The conversation in the alleyway prior to introductions for the Senior Youth World Finals focused on points. With just two points separating Joey Varnadore from powerhouse rider Cade Shepard, the two teens speculated on who might come out the winner. Little did they know what the night would hold.
Varnadore, of Appling, Georgia, was the fourth to work about Reyminate (Dual Rey x Lil Lena Long Legs x Smart Little Lena) and would be immediately followed by Shepard. A lanky young man more than six feet tall, Varnadore, 19, rode the 12-year-old sorrel gelding to the herd with an eye on winning the round, if not the Senior show title.
“My cows were really good, they were fast,” he described. “I like fast cows because you can stop really hard. My cuts were not as great as I liked them to be, but when he gets in the middle with a cow, it’s hard for me to stay on.
“He’s a phenomenal athlete and he’s taught me a lot,” Joey said. “He’s taught me more than I’ve ever taught him.”
Scoring a 219, Varnadore, whose family owns a beer distribution company, rode out of the arena and didn’t even watch as Shepard rode into the herd. After learning Shepard had scored a 214, he was surprised to learn he had won the Youth World Finals Show Championship.
“Wow, Cade’s a very tough competitor, but it’s fun to beat him,” he said, chuckling.
The night, however, was not over and he would have to wait out at least one more rider who had the potential to bring it home . . . Case Robertson. Coming into the finals is sixth place, Case and Swoopn Indian (Hickorys Indian Pep x Dellaware x Docs Stylish Oak) put on a dynamic run to move within two points of Varnardore, while Ali Good wowed the crowd after a disappointing second round to score a 226.5 on Cat Atat Cat (High Brow Cat x Miss Stylish Pepto x Peptoboonsmal).
Varnadore moved from 13th in the year-end standings to 7th with 66 points. Robertson would eclipse Shepard by one point to place second for the show.
Varnadore and his gelding have been joined at the hip for the past six years.
“We bought him at a sale here in 2012 and I marked a 74 and ever since then he’s just been great for me,” he said. “I started showing in cutting at 11 and ever since then I was hooked. Skip Queen really helped me become a better and now I am working with Walt Erwin.
“I want to thank my parents, Doug and Cathy, for putting up with me, and Walt Erwin, because he’s helped me out a lot,” said the soon-to-be college freshman. “It was March when I decided I wanted to make Top 15. I was around 25th at the time, so I had until the end of May to do that. I went to Batesville, and then won at the Eastern Nationals that helped, but I went everywhere. It was tiring.”
For complete coverage of the Western performance horse industry, subscribe to Quarter Horse News.