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NRCHA Wraps Celebration of Champions and Welcomes New Staff

The National Reined Cow Horse Association wrapped the 2021 Celebration of Champions having soldiered through one of Texas’ coldest weather events in decades. In spite of the weather challenges, competitors rode to 15 world and 15 national champion awards, and the Tres Osos Cow Horse Derby crowned winners in the Open and Non Pro divisions. The final day of the event culminated with the DT Horses and Hashtags World’s Greatest Horseman and the MARS Equestrian™ World’s Greatest Youth Horseman—one show with three major events. 

Though held in 2021, the World Championship portion of the Celebration of Champions marks the official conclusion of the 2020 reined cow horse show season. Qualifiers vied for a spot in a 10-horse final and a shot at the world champion titles. The Tres Osos Cow Horse Derby featured the industry’s top 4- and 5-Year-Old horses riding for a total payout of more than $342,000. In addition to these classes, the event saw younger riders compete in the Intercollegiate Challenge and National High School Rodeo Reined Cow Horse Challenge.

“While the state was breaking weather records our members persevered to break records in the arena, with our largest field of competitors to date in the DT Horses and Hashtags World’s Greatest Horseman, MARS Equestrian World’s Greatest Youth Horseman, several world championships and Tres Osos Cow Horse Derby classes,” said NRCHA Executive Director Anna Morrison. “The success of this event shows the determination and can-do attitudes of NRCHA members, staff and supporters alike.”

Shane Steffen of Powell Butte, Oregon, and Gunna Be A Smartie, owned by McSpyder Ranch of Bend, Oregon, took top honors in the 2021 World’s Greatest Horseman, presented by DT Horses and Hashtags, earning $50,000 and the bragging rights for the year. The top youth rider was Cutter McLaughlin, of Clarendon, Texas, and CD Dee Vee Dee, taking the MARS Equestrian™-sponsored event’s custom saddle and prizes home. 

Increased Payout

During the World’s Greatest Horseman finals, a commitment to match the current winner’s prize pot of $50,000 was made by Jeremy Barwick of Western Bloodstock. In 2022, the winning horse and rider team will receive $100,000. It is an unprecedented purse that is sure to draw numbers that exceed even the 2021 record entries of 58 in the World’s Greatest Horseman. 

“I’ve watched that event for a long time and I feel like the horses, at that stage of their career, are worthy of a big check,” said Barwick. “With that caliber of trainers competing and what those horses can do in an arena, it is an impressive event.”

Staffing Changes

With a mixed bag of farewell wishes and warm welcomes, the show ushered in new staff to begin tenure at the association. The event was the final show for Executive Administrator Kelley Hartranft and also for Communications/Events Manager Allison Walker. 

Walker leaves the association’s communications, Reined Cow Horse News magazine and other media in familiar hands with Kate Bradley Byars, incoming communications manager. Byars has served as the magazine’s managing editor and editor since 2018. An award-winning writer and photographer, Byars spent many years working for Western HorsemanQuarter Horse News and other equine industry publications. Previously, she worked for the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory in College Station, Texas, as a communications coordinator. She becomes the point person for media relations for the reined cow horse industry. 

The NRCHA also welcomes Elizabeth Ellis as programs manager. Her role includes youth programs, the NRCHA Foundation and member programs. Ellis grew up showing Quarter Horses in Georgia then attended Berry College in Mt. Berry, Georgia, before taking an internship position with the American Quarter Horse Association. Following her internship Ellis was hired as the AQH Foundation director of marketing, communications and museum programs in Amarillo, Texas.

Emily Konkel, who has been with NRCHA since 2018, takes on the role of Premier Event Manager. Konkel will coordinate the association’s five major event schedules, entries and results as well as show office management and production support.

“We couldn’t be more grateful to Kelley and Allison for their many years of dedicated service to NRCHA,” Morrison said. “Their passion for our association has been unwavering, and our current successes are due in large part to their work. They have left NRCHA well poised for future success as our new team members step in to take the reins.”

Kim Lindsey will join the team on March 15 as the Accounting & Sponsor Contract Manager. Lindsey, whose family raises Angus cattle near Dickens, Texas, steps away from Texas Tech University where she manages the equestrian center. Previously she served as the AQHA Director of Ranching, as the Stock Horse of Texas Executive Director and as the Office Manager at the Bradley 3 Ranch. Lindsey will handle the NRCHA accounting as well as provide sponsor support and manage trade shows. She rounds out a team of cow horse enthusiasts dedicated to supporting the needs of this ever-growing association.  

Future Shows

On the heels of a successful first 2021 event, the association is already deep in preparation for the 2021 premier event show season. Increased payouts entice exhibitors to attend one of the major shows, which feature Limited Aged Events as well as horse show classes. Next is the NRCHA Stakes, held March 26 through April 3 in Las Vegas, Nevada, then the DT Horses-sponsored NRCHA Derby, held June 2 through 12 in Scottsdale, Arizona, adding $100,000 to the Open divisions. Non Pro Limited exhibitors ride for $10,000 added at the Derby and at the 2021 NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity®.

In the NRCHA, horses begin their show career in the snaffle bit, mature in training to show in the hackamore and two-rein methods, and finally show as bridle horses, competing in events like the Bridle Spectacular held at the Stakes, Derby and Eastern Derby. The reined cow horse is a discipline where tradition is not forgotten.

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The Industry Updates section of Quarter Horse News features relevant press releases submitted by members of the Western performance horse community. The releases receive minor editing and are provided as a service to the Western performance horse industry.