Lauren Middleton and Light Em Upp illuminated the judges’ score cards when they walked into the herd for the Derby Non-Pro finals at the All American Quarter Horse Congress on Oct. 7. While Middleton knows the importance of having a plan, she said it was imperative for her to be flexible based on the cattle that were left.
As the 11th draw in the first go, her choice in cattle was also somewhat limited. Her willingness to “wing it” earned the pair a 144, which placed them in a four-way tie for third in the round.
“There were only a few cows left at that point, so I walked down there and cut a couple that we had planned on. The last one shaped up pretty good,” she said.
In the finals, she had an earlier draw – third. She described the run as solid with good cuts, and was proud of how her horse handled the tough situation. The clean run aboard “Monroe” paid off, earning the duo a 224 and $4,339 paycheck. This win pushes the homebred to lifetime earnings of more than $37,000.
“He is getting more and more confident with each show,” she said. “I’m really proud of my horse. It always makes me proud when our babies do well. I also have to thank all of my help.”
The 2014 homebred gelding by Light N Lena is out of Middleton’s good mare Widows Tears ($92,741, by Widows Freckles). His crouchy, swoopy style reminds Middleton a lot of his mother, a horse she also raised and showed.
“It’s neat to see the similarities between them,” she said. “He’s really low-headed and gets into it.”
The Weatherford, Texas, rider plans to enter the Southern Cutting Futurity, scheduled for later in October. The outcome of that event will determine where they go after that.
The Derby Non-Pro Reserve Championship went to CR Sister Tuff and Lauren Minshall after they marked a 218 in the finals. The 4-year-old Center Ranch-bred mare (Woody Be Tuff x Dees Cats Meow x High Brow Cat) and her rider took home $3,467 for the performance.
In the finals of the Classic Open, Trey Wilson drew seventh and eighth with Highest Of The Stars, aka “George,” and Yadayadayadatime, aka “Kramer,” respectively.
“I just tried to get each horse started out with clean cuts and put them in a position where the cow was in the middle of the pen and minimize mistakes,” he said.
Wilson was up to the challenge of showing two horses back-to-back in a herd of tough cattle. He and George headed to the herd first. Wilson had three cows picked out, but they only cut two.
“The first cow was so good that I felt we needed to stay hooked as long as we could,” he said. “He is really gritty; he has no holes or weak spots.”
Their 219 won the class and a paycheck worth $7,765 for owner Sandra Lines. The 2003 sorrel gelding is by High Brow CD and out of Lil Missy Starlight (by Grays Starlight). George was originally purchased for another client, and Lines bought him about two months ago.
“He’s simple, sound and an easy keeper. He’s as good for Sandra as he is for me, even though he can really be a handful on the ground,” Wilson said “Since she bought him, we’ve won about $8,000 on him. He’s really been coming into his own.”
Next, Wilson rode Kramer (One Time Pepto x Rio CD Yadayadayada x CD Olena), a 6-year-old gelding he owns in partnership with his wife, Priscilla, and his father, David. The horse is the first Wilson has trained all the way from its first ride to nearly $100,000 in lifetime earnings. Their 216.5 earned them third place, which paid $5,037.
“We just didn’t have the cattle to compete, and we had a little miss,” Wilson explained. “It was a tough cutting, and there were a lot of good guys that had tough luck. I felt fortunate to get shown.”
Priscilla also finished second with Kramer in the Classic Non-Pro at the Congress with a 219, worth $3,152. Later this year, she will be inducted into the NCHA Non-Pro Riders Hall of Fame.
“I couldn’t do this without Priscilla,” Wilson said. “She gives me a lot of confidence. She makes sure I’m in line and everybody is in the right place. I respect all of what she does for me to keep the business running.”
A 217 in the finals earned Bill Pierce and Tite Fittin Genes, bred by Tommy Manion Inc., the Classic Open Reserve Championship. The 2012 bay roan mare (Smooth As A Cat x Diva In Denim x Smart Little Lena) created a $5,667 payday for owners J3 Cutting Horses.