Horse stopping in the dirt
Eric Freitas and Buckle Up. • Photo by Molly Montag.

NSHA Futurity Non-Pro Champ A Life-Changing Inspiration to Owner

Horses can influence a person’s life. Patience, perseverance and humility are common gifts equines give humans, but cow horse non-pro Eric Freitas said he got more than that from a mare named Buckle Up.

She inspired him to get healthy.

It started in January when Freitas, who has just shy of $400,000 in lifetime earnings, heard about the prospect from trainer, Justin Wright. There was just one problem.

“He said, ‘The problem is she’s really little’,” Freitas recalled Wright saying. “He says, ‘You’re really big’ and he said ‘I think you’re too big to ride her.’

“So, I said ‘What do you mean too big?”

“He said, ‘You’re too fat.’”

Wright insists he broached the subject more delicately than Freitas recalled.

“I said, I really like the horse and if he doesn’t lose a little bit of weight, I’m going to show her,” the California trainer said. “And it was more of a joke, but he took very personally and it’s changed his life.”

It did indeed. Rather than pass on the horse, Freitas made radical changes to his lifestyle — all for the better.

“It got me thinking, so went home, went on a diet, started exercising, lost 60 pounds, [and] started riding her,” Freitas said, grinning after winning the National Stock Horse Association Futurity Non-Pro Championship.

He and the 2015 mare (Metallic Cat x Dressin Up x Peptoboonsmal) marked a winning composite of 634 (207.5 herd/213.5 rein/213 cow) on Saturday, Aug. 25, at the South Point Hotel, Casino & Spa in Las Vegas, Nevada. It earned $4,352 for Freitas, the owner.

“She’s a very, very hard trier,” he said. “She probably tries harder than any horse I’ve ever had. I would say that’s her biggest plus; that she just tries at all three events.”

Before the NSHA Futurity, Freitas said he wondered if Buckle Up would make a good show horse. She answered that in Las Vegas, remaining calm and quiet during her first time in a show. Now, he’s thinking ahead to the National Reined Cow Horse Association (NRCHA) Snaffle Bit Futurity in Fort Worth, Texas.

“That’s what makes a show horse, when they’re just honest,” he said. “And, every time she walked in the pen she acted like she’d been in there 100 times and was fine with it.”

The NSHA Futurity Non-Pro Reserve Championship went to Mike Miller and Saturdaynightfever67. The non-pro from Big Piney, Wyoming, and 3-year-old buckskin (Playboys Buck Fever x Streak of Flick x A Streak of Fling) marked a composite of 630 (212/211.5/206.5). They also won the NSHA Futurity Intermediate Non-Pro Championship, banking a total of $5,024.

After the class, Freitas said Buckle Up’s win was a credit to the team at his facility in California: Justin Wright, Russell Probert, Jared Jones, Danny Sanchez and Freitas’ girlfriend, Korie Baker.

“I can’t say enough about those guys,” he said. “I’ve probably got the most amazing set of horse trainers helping me out that anybody could ever have.”

The horse’s win wasn’t the only team effort. Losing as much weight as Freitas did wouldn’t have been possible without the support he’s gotten, he noted, saying Baker’s help was especially helpful.

In addition to exercising an hour to an hour-and-a-half daily, Freitas switched to a low-calorie, no-sugar diet. He said it was no small feat that Baker found a way to make tasty meals that comply with the no-sugar restriction.

“You know, truly I couldn’t have done it without Korie,” he said.

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