The herd was a mass of black and muddy gray, swirling and turning like an early summer storm ready to crack. Luckily for Alexa Stent, of Aledo, Texas, the storm eased just a bit as she entered as the last rider to work in the 5/6-Year-Old Non-Pro at The Non Pro Plus The Open.
In a short field of just seven finalists, the draw seemed to be in favor of those working toward the end of the set. Gainesville, Texas, rider Brandon Duffurena, riding the second of his two finalists, Ricky N Reyd Streaks, pulled off a 220, topping his earlier score of 215 as the first to ride with Darling Nikki. Following Duffurena would be Missy Jean Etheridge, of Corinth, Mississippi, also riding the second of her two finalists, Tommies Playgirl (Thomas E Hughes x Another Playgirl x Freckles Playboy). She scored a 221.
“This finals it was one of those times where it was an advantage to be deep in the herd,” Stent reflected of her ride on Bowmerang, whose barn name is “Russell.” “Normally, I wouldn’t say I like being last, but I think the cattle had settled a bit. They weren’t great, but they were definitely better than they were at the start.”
Choosing two fresh cattle and one re-run wasn’t exactly a part of the total plan outlined by her trainer Paul Hansma and helper Steve Oehloef, but her confidence in her horse showed as they ended the run with a score of 225, earning a check worth $9,685 for the Championship. Etheridge took home $7,487 for her reserve showing.
“The cows were tough. Paul had put me on a cow that I drove up, and then he realized it was not the one he intended, but we went with it,” Stent said. “But that little horse, he’s just been great, and he started from the get-go ready to win. He just got better and better throughout the run.
“You had to be aggressively in control and with “Russell,” you have to ride him,” continued Stent, who also rode his dam. “You can’t be a passenger. When you ride him, he listens and does really well.”
Royally bred by Stent’s parents, Peter and Nora Stent, Bowmerang, a 6-year-old gelding by High Brow Cat and out of their mare Bowmans Little Jewel (by Smart Little Lena), was a stallion until he was three. Since he was the last of the mare’s foals, their veterinarian was reluctant to geld him, but his temperament wasn’t suited for competition. The Stents went ahead and gelded him, a sound choice for his future relationship with the stay-at-home mom of two – a son, Tucker, and daughter, Charlie.
Stent credited Hansma’s coaching style for her improvement.
“I’ve never had a lesson like I do with Paul,” she said. “He gives you very specific things to work on, just like at this cutting. He didn’t like the way I was cutting cattle out of the herd, so he had me get on a practice horse and all I did was cut 10 cows to get smoother. I didn’t put my hand down and work. I just worked on the cutting part, which was great because those cows were tough.”
Stent said she’s definitely headed to the National Cutting Horse Association Summer Spectacular with both her and Hansma showing.
“I hate that he’s turning six because that takes us out of the limited aged events, but I would love to do some of the Mercurias next year,” she added.