Todd Fitch tried for many years to win at the National Reined Cow Horse Association (NRCHA) Snaffle Bit Futurity. This year, he wasn’t leaving anything on the table.
The Arbon, Idaho, rider even dusted off an old book about sports psychology before his run in the Intermediate Open finals with Stan Rowlan’s stallion, SJR Smooth Caddy.
“My horses were good – I think I just struggled to believe in myself,” Fitch said of his previous attempts. “I read this book and I won the World in 2006 or 2007, a long time ago, in the Limited Open Hackamore. And, anyway I cracked that book back out and have been reading while I was down here, and it said you’re supposed to do homework.”
His homework? Fitch grabbed a notepad from his hotel room and scribbled a few inspirational words on one of the sheets. He tore that page off the pad, tucked the note in the pocket of his show shirt and went out and showed SJR Smooth Caddy on Friday night in the rein work and cow work finals.
The note said, “Permission to win.” And, that’s exactly what he and SJR Smooth Caddy did.
“I went out there and I did pretty good and when I come out I give it to Bret Paulick,” said Fitch, who on Saturday, Oct. 24, learned that his composite of 653 (216.5 herd/217.5 rein/219 cow) from the night held up to win the Intermediate Open. “He’s a good friend of mine, and he won the Non-Pro.”
Paulick, who won the Non-Pro and Intermediate Non-Pro with Illbeyourhickleberry, said it was to Fitch who pushed him to take the leap and bring his own horse to Fort Worth for what proved to be a championship effort.
The two men hang out at horse shows, their wives are friends, and now they both have championship buckles from the 2020 NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity.
“It’s amazing,” Paulick said. “He’s the best.”
The Long Wait
Even before he wrote the note, Fitch decided he was going to go for broke at this year’s Snaffle Bit Futurity.
“I said, I’m just gonna mash the gas. That’s what I’m gonna do. I’ve never made the finals. I’ve tried I don’t even know how many times I’ve been to this,” he said. “I’m old. I’m 54. I said I’m not gonna go home and think I didn’t give ‘em all I got.”
The schedule for this year’s show featured two nights of Open division finals: horses and riders who only qualified for the Intermediate Open and Novice Open competed on Friday, and those who qualified for the Open finals competed on Saturday.
Some of the horses that competed in Saturday’s Open finals also qualified for the Intermediate Open or Limited Open, so Fitch had to wait to see if any of the horses in his class that competed on Saturday could overtake his and SJR Smooth Caddy’s composite of 653.
Erin Taormino came within a half point – she and Bad To Tha Boon marked a 652.5 (215 herd/217 rein/220.5 cow) –– but ultimately settled for the Intermediate Open Reserve Championship.
Several riders in the Saturday’s final set also qualified for the Intermediate Open, and Fitch had to sweat it out while the judges reviewed one of his competitor’s scores right at the end of the show. To say it was rough was an understatement.
“I can’t believe waterboarding is illegal and that’s not,” he said with a laugh. “That was torture!”
SJR Smooth Caddy
Fitch picked him out for Rowlan at last year’s Western Bloodstock National Cutting Horse Association Futurity Sales. Rowlan, who Fitch went to school with in middle school, bought the horse for $28,000 from consigner Double Down Horse Ranch in the NCHA Futurity 2-Year-Old Sale Session I.
He showed the horse a few times before this year’s Snaffle Bit Futurity, winning $5,055 total in efforts at the Utah Reined Cow Horse Association and Magic Valley Reined Cow Horse Association futurities. The win in Fort Worth added another $30,000 to his record.
As he and SJR Smooth Caddy waited to have their winner’s photo taken late Saturday night in Will Rogers Coliseum, Fitch tried to think of the many people who helped him reach the goal that once seemed so far away.
He thanked God, and said his wife, Juli, and children – Brody, Hank and Spencer — were all integral parts of the effort. Trainers like Jake Telford, Ty Cole, Annie Reynolds and Larry Christensen all helped along the way, and Fitch gave a special nod to his barn help back in Idaho, Colby Hatch and Sydney Hatch, for keeping things going while he was away.
The whole thing was a lot to take in.
“I don’t think it’s really sunk in yet. It means a ton to me,” he said. “I have dreamed and worked and dreamed, and walked through the snow, and thawed out frozen water troughs and used this dream to help me think this was all worth it, but I never seemed to get any success
“And, it’s really special to me. It feels really really good.”