Aden Bernhagen had the biggest cheering section during Thursday’s action in the National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) World Finals. His mom, other family members and friends yelled like crazy during his run, wildly waving paper cutouts of his face as he and his horse, Dr Cuzin, walked by them after their runs on Dec. 4-5.
It would seem natural that kind of attention would get to an 11-year-old, but not Aden Bernhagen. The kid they jokingly call “The Bern” takes it all in stride – even when he won the $2,000 Limit Rider World Championship and the World Finals Show Championship.
“I went to a clinic and made a few friends and they all started pestering me to come so I just started,” he said.
He also had an example from his parents, Mike and Kim Bernhagen, who have each competed at the NCHA World Finals. Their own cutting efforts have taken a back seat to Aden’s show career, which only started last summer.
“When he got really serious about wanting to ride, we took him to [trainer Casey Crouch’s facility] and he started taking lessons and just riding,” Kim Bernhagen explained. “And, last August we started letting him cut, getting him ready for the new year, and went from there.”
Aden has been a cutting machine this year. He’d won more than $18,000 going into the World Finals – all of it aboard a bay gelding named Dr Cuzin. They won the Senior Youth at the NCHA Western Nationals and competed in both the Youth and $2,000 Limit Rider at cuttings across the country.
A son of Dual Rey, Dr Cuzin is owned by Tom Murrell, Jr, of Elk Grove, Louisiana. Murrell, who Bernhagen calls “Mr. Tim,” had ridden the horse to great success in weekend events and on the Senior World Tour.
In addition, Murrell and the horse qualified for two classes at the 2015 NCHA World Finals, winning the $15,000 Amateur World Finals Show Championship and finishing third in that year’s World Championship standings in the $35,000 Non-Pro.
Bernhagen had a substantial lead in the World standings going into this year’s World Finals. Even so, he did feel the pressure the day of his first round. It is the NCHA World Finals after all.
“This morning, the nerves, they shot up,” he admitted.
Not to worry. They marked a solid 212 in the first round, and then bettered the mark with a 217 in round two. They won the World Finals Show Championship with a class-high $1,842.50 – a mere $37.50 more than $2,000 Limit Rider World Finals Reserve Champions Sharon Wilson and Cougars January Jonz.
In all, Dr Cuzin has won more than $144,000. Bred by Kelly Schaar, of Goliad, Texas, he is one of 10 money earners out of Short Candy, a daughter of Shorty Lena whose foals have earned more than $441,000.
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