Hope Mitchell normally competes in the cutting pen, but made a splash in her first-ever cow horse competition by winning a championship at the National Reined Cow Horse Association (NRCHA) Snaffle Bit Futurity, presented by Metallic Cat.
And, she didn’t have much time to practice.
The Weatherford, Texas, non-pro cutter had about 24 hours notice that she was going to show Wing Anda Prayer, a daughter of Meteles Cat she owns with her husband, trainer John Mitchell.
Mitchell still can’t believe she won. To celebrate, she replaced the 2002 NCHA Super Stakes buckle she’ won with Freckles Lena Boon for the new hardware she won this week in FOrt Worth.
“I switched out one buckle that I’ve worn for almost 20 years for a new Snaffle Bit champion’s buckle,” she said. “And it’s very surreal.”
Mitchell thought she was going to Fort Worth to cheer for the mare as she competed in the Open with trainer Ricky Nicolazzi. However, when Wing Anda Prayer had a low herd work score in the Open prelims, Hope said her husband looked at her and said, “You’re showing her.”
Given Mitchell’s only competitive cow horse experience was the Cow Horses For Cutters class held at last year’s NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity, at first she wasn’t sure if it was a great idea.
“I said, ‘Well, I’ve never been down the fence before, so I don’t know if that’s a very good idea’,” she recalled.
When it was explained to her that she could ride in the Non-Pro Limited, which features boxing instead of a fence run, Mitchell was game. They entered her the night before the Non-Pro Limited herd work began. Then she started practicing.
“We did a crash course on my reining pattern the night before for a couple hours,” she said. “That did not go so well. And, then we winged the rest.
“She’s named really well, Wing Anda Prayer. She stood up to her name.”
Mitchell and Wing Anda Prayer kicked off their Futurity with a 214 in the herd work. As a winner of more than $1.8 million in cutting, doing the herd work first kept Mitchell from stressing out in spite of having only 24 hours to prepare.
“Not at all,” she said of her stress level. “Because the first thing I had to do was the herd work, which I’m very very comfortable with the herd work. Because, if I was going to have one strong event at least I was going to start out cutting.”
Reining was another story.
Though Mitchell has ridden in several events over the years, including Western pleasure, she hadn’t ever competed in reining. She chalked up much of what she learned in the discipline to the time she spent last year riding Truckin Chics Rule in last year’s Cow Horse For Cutters class.
“She was the perfect beginnner’s horse and she taught me a lot,” she said of the mare, which Nicolazzi let her ride. “And, so, just to have a horse that knew how to change leads so well and was so seasoned, I got a really great feel on how to do things and how it’s supposed to work.”
She also rode with Nicolazzi to get ready for the Cow Horse For Cutters class.
It paid off, as she and Wing Anda Prayer got through the rein work, marking the second-highest score of the go-round, a 211.
In the final leg, the boxing, she again marked the second-highest score of the round, a 216.5.
All in all, it earned them a class-high composite of 641.5, two points more than Reserve Champions SJR Starlit Cat and Lori Frampton-Crafton.
Mitchell was grateful for the support from Nicolazzi and his family, her husband, as well as for all those who supported her along the way.
“Without the pushes and the patience, I don’t know if it would’ve been quite as fun,” she said, laughing.
Wing Anda Prayer’s Background
Wing Anda Prayer is by $437,016-earner Meteles Cat and out of the mare Wings Ofa Lena (by Quejanaisalena). She was bred by Marcus Guimaraes, a Brazilian customer of John Mitchell’s.
The Mitchells liked Wings Ofa Lena and got an embryo out of her, and then raised Wing Anda Prayer with the intention of her competing as a cutting horse. It was Nicolazzi who saw the filly and believed she could make a good cow horse, so they sent her to him for training, Mitchell said.
Going into the Futurity, Wing Anda Prayer had about $1,240 on her record from making the finals of the NRCHA Stallion Stakes Intermediate Open finals in August with Nicolazzi.
She is one of two earners on her dam’s produce record, which also includes the cutting horse Hottwish ($5,370, by Hottish).
As far as the mare’s future goes, Mitchell isn’t sure. Wing Anda Prayer was headed back to the Mitchell’s facility to get some well-earned rest. The Mitchells buy, train and sell horses, so it remains to be seen if she will stay in their barn or ultimately end up in a new home.
No matter what, Mitchell herself would like to do more cow horse. She just doesn’t know where that will be or whether it will be on Wing Anda Prayer.
“We’re just kind of playing it by ear,” she said. “As you can tell, we do a lot of things by feel.”