opus cat olena
Opus Cat Olena & Matt Koch • Photo by Shane Rux Photography

Working Cow Horses Steal Spotlight at AQHA World Show

Matt Koch has hauled to Oklahoma City four times to compete in the American Quarter Horse Association’s (AQHA) Lucas Oil World Championship Show, and four times he’s left with a golden globe. It’s a feat few other riders can claim, and Koch calls it crazy. With a win in the Junior Working Cow Horse aboard Opus Cat Olena (WR This Cats Smart x Opus Chic x Smart Chic Olena), Koch added the first AQHA title to owner Box O Quarter Horses’ repertoire and continued his winning streak.

On Tuesday, Nov. 6, 15 horses rode into the Jim Norick Arena hoping to walk out with the golden globe. Koch was the 13th draw, waiting to see if the 4-year-old sorrel stallion he rode, Opus Cat Olena, had what it took to top a talented class of young cow horses. When the score was read, a whopping 226.5 in the cow work helped carry the duo’s 216.5 rein work to a 443 total score that topped the reserve horse by 2.5 points.

The horse, owned by Jecca Ostrander of Box O Quarter Horses, which located in Gordon, Nebraska, was purchased from Wyoming breeder Wagonhound Land and Livestock LLC with the intent to be the next ranch sire. He’s exceeded expectations in the show pen.

“It’s a large blessing and just amazing,” Ostrander said. “Our ranch stud is in his teens, and we were thinking to find another potential ranch stud and [AQHA] Ranching Heritage prospect. I really liked his papers. We went up and looked at [Opus Cat Olena] when Matt was still [at Wagonhound], and he really had a hand in us picking him out.”

The young horse, who was also shown by Clay Volmer, was easy to start and has been easy to prepare to show, though Koch said the pair are still sorting each other out in the reining. But in the cow work, the two made it look effortless despite Koch not having cattle at his place before the show.

“I found some neighbor cows in the pasture and pushed them around before we came to show,” Koch said. “I was looking down the alley, and that cow didn’t want to come out. It kept pushing on the horse there to try and go back. I boxed it a little bit before away we went. We just try to go and work the cow for what it is, and hope like heck the horse and I are on the same page. He is just a nice horse that has a lot of cow to him. He just goes and does it.”

Ostrander said watching Koch show the stallion is fun because of the ease at which they get around a cow. Still, the big score caught her by surprise.

“It all just looks like Matt does it effortlessly,” she said. “When they said 443, I thought, ‘Oh my goodness!’”

Koch won his first AQHA World Champion title aboard SDP Blue Blood (Laredo Blue x SDP I Got Good Genes x Dual Rey) in 2012 in the Junior Working Cow Horse at his first-ever AQHA World Show. The duo notched a second title in the Senior Working Cow Horse in 2015. Koch followed that win with World Champion Senior Working Cow Horse BFR Igniting Sparks (Shining Spark x Sliden Wright By x Smart Little Lena) in 2017, also taking the Reserve title that year aboard A Lil Dab Will Do (Cat Man Do x Dainty Little Step x Wimpys Little Step).

The Junior Working Cow Horse Reserve Championship went to Metallic Dual Pep (Metallic Cat x Playgirls Miss Grace x Mister Dual Pep), a gelding ridden by Luke Jones and owned by Kennth Schueller, of Scales Mound, Illinois. The horse, bred by Big Valley Quarter Horses in Florida, scored a 440.5. There were 41 entries in the class, sponsored by Sunset Creek Ranch, and it awarded $28,361.

Senior Working Cow Horse

Thecrowdlovesme & Corey Cushing • Photo by Shane Rux Photography

Corey Cushing and Thecrowdlovesme (Smart Chic Olena x Shine Smartly x Shining Spark), who was the 2015 National Reined Cow Horse Association Open Two-Rein World Champion, were third into the arena for the Senior Cow Horse finals at the AQHA Lucas Oil World Championship Show. The pair marked an impressive 225.5 in the rein work and followed it with a 224.5 in the cow work to score big – a 450, to be exact. The score stood for the rest of the class, leaving the Arizona horseman and the 2008 stallion as the last pair standing to be crowned the World Champions.

“Not only is the horse so pretty to watch, the way he operates and handles himself is what [the judges are] looking for,” Cushing said. “Bless my mom’s heart, they let me grow up showing in reining, and it’s comfortable to me. Some horses struggle with it, but I feel like I can get a horse through a pattern. A horse that can show off and put a picture together like that is dang sure on target. He was all in today.”

Cushing and Thecrowdlovesme paired up roughly a year ago when owner Lindsay Wadhams and her husband, Jay, moved the horse to Arizona when they were thinking of relocating from Pueblo, Colorado. Since then, Cushing said Wadhams has done most of the showing, and he only stepped in the ring twice to qualify the horse in the Senior class.

Knowing he was against a steep class with 15 other qualifiers, Cushing put his showmanship on display.

“I sat in the stands with Shadd Parkinson and watched the first six or seven cattle [in the Junior Cow Horse]. They were a little difficult and not as big as the cattle we worked in the preliminaries that had a little more fire,” he said. “My horses are great down the fence, and so I wanted to show that I had control but also make sure it was challenging enough to do my best to mark a score out of it. I knew my horses could handle it. [Thecrowdlovesme] is so strong and so confident in himself in circling a cow. I just kept putting him up to the cow on a drooped rein, and he put his head down and wrapped himself around that cow like a true cow horse does.”

What the stallion also does is win. It is the horse’s second AQHA working cow horse title, the first being with Shawn Hayes in the saddle for a Junior win in 2013.

Up next, Wadhams will also show him in Amateur reining, ranch riding and working cow horse.

For Cushing, topping the field and also placing sixth aboard Sippin Boons Farm (Smart Boons x Peppy Nicolena x Nic It In The Bud), owned by Eric and Wendy Dunn, was a nod of confidence in his program.

“I’m telling you what, anymore in the Junior or the Senior, it’s tough. It’s nice and rewarding to have those two horses I showed today be so pure and make me feel like I could saddle them up right now and go do it all over again. I felt like I could do it again as opposed to some horses that you know you slipped by in the class.”

The Reserve Champion was Mister Dual Pepinic (Mister Dual Pep x Colonel Pepinic x Smart Little Pepinic), ridden by Christian Lybbert and owned by Kenneth Jones, of Lamoille, Nevada. Bred by Jim Babcock, he finished 8.5 points behind Cushing with a 441.5 (217.5 rein/224 cow). There were 51 entries in the class, which was sponsored by the Four Sixes Ranch and paid $35,278.