When Sareece Brown arrived at the National Reined Cow Horse Association (NRCHA) Celebration of Champions with Very Smart Playmate, she knew it would be the mare’s last World show. Determined to make the best of it, she guided the mare through the Intermediate Non-Pro Bridle reining pattern and down the fence, then nervously awaited her score.
“I honestly thought I might have zeroed my reining pattern,” Brown admitted. “She started backing up on me a little bit in my second stop, and I was like, oh! She’s never done that before.
“[When you have] nerves and you’re trying to go for it all mixed together, it can bring all kinds of things,” she added. “So I just didn’t know. I had no idea. I was nervous, but I was excited.”
Fortunately for Brown, the judges gave her a 212.5 in the rein work and a 218 down the fence for a 430.5 composite. Another horse and rider also received a 430.5, but Brown’s higher cow work score sealed the Championship and a $3,356 paycheck.
“[I am] overwhelmed,” Brown said. “Last year I kind of had a rough year. I didn’t make the finals here last year on the same horse, and I was actually thinking of retiring her last year, but something in me just said, ‘You need to finish well. You need to give her the chance to go out there and prove that she’s a winner.’ I said I’m going to give it one more go. I’m going to try to finish this race well. And I feel like we did.”
Very Smart Playmate, or “Bunny,” is a 12-year-old mare by Very Smart Remedy. She is out of Gunna Be Mine (by Gunna Smoke) and was bred by Joyce Pearson. Brown and Bunny won the 2014 Intermediate Non-Pro Bridle title as well, and the mare boasts lifetime earnings of nearly $50,000.
Now that the mare has ended her show career on a high note, Brown has big plans for her future. Bunny has produced one money-earner so far, a Metallic Cat mare with $3,000 on her record.
“I’m going to use her [Bunny] at home to keep myself in shape, and then I have a 7-year-old little girl who’s going to start riding her a lot more,” Brown said. “We flushed two embryos last year from Bet Hesa Cat. Possibly we may breed her, but I definitely want to let her carry a baby. She deserves that.”
Brown thanked the Lord for all he has blessed her with; her husband, Raiford; trainer Shawn Hays and his wife, Tammy; Robert Smith for helping her when Hays is busy; and her daughter, Bella.
“My husband literally drives me all across this country and has for the past 10 years,” she said. “Shawn is exceptional at starting and finishing a non-pro horse, and there is a difference. We make a lot of mistakes, and we pull on them a lot, we put our hands where we’re not supposed to.
“We’re just blessed,” she added. “And, I’m very thankful. It’s just a joy to win or lose, honestly. If you’re not enjoying it, then you need to take a break.”