Shane Steffen celebrates after nailing his fence run with Gunna Be A Smartie in the 2021 NRCHA World's Greatest Horseman show. • Photo by Primo Morales

Shane Steffen & Gunna Be A Smartie Roll to World’s Greatest Win

Gunna Be A Smartie and Shane Steffen had the lead when they walked into the arena at Will Rogers Memorial Center for the cow work of the 2021 World’s Greatest Horseman.

It was the final leg of the four-event championship. All they had to do was bring it home with a fence run.

That’s a lot easier said than done.

The trainer from Oregon and the jet-black mare delivered in a big way, throwing down a 227-point fence run that not only was enough to win – they won the title by a dozen points. It was the highest score of the cow work.

Steffen knew it was a good one, lifting his hat skyward after the buzzer sounded.

“Through all of my titles and all of my wins, this is unbelievable,” Steffen said after the event concluded Feb. 20 in Fort Worth. “I have had the dream of being able to come and compete and make the finals, and even get the title. But … I  felt like this mare deserved the title.”

Owned by McSpyder Ranch, Gunna Be A Smartie has been a winner since her futurity and derby days – but she really burnished her resume throughout her hackamore, two-rein and bridle years.

Her biggest show season to date came in 2018, when she started off the year by winning the Open Hackamore World Championship at the NRCHA Celebration of Champions. She went on to win Open Bridle or Two-Rein events at that year’s NRCHA Stallion Stakes, NRCHA Derby and the Idaho Reined Cow Horse Association Futurity show.

She and Steffan also won the 2018 World’s Richest Stockhorse competition at the National Stock Horse Association Futurity show.

Owner Linda McMahon, of McSpyder Ranch, said she believes Gunna Be A Smartie’s success is as much about the way the Steffen family cares for and trains the mare as it is about her own talent and will to win.

“Does she have great genes? Absolutely. This horse came from [NRCHA Hall of Famer] Annie Reynolds, it’s a Very Smart Remedy, so she’s got the bones – but a lot of horses have the bones,” said McMahon, who founded McSpyder Ranch in 2007. “But, I do think it has a lot to do with the trainer and how they’re treated. It’s almost like the horse it’s only half of the equation, and the trainer is the other half.

“It’s not even the training. It’s the personal touch and the personal feel, I think, that they give to these horses, and that’s what makes them so special.”

2021 World’s Greatest Horseman Champion Gunna Be A Smartie • Photo by Kate Bradley Byars

Though Steffen said he’d dream of winning the World’s Greatest Horseman title, and thought Gunna Be A Smartie deserved to win it, he respected the high level of talent among the horses and the men and women who rode them.

He credited his friends and fellow competitors, as well as his wife, for helping him keep his focus throughout the event.

“The accomplished men and women, and just the talent that is there is just humbling and overwhelming at the same time,” said Steffen, who now has more than $353,000 in earnings on his Equi-Stat record. “And to be able to think that I get to have a piece of history to be up there with them is pretty cool.”

Gunna Be A Smartie’s Record

The $50,000 first-place check at the World’s Greatest Horseman pushed the Gunna Be A Smartie’s lifetime earnings to more than $132,413, according to Equi-Stat.

She’s one of five money-earning full siblings out of the mare Gunna Be Mine, a daughter of Gunna Smoke whose foals collectively have earned more than $205,134.

Gunna Be A Smartie was one of two contenders sired by the stallion Very Smart Remedy to make the World’s Greatest Horseman finals. The other, Magicality, finished 11th with Gusti Buerger. Two more – Very Black Magic and Just Makin A Scene – competed in the event’s preliminary rounds.

Three of the four Very Smart Remedy offspring, including Gunna Be A Smartie, were bred by Joyce Pearson, of Hailey, Idaho.

The combined winnings from Gunna Be A Smartie and Magicality in the finals unofficially made Very Smart Remedy an Equi-Stat Elite $3 Million Sire.

Gunna Be A Smartie’s Future

The immediate future for Gunna Be A Smartie will involve a trip to the breeding shed.

That was always the plan, McMahon said, as the 9-year-old mare does not have any foals on the ground or any in utero with recipients.

When she does get bred, Gunna Be A Smartie will join a roster of mares that includes the dam of two World’s Greatest Horseman money earners, Dual Lena (PT). The daughter of Dual Pep is one of only 10 mares to have more than one foal win money in the event. One of those offspring, Dueling Chic Olena (PT) (by Smart Chic Olena) also is in the McSpyder Ranch broodmare band.

Paint horses are what introduced McMahon, who grew up in Brooklyn, New York, to the horse business.

She grew up watching Westerns like Bonanza, wondering if that way of life really did exist, and rode a horse for the first time at age 40. She was introduced to cow horse during a trip to the NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity in Reno, Nevada, and immediately was drawn in by how the riders personified the way of life she’d watched on television as a child.

That feeling only deepened as she got to know more people in the cow horse industry.

“This is real,” said McMahon, who now lives in California. “These people live like they did 200 years ago only with modern conveniences. They’ve got the same character, the same values. It’s an incredible industry, and it just drew me in. 

“And the fact that I’ve been fortunate enough to have some really great horses, that’s the icing on the cake.”