When Morgan Holmes and The Smart Dun arrived at this year’s National Reined Cow Horse Association (NRCHA) Celebration of Champions, a year had passed since they had last shown together, but there was no sign of any rust that needed to be removed. The duo confidently took control and marked a composite 431.5 (211 rein/220.5 cow) to win the Non-Pro Two-Rein World Championship by 3.5 points.
Because of her busy schedule, Holmes, who is a senior at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, said she really hadn’t expected to compete in Fort Worth. She’d shown “T-Bone” (Dun It Big x Poco Smart Oak x Smart Little Lena), a 7-year-old gelding bred by Joana Azevedo, of Sarasota, Florida, three times last January in 2018 when she was at home in Florida and got him qualified for the World Championships, but admitted, “I kind of forgot about it.”
“He hadn’t had a cow worked on him or practiced until we got here,” said Holmes, who has more than $126,000 in lifetime earnings.
A versatile athlete, T-Bone serves as Holmes’ dad, Jay’s, good heel horse. Her dad, who has $546,949 in lifetime earnings, according to Equi-Stat, takes the gelding to all the pro rodeos and has taken him to the World Series of Roping Finals, Holmes said.
“T-Bone just does whatever you want. His heart is bigger than probably any horse I’ve ever rode,” she said. “This is his third year showing out here [Fort Worth], and the worst he’s placed is third.”
The first year the pair showed at the Celebration, in 2016, they placed second in the Derby Intermediate Non-Pro finals. Last year, they placed third in the Non-Pro Hackamore finals.
In the prelims this year, T-Bone’s run wasn’t perfect — he trotted during the run-down, Holmes said. The duo ended up tying for fifth place.
“I had already loped him off and because he’s a little lazy, when I sat down, he started to trot,” she explained. “So today [in the finals], I focused on getting my lead departures and all of that stuff, and he was super good.
“He’s so awesome. I was really proud of him today — he did great! He’s a rock star on a cow. He’s so good. I just sit up there, kick him and he does what he does.”
Holmes said while T-Bone’s not built the best and is not the prettiest horse, she believes his heart is bigger than any horse out there.
“He’s just an awesome little horse and tries at whatever he does — that’s what makes him so special,” she said.
Holmes and her father and mother, Jay and Rhonda, also of Sarasota, raised the gelding. Holmes’ dad started T-Bone and she began riding him during his 3-year-old year.
“We own his mom and owned his dad, and I’ve shown him ever since he was a 3-year-old,” Holmes said. “We did the SHOT [Stock Horse of Texas] stuff, so he does trail. He does whatever I ask him to. He’s just a good little pony!”
Holmes, whose grandfather, Butch Morgan, works for Western Horseman magazine, is coached by her father, as well as Chance O’Neal, the Texas Tech Ranch Horse Team coach.
“He [O’Neal] helps me a lot out there and he’s got my confidence up really high,” Holmes said. “I pretty much know any cow that comes in here [the show pen] I can survive.”
With this being her fourth and final year on the Texas Tech Ranch Horse team, Holmes, who will graduate with a degree in Agricultural Communications, said it felt “super bittersweet.” Following the Celebration of Champions, T-Bone was to return to his “forever” home in Florida with Holmes’ parents. Her mom also shows reined cow horses and has $105,103 in lifetime earnings.
“My dad could never sell him,” Holmes said. “It’s so cool that he’s just seven and he’s already been ‘everywhere’. And, he’s just getting better and better!”
Holmes thanked a couple special individuals for their amazing support.
“I want to thank my dad for letting me ride his horse, because I kind of hijacked him, and my mom, because she always believes in me,” Holmes said. “Really, who would just enter someone [in this show] who hasn’t been showing the horse? They are awesome!”