All Bettss Are Off won a $250,000 first-place paycheck at the 2020 NRHA Futurity Level 4 Open with Andrea Fappani. * Photo by Kelsey Pecsek Hruska

NRHA Futurity Open Champion’s Check Raised to Historic Level

Last year, a staggering $250,000 first-place prize was awarded to the National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) Futurity Open champion. This year’s winner will get even more.

At the May 2021 NRHA Board of Directors meeting, members unanimously approved a proposal to increase the 2021 MS Diamonds TX Level 4 Open Championship payout to $350,000. According to the NRHA, that will make the NRHA’s Futurity Open Championship the highest-paying aged event title in the western performance horse world.

The increase, which was fully funded by private investors, was made possible through the work of the Futurity Challenge Task Force, a group of reining supporters who began working last year to discuss a pathway to increasing the payout at the NRHA Futurity.

NRHA President Rick Clark, a member of the task force, said in a statement from the association that he is proud of those who “believe in the future of the reining industry and have pledged their support.” 

Initially the brainchild of the late Doug Carpenter and former NRHA President Frank Costantini, the Futurity Challenge concept grew quickly. Initial seedstock funding came from Clark along with John and Nancy Tague, Tim Anderson and Kim Niven, and Bob and Arlene Santagata, who were joined by Mark and Julie Blake, Craig and Ginger Schmersal, Mike Hancock, Joao Marcos, Rosanne Sternberg, and Shane Brown. Other investors came on board in the ensuing months and the NRHA said additional commitments are still being received.

“I am proud to be President of the NRHA during this time of amazing growth,” Clark said. “I applaud the members of the Futurity Challenge group for their commitment of both time and money. Our goal continues to be to increase earning capabilities for both professionals and owners, which will ultimately raise the value of reining horses and create a great future for our industry.”

Because the Futurity Challenge investors have pledged a five-year commitment, the NRHA said the Level 4 Open Champion payout will not decrease over that time. 

“The members of the Task Force aspire to enhance participation at all levels of reining by building the NRHA Futurity and Adequan® NAAC to the show of a lifetime,” Clark said.

Other Increases

In addition to the new champion’s check of $350,000, the 2021 MS Diamonds TX Level 4 Open Reserve Champion will take home $150,000, while the third-place winner will receive a check for $100,000. The NRHA said there will also be substantial increases in the payout for fourth through tenth places in the Level 4 Open finals.

Those boosts, as well as the doubled added money for Adequan® NAACs and the secured $60,000 for the Level 4 Non-Pro Champion that will continue in 2021, are funded by NRHA’s monetary commitment.