The weather in Fort Worth, Texas, during the National Reined Cow Horse Association (NRCHA) Hackamore Classic Non-Pro rein and cow work may have been chilly and wet, but inside the John Justin arena, riders were firing out their best performances. After the dust settled, five riders were crowned the champion in their divisions.
“It’s a big win,” said Eric Freitas, of Santa Maria, California, after he and homebred gelding Cat Snacks secured the Non-Pro Championship with a 649 composite score. “He’s done some winning, but this is his first major victory!”
The 4-year-old by Cats Full Moon had $11,826 in earnings prior to his success in the Hackamore Classic, where he added a $4,479 paycheck. The duo took second in the herd work with a 215, earning an additional check for $199. They marked a 215.5 in the rein work to tie for fifth place, and a 218.5 in the cow work, which secured a second-place check of $199.
“He was born at my place. I own his mother, and she was a great mare,” said Freitas of the Snackbox mare Chic Snacks, who earned $25,096 in the show pen herself. “He was in the Open his 3-year-old year with my trainer Justin Wright and my other trainer Russell Probert. They both showed him in the Open, and then I took over in his 4-year-old year. Justin Wright did a really good job training him.”
Freitas has accumulated $402,683 in lifetime earnings according to Equi-Stat since collecting his first check in 1994. As an owner, breeder and competitor, Freitas knows a good horse when he sees one, and Cat Snacks is no exception.
“He’s really strong in all three events. He’s a really cool herd horse, a big stopper, a big turner and he’s a big-time fence horse,” Freitas said. “I think that’s probably his claim to fame, that he’s just kind of really good at all three.”
While Cat Snacks is applauded for being a talented and solid horse, his personality outside the pen is “laid-back.”
“He’s very sweet, he’ll just maul you. He’s a really easy horse. If we just let him go, I bet he’d walk all the way back to the barn – he wouldn’t run, just walk,” said Freitas with a chuckle.
After his walk back to the barn, Cat Snacks had a well-deserved break to look forward to, where the gelding will enjoy a few months off before heading to the NRCHA Stallion Stakes in March of 2019.
“I’m really looking forward to next year, showing him at all the major aged events and in the Hackamore Classic again,” Freitas said.
The Snaffle Bit Futurity isn’t over for Freitas yet. Wright and Scooter Cat, who is by NCHA Open World Champion Kit Kat Sugar and out of Scooters Daisy Dukes, a mare by Dual Smart Rey, are set to compete in the Futurity Open on Saturday, Oct. 20.
Freitas himself will ride PRF Exceedingly Smart, or “Goodwin,” (WR This Cats Smart x Wild Francine x Peptoboonsmal), for a chance at the Non-Pro title as well. However the chips may fall, Freitas is pleased with his time spent in Fort Worth.
“It’s a great show, it has just been a lotta fun,” he said.
Reserve went to Tammy Hays & Walter Greeman-owned Metallic Sparks, who was shown by Hays to a 647.5 composite score (211 herd/214.5 rein/222 cow). The horse, who is by $22 Million Sire Metallic Cat and out of Shine Smartly (by Shining Spark), and Hays earned a total of $3,781.
Intermediate Non-Pro Hackamore
Since winning the Cow Horse Classic Derby Non-Pro and Intermediate Non-Pro earlier this year, Bart Holowath and Smart Lookin Nurse have only continued adding accolades to their résumé together. The duo also took the Non-Pro and Intermediate Non-Pro championship at the NRCHA Derby along with some other limited-age titles before arriving at the Hackamore Classic.
There, they rode to a composite 645 (216 herd/214.5 rein/214.5 cow) to win the Intermediate Non-Pro and place fourth in the Non-Pro.
“We’ve had a career year,” Holowath said. “He’s an outstanding horse and fun to ride. When you own a horse like that, life is good.”
Their 216 in the herd work was the highest marked, and they banked $393. They also collected $77 from the cow work. Overall, they took home $4,688 to Cayley, Alberta, Canada.
Smart Lookin Nurse, or “Finn,” is particularly gifted in the herd work, according to Holowath. Though the cows have been tough during the show, he said his herd help – John Swales, Cayley Wilson, Dale Clearwater and Mark Luis – found him good cows to work and display the horse’s skills.
“I struggle a little bit in some of my rundowns and stuff, but he’s such a nice horse to ride in the herd,” Holowath said. “It’s good when you can get some good cows and show your horse to his potential, and he let me do that here the other day. Well, and the cows let me. He wants to do it, it’s just hopefully you can ride properly and get some good cows picked.
“The game plan’s really the same every time,” he added. “They give you the cow, you’ve got to work the cow as good as you can. You just want to be good. You have a good horse like that, you trust he’s going to do things. I always say I’m the limiting factor with him, so I just try to make sure I don’t get in his way but help him a little bit when I need to.”
By WR This Cats Smart, Finn is out of the Dual Rey mare Nurseware. He was bred by Wagonhound Land and Livestock. Though Holowath doesn’t usually ride the gelding in the hackamore, he and trainer John Swales have done it enough this year to qualify Finn for the division at the NRCHA Celebration of Champions in both the open and non-pro.
“I wanted John to show him at the Hackamore [Classic],” Holowath said. “The schedule is spread out a little bit – an open guy and a non-pro rider don’t have to ride the same horse the same day. We said OK, let’s do it together. So John’s had him exclusively the last couple of months riding him in the hackamore, and he’s felt awesome. He feels pretty cool in the hackamore. I can see how it’s going to make him a nicer bridle horse.”
Swales will also show the gelding at the Hackamore Classic in the Open, and then after the show, Holowath and Finn will head back to Canada. They’ll stop at the Idaho Reined Cow Horse Association Futurity on the way, and then afterwards, Finn will have some vacation time until Christmas. Afterwards, Holowath will start legging him back up for the Celebration of Champions.
“Next year he’ll be a two-reiner, but I kind of want to go to some cuttings on him, show him in the 5/6-year-old cuttings and stuff. It’s just hard to get to them both [cow horse and cutting events] time-wise. I love the cow horse so I’m going to keep cowhorsing, but I’d love to go do a few cuttings and stuff at home and try that on him.”
He thanked his wife, Teri, for all of her support. Teri also rides and hauled a couple horses to Fort Worth to compete in the horse show classes. He also thanked his in-laws, Jim and Paula Gaub, for looking after his home so he can be on the road with his horse so much.
“And thank you to the NRCHA for putting this show on, all the sponsors,” he added. “They’ve got to bring all the prizes in on the back of a gator – it’s awesome. The prize money’s good too, it’s great. Without this, we’d probably still do it, but it’s nice when you do it, there’s more support for the industry.
“I told my wife earlier this week that I’m just going to ride Finn for the rest of my life,” he said with a smile. “No one else gets to ride him, just me and Finn. He’s so cool, I love that horse. If I didn’t get to ride another horse, I’d be alright with that, too.”
Toni Hagen Heath rode Ima One Time Wonder (One Time Pepto x My Legend Del Cielo x Gallo Del Cielo [Rooster]) to the Intermediate Non-Pro Reserve Championship and fifth place in the Non-Pro with a composite score of 643 (213 herd/213 rein/217 cow). Hagen Heath and Daniel Heath’s homebred mare banked $3,445, plus $51 from the herd work and $227 from the cow work.
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