horse sliding in dirt
Gunnersspecialwoman and Justin Michels. • Photo by Molly Montag.

Gunnersspecialwoman and Justin Michels Best At NCRHA Futurity

Justin Michels thought two colts were his best shots at the North Central Reining Horse Association (NCRHA) Futurity, but when the dust cleared it was a mare nicknamed “Lady” that rose to the challenge.

Gunnersspecialwoman, a daughter of Gunners Special Nite, marked a 219 to win the Futurity Open in Levels 4 and Level 3 for Michels and owner Ryon Simon, of Cannon Falls, Minnesota.

horse standing by man and girl
NCRHA Futurity Level 4 Open Champion Gunnersspecialwoman pictured with Ava Simon, daughter of owner Ryon Simon, and trainer Justin Michels. • Photo courtesy of Ashley Michels.

“I thought she was my third best one, and all week long she’s gotten better and better and better,” Michels said of the mare out of Shiners Woman (by Shining Spark). “And, you know, every day she just got better. She was great to show.”

The mare held off a herd of challengers — including three horses tied for the co-reserve championship — to win the event Saturday, Aug. 4, at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds in St. Paul, Minnesota. Michels, of River Falls, Wisconsin, said the mare flourished in the days leading up to the show.

“When I did a paid warm-up on her earlier in the week she was great,” said Michels, who has an Equi-Stat record of more than $140,000. “She was actually phenomenal and she’s been great here the whole time.”

Her biggest strength is her consistency, Michels said.

“She’s just a ‘half horse’ everywhere,” he said. “You know, she reminds me of a lot of great show horses that continuously just go in there and mark a half, half, half, half, half – and before you know it they’re marking 219s, 220s everywhere they go.”

Bred by White River Ag Products Inc, of Ashland, Wisconsin, Gunnersspecialwoman spent the first half of her 2-year-old year in college as part of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls colt-starting program. Participating owners allow students at the college roughly 30 miles east of St. Paul to break their horses and then consign the animals to the college’s annual colt sale. The students receive course credit for the class.

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In 2017, Gunnersspecialwoman the high seller at the University of WIsconsin-River Falls Colt Sale. Students (Ashley Larson pictured) break and prepare the young horses for sale as part of the course. • Photo by Molly Montag.

Gunnersspecialwoman, who was started by student Ashley Larson, topped the Wisconsin school’s 2017 sale when she sold for $20,000. She was one of several horses from the university’s colt-training program to participate in this year’s NCRHA Futurity.

Once in Michels’ barn, the mare quickly picked up the name “Lady” due to her proper etiquette and excellent ground manners.

“She stands right to the side of you,” he explained. “She doesn’t nudge on you, in her stall she’s great and the girls named her Lady there in the barn.”

Michels said the plan is to show the mare at the All-American Quarter Horse Congress and then the NRHA Futurity in Oklahoma City.

The palomino mare’s win capped off a big day for her sire, Gunners Special Nite, who also sired the three horses that marked 218 to tie for Reserve Championship honors: Tom McCutcheon rode Gotta Good Nite (out of Gotta Git Ya Dun, by Hollywood Dun It) and Gunnersrufride (out of Lil Ruf Showgirl, by Lil Ruf Peppy), and Andy Chwala rode Maverick The Gun Boy (out of Poco Peppys Girl, by Lil Ruf Peppy).

The Futurity Level 3 Reserve Champions, Chwala and Maverick The Gun Boy also won the Futurity Levels 2 and 1 championships.

Man riding horse
Trainer Andy Chwala rode Maverick The Gun Boy, one of three sons of Gunners Special Nite that tied for the Level 4 Open Co-Reserve Championship, to the Levels 2 and 1 championships, and the Level 3 Open Reserve Championship. • Photo by Molly Montag.

The $8,639 in first-place paychecks in Minnesota made Gunnersspecialwoman her dam’s leading earner.

The broodmare by Shining Spark — a full sister to 2008 NRHA Futurity Open Champion Shining N Sassy — has three other money-earners listed in Equi-Stat: reiner Guns Last Chance ($2,144, by Colonels Smoking Gun[Gunner]), working cow horse Dont Cross This Cat ($612, by WR This Cats Smart) and ranch horse competitor Dim All The Lights ($276, by CD Lights), who earned money in ranch reining and ranch cutting.

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