With determination and some friendly tough love from a former National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) Futurity finals rival, Jesse Asmussen clinched the National Reining Horse Association CINCH Level 4 and 3 Non-Pro Championship on Saturday at the State Fair Park in Oklahoma.
Asmussen and Ruf Style Of Play, and Luca Fappani and Gotta Get Diamonds each scored 220s, forcing a runoff that Asmussen asked for, a wise move considering he was the first draw in the finals and a had a fresh horse. Fappani, who was the last draw after a bizarre incident – a dog jumped out of the stands and into the arena — interrupted his initial attempt.
“I just thought my horse had plenty of left in there. Mandy [McCutcheon] told me ‘don’t be a chicken’,” Asmussen said, recalling the good-natured ribbing.
Those two – Asmussen and McCutcheon — tied in 2012 in a runoff that eventually ended in a co-championship.
The comment struck a chord with Asmussen, who said after several “dry” years following success in the ’12 and 2014 NRHA Futurity, the opportunity to become, um, top dog couldn’t be passed up.
“I didn’t really have time to get nervous. We only had 10 or 15 minutes. I just trotted her around, kind of got her warmed back up and she was better the second time it was the first time,” Asmussen said.
Asmussen’s equine teammate is by Not Ruf At All and out of UB Stylin With Me (x Lean With Me).
Ruf Style Of Play is part of Not Ruf At All’s second show-age foal crop and was one of four Not Ruf At All progeny in the non-pro finals. Asmussen said Bobby Avila called him, urging him to buy the mare. Asmussen initially declined but eventually brought the sorrel mare home in the early summer of this year.
“When I got her home she rode really good, Bobby [Avila had] done a really good job on her and I thought she could be pretty nice. But it wasn’t till we took her to the first horse show and she showed really, really good,” Asmussen said.
With his $61,455 payout, a year’s use of the NRHA Futurity Level 4 Non-Pro Champion trailer, two Bob’s Custom Saddles and an array or other prizes, it’s safe to say that Asmussen isn’t regretting his decision to purchase.