In Jackson, Mississippi, Cheyenne Johnson, the 2018 Eastern Nationals $50,000 Amateur Champion, saddled up for a chance to defend her title in 2019.
Her trainer, Todd Gann, told her she would be riding into a numb set of cows. His advice to be smart and smooth on her cuts was ringing in her ears as she stepped into the arena, the 19th draw in a field of 29 horse-and-rider teams. Johnson and her 2010 Woody Be Tuff mare CR Tuff Boo Bear made the most of the two-and-a-half minutes beneath the judges’ watchful eyes and rode away with a 219 and the $50,000 Amateur Championship for the second year in a row.
“I’m very excited about it!” Johnson said. “I feel really confident with my mare like I can get her into position, and if I do my job and get a cow cut smooth and pretty for her, then she’ll handle the rest. That was the main goal, and I feel like we did it. It worked out good!”
That hasn’t always been the case for Johnson, who was slated to ride her gelding Tom E Toy (Thomas E Hughes x One Little Toy x Squeak Toy) in the $50,000 Amateur again this year until colic surgery dashed their hopes. As chance would have it, there was a recently purchased mare waiting in the wings for Johnson, and a last minute name change on the draw became just the ticket to success.
“It’s kind of a cool story because I just bought her,” Johnson said. In December, the Pine Level, Alabama, competitor was with Gann when he got the call that CR Tuff Boo Bear was for sale. “I was like, ‘Don’t tell anyone, I want her! But I don’t have deep pockets like the rest of your customers, so I have to figure it out.'”
Johnson, who just finished nursing school and started her first job at Baptist Health in Central Alabama, told her parents she wanted to do it all by herself.
“I didn’t want any help and I got it all worked out, but the same week I got her bought, my gelding had major colic surgery,” Johnson said. “So it was kind of a God thing. He knew what I needed before I did. I wasn’t looking for a new horse, but she’s a mare I’ve always really liked, so I’m glad it worked out. It was the timing. I definitely feel like God had his hand in all of it.”
“Boo Bear,” who is out of CR April Boon (by Duals Blue Boon), had $49,359 in lifetime earnings prior to Eastern Nationals. There, the new duo brought home an additional check for $3,219, which made it easier for Johnson to field questions about the turmoil surrounding Tom E Toy.
“She’s a lot of fun. She makes my job real easy. She has no idea how big of a blessing she is!” Johnson added of Boo Bear.
Johnson described the Center Ranch-bred mare as laid back and easy to get along with, which allowed them to click instantly. With only two shows under their belts prior to the Eastern Nationals, Johnson and Boo Bear have made a strong start, but they still have something to learn.
“She’s always been a trainer’s horse, and you can tell she has never had her own human. I’m working on it by spoiling her,” Johnson said with a laugh, explaining that Boo Bear is undecided about neck scratches, but “she’s learning all about cookies. She thinks those aren’t too bad, either.”
Outside the arena and in the nursing station, Johnson said she is the “low man on the totem pole,” which makes planning the show year difficult. The duo plans to attend as many weekend shows as their schedule allows while they learn each other.
“I want to thank my parents, Erin and Cleavy Johnson, because they have always been my biggest supporters and without them I definitely couldn’t do it,” said Johnson, who has $62,445 in lifetime earnings, according to Equi-Stat. “And, I would like to thank Todd Gann because he’s always in my corner and he never lets me down.
“It’s just the beginning,” Johnson added. “I’m really excited to see where we get to go. I think she’s going to make a lot of dreams come true.”
The Reserve title went to Doug Secrest, of Blacklick, Ohio, and Smooth Spyder Rey (Smooth As A Cat x Margaret Rey x Dual Rey), who scored a 216.5. They collected a paycheck worth $2,691.
$25,000 Novice Non-Pro
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Ironn Butterfly & Lauren Middleton
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Catscratch Sister & William Moore
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