The 2019 National Reining Breeders Classic (NRBC) welcomed a large group of non-pro competitors competing for the coveted NRBC Non-Pro Championship. Those hopefuls were reduced to 73 finalists in five divisions, with Mandy McCutcheon, of Aubrey, Texas, and Party Nite walking away with the title during the Non-Pro finals competition Friday, April 19.
McCutcheon has now won more NRBC championships than anyone; her wins total seven. Still, she was quick to point out that each one is special.
“It never gets old. Never! I love it,” she said following the awards ceremony where she picked up a check for $30,000. Prizes also included a year’s use of a custom trailer from Twin Cities South and Gary Raak, a saddle from Bob’s Custom Saddles, an SPH saddle pad from SPH Performance Gear, a pair of Anderson Bean boots, product from San Juan Ranch and Santa Cruz Biotechnology, a Whisper Bit from M3 Products, and numerous awards from the NRBC.
McCutcheon and Party Nite were draw 21 in the field of 33 and marked a 219.5.
“My game plan was to have a nice, smooth run. She’s a lot of horse, and I’m just now starting to figure out how to keep it all together,” she said.
The 4-year-old mare is by Gunners Special Nite and out of Topsail Survivor (by Topsail Whiz), and was bred and raised by Sarah Willeman of Turnabout Farm, Inc.
“We bought her as a late 2-year-old or early 3-year-old. We won the Best of the West Futurity, but then we had 9 penalty points in the preliminaries of the [National Reining Horse Association (NRHA)] Futurity, and you don’t get very far doing that,” McCutcheon said.
Despite the bobble at the Futurity, McCutcheon said she received several offers from people interested in buying the mare.
“Tom [her husband] said, ‘I hope you made the right decision,’ because it seems like bad karma to turn down money like that, but I just kept feeling like she had more in there,” she said. “Actually, I still feel like she has more. Today she was very good and showed very well, but she keeps getting better all the time.
“I just think time is what is going to do it for her.”
Levels 3 & 2 Non-Pro
With a score of 219, Luca Fappani and Sharp Dressed Spook claimed the Levels 3 and 2 Non-Pro championships, and the Level 4 Non-Pro Reserve Championship. All together, Fappani’s earnings totaled $29,500.
Fappani also received two Bob’s Custom Saddles, two SPH saddle pads, product from San Juan Ranch and Santa Cruz Biotechnology, product from Back on Track, a Whisper Bit from M3 Products, and several other awards from the NRBC.
“It feels really good. To win at such a big event is crazy. It’s mind-boggling,” he said. “This horse was riding great, but I don’t know that I expected him to show as good as he did. He was awesome!”
It was Fappani’s first time to make the finals at the NRBC; his first attempt was in 2018.
“Last year I had a bobble in the prelims, but this year both of my horses were really good,” he said, referring to not only Sharp Dressed Spook, a 5-year-old stallion by Spooks Gotta Whiz and out of Dolittle Lena (by Shining Spark), but also Spooks N Jewels (Smart Spook x Whiz Jewels x Topsail Whiz), who also qualified for the Level 4 finals and won an additional $2,150.
Fappani only began showing reiners a few years ago. He had been more into riding dirt bikes, but after several injuries, he decided to follow in his father, Andrea’s, footsteps.
“I decided I really liked the horses, so I started showing a couple of old geldings. At the beginning of last year, I told my parents I was ready to step up to the derbies, and my mom gave me an incredible horse [Spooks N Jewels]. Then they brought me this horse in September of last year,” Fappani said. “They support me completely, and I can’t thank them enough.”
He smiled and added, “I thank my parents, brother, and all my friends and family who are here to watch me and get in my win pictures.”
Level 1 Non-Pro
It might have been the first year for Jennifer Neudorf to show in the derbies, but she managed to qualify for all levels of the Non-Pro finals, excluding the Prime Time. In fact, she would have done that if she’d been old enough, but she’s only 15.
“It is unbelievable. I am so happy. I just got this horse at the [NRHA] Futurity, and this is my second time to show him,” she said.
With a score of 217.5, Neudorf collected $17,804 for winning the Level 1 and tying for third in Levels 2-4 on her horse Shining In Town, a 6-year-old stallion by Hollywoodstinseltown (out of Shine Ann x Shining Spark). She also took home a saddle from Continental Saddlery, an SPH saddle pad from SPH Performance Gear, a hatcan from Shorty’s Caboy Hattery and several other awards from the NRBC.
From Canada, Neudorf competes in high school rodeos in barrel racing and goat tying, but was introduced to reining by a friend.
“My friend’s reining horses looked so cool, and all her pictures of her stopping with the dirt flying looked awesome,” she explained.
About a year ago, Neudorf needed a to step up her game and bought a horse from Craig Schmersal.
“I’ve come a long way since I started riding with Craig. He helps me get focused,” she said. “Today he told me if anything bad happens to not focus on that, just keep going. I missed our first stop, but I didn’t focus on that — just the rest of the run.”
Although her horse stays in Arizona with Craig, Neudorf travels south as often as she can.
“I thank my mom, dad, Craig and the whole crew,” she said. “My mom and dad are so great, and the crew is so supportive. I couldn’t do it without any of them.”
Prime Time Non-Pro
It might have been a few years since Karen Mills made the Level 4 finals, but she made the most of it, earning a finals position in every single Non-Pro division. Mills and her horse, Pale Faced Dancer, then marked a 217 to win the Prime Time division, place second in the Level 1, fifth in the Level 2, sixth in the Level 3 and tie for sixth in the Level 4. All totaled, Mills collected $13,837 in finals money, as well as many awards from the NRBC and product from San Juan Ranch/Santa Cruz Biotechnology and Back On Track.
“This horse is so much fun, and I have to say that she dealt with my nerves very well. She’s so honest. You know, there are some things I’d do different, but I couldn’t have asked her to be better. She was really, really good,” Mills said.
Making the wins even more impressive is the fact that Mills has been riding Pale Faced Dancer, a 6-year-old mare (Pale Face Dunnit x Dancer Nic x Tinsel Nic), for less than two months.
“We bought her six or eight weeks ago from our good friend Tommy Rodden who really loves her,” she said.
The NRBC is only the second show for the pair, who collected the Level 1 Non-Pro win as well as a Prime Time Reserve Championship at the Cactus Reining Classic.
“She was awesome there and won about $7,000. That was the highest I’d ever marked, so I felt good coming here,” Mills said. “And she was so good. It’s like she’s right every time. She is so good-minded and a lot of fun. She feels like you can do it over and over again, and she’ll be the same.”
The next show for Mills and Pale Faced Dancer will be the NRHA Derby, but they’ll show in the Great Southwest Equestrian Center Coliseum one more time.
“I’m going to try to show her and qualify for Las Vegas, so I’ll show in the Non-Pro on Sunday and see what happens,” she said.
The NRBC Open finalists return to the arena on Saturday, April 20, to compete for the Open Championship check, worth $75,000. The 2019 million dollar event wraps up at the Great Southwest Equestrian Center in Katy, Texas, on Sunday afternoon.
Yellowstone Rookie Shootout
The finalists for the Yellowstone Rookie Shootout were determined by the composite scores from two rounds. Although Kyla Thurlow and Kachina Olena Tag won the first round, a bobble in round two almost took them out of contention.
“I went down to my first stop and lost my stirrup, so I had a freeze up which cost two points per judge,” Thurlow explained. “It was torture waiting for the final results, but we slid in there in the last spot.”
Thurlow was unsure if she’d bring Kachina Olena Tag (Whiz N Tag Chex x Kachina Oak Olena x Smart Chic Olena) to the NRBC, but the decision to do so proved fruitful.
“I’d never shown in a coliseum like this. I wasn’t sure if we were ready, but he proved me wrong for sure. I had very little horse left today, so we just jogged him and barely loped before we went in. I asked a lot, and he answered back. It got more exciting as we went on because he was with me and I could relax,” she said. “I couldn’t have asked him for more. He’s the best thing that has ever happened to me. He is truly wonderful.”
Thurlow noted she was nervous prior to the Shootout Finals, but got a great pep talk before she went in.
“I ride with Mark Rafacz. He is the calm voice I need to hear right before showing, and his wife, Shannon, gives the best pep talks and can make me feel super confident before I go in,” she said.
By making the Yellowstone Rookie Shootout Finals, Thurlow and Kachina Olena Tag also secured a qualification for the Rookie Challenge at the Run for a Million Reining to be held later this year in Las Vegas.
“I’m going for sure,” Thurlow said with a smile. “I’ll give him a well deserved break after this, and then there are a couple shows we might go to.”
Thurlow received a custom tack box and a custom headstall made by Andrea Archer for the win, and every finalist received several prizes including beautiful buckles, all sponsored by Yellowstone.