When Jacob Ballard decided to head out on his own as a trainer in the beginning of 2019, it’s a sure bet he didn’t think he would finish out the year with a National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) Futurity Level 1 Open Championship.
There was merely one horse in training at the beginning of the year, Ballard acknowledged.
“To even be offered a futurity horse and then be able to accomplish this was really fun. It’s crazy, I can’t put it into words,” Ballard said.
The feat was achieved on Flashin Benjamins, a sorrel stallion sired by Gunnatrashya and out of the mare Shiners Hot Flash (by Shining Spark), owned by Gary Olley and Leann Spurlock of Howell, Michigan. He was bred by Nichole “Nikki” Miller of Weatherford, Texas.
Ballard said he started the stallion while working for Kole Price, and Price eventually took the horse over. As fate would have it, Ballard was reunited with “Benji” in early October.
“I depended on [Benji’s] ability to stop. I ran in there and had a huge stop, and he probably turned better in the show pen than the warmup arena,” Ballard said. “I knew that when I got to circle him I could really throw a bunch of rein out there and really push him and he came back hard for me. I mean, the horse was just there for me. It’s hard to show here after two weeks of a lot of riding — being tired and stuff like that — and [Benji] just lights up.”
The performance earned them a score of 218 and earned the pair more than $52,389, instantly doubling Ballard’s lifetime earnings. The duo placed fifth in Level 3 and fourth in Level 2.
Visibly humbled by the win, the even-keeled showman — who is only 26 years of age — made his last remark.
“I thank God for all the events. People He’s put in my life that have made me who I am. I would never pray for success in the arena, but everybody he’s put around me has had [a key role] in the success I’ve had.”
Reserve champion in the Level 1 Open was claimed by Josh Tishman riding Lanas Lil Joe (Lil Joe Cash x Elanachics x Smart Chic Olena). A score of 216 earned them $29,493 for owner Steve Carr.