N Cita x Dunit Rawhide), a mare bred by David Pratt. Each duo mared a 218 and collected a paycheck worth $1,500.
Level 2 Non-Pro
Don’t ask Kay Gould her age, because it’s not for publication, but she will say that one of her biggest compliments was when her trainer Ruben Vandorp told her she rode like a 30-year-old in taking the Level 2 Non-Pro win aboard Cromed Out Sunset.
The five-year-old gelding was just what the Florida resident was looking for when Vandorp convinced her to visit Brian Bell and try him out last May. After two rides, she decided he was the one for her, but it was not until early this year that she tried him outside of ancillary classes.
“My mother had a really bad fall and I had to stay with her in New York for about six months,” Gould said. “I only got to ride a couple of times then, but I finally was able to move into the Non-Pro at the Florida Reining Classic where we made it to the finals and I split 10th.
Although Gould has had horses all of her life, it’s only been in recent years that she’s really been able to focus on her own riding and horses.
“Between career changes, moving and just life, I didn’t have a lot of time to ride, but for the past few years, I’ve really enjoyed getting back to it,” she said.
Back to it and focused, Gould said her ride on Cromed Out Sunset was one of the highlights of her riding career, but she didn’t let any thoughts other than riding her horse to the best of her ability cloud her mind during the run.
“I could hear Ruben a little bit when I was riding, but I wanted to stay focused and give this horse the chance he deserved,” she said. “But when I heard that 218, I was ecstatic. There are no words to describe how it felt. This is my first major win, and I am so glad I was finally able to do the horse justice.”
Cromed Out Sunset earned $1,919 for the win in Level 2, in addition to the money he received for splitting Reserve in Level 3. He also took home $779 for tying for 10th place in Level 4.
Kathy Thompson, of Canyon, Texas, and Baileys Sidekick took second in Level 2 with a 217. She and her 5-year-old Turnabout Farm Inc.-bred gelding (Gunners Special Nite x A Shining Sidekick x Starbucks Sidekick) earned $1,168.