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An earner of more than $1.5 million, non-pro Jose Vazquez will be going into the NRHA Hall of Fame. • Photo by Waltenberry.

Illinois Reiner Voted into NRHA Hall of Fame

A leading reining non-pro rider will be among the newest members of the National Reining Horse Association Hall of Fame.

Officials say the NRHA’s Hall of Fame Committee voted to approve Jose Vazquez, of Markham, Illinois, as one of the newest members of the Hall. 

In 1986, the NRHA created its Hall of Fame to recognize these individuals, their achievements, and their contributions to the industry. Vazquez, along with other new inductees and the Dale Wilkinson Award honoree, will be honored Dec. 1 at Sliders’ Night Out. Presented by  Toyon Ranch, Sliders’ Night Out is held during the NRHA Futurity show.

“Sliders’ Night Out presented by Toyon Ranch is a must-attend event on the social calendar for our reining community. There is such excitement at being able to finally recognize all of these honorees,” said Leslie Baker, Executive Director of the RHF. “We also will celebrate 20 years of the Reining Horse Foundation. It will be a special night to reflect on reining history and look to the future!”

Jose Vazquez

Known for his boisterous personality and go-for-broke showmanship, Jose Vazquez began his reining career almost three decades ago. In that time, he has achieved what few in the association have, reaching NRHA Million Dollar status as a rider, owner, and breeder.

Dottie Smith, president of the Midwest Reining Horse Association, has watched his progress in the show pen. 

“Jose has been a member of our affiliate since the 1990s and earned his first major paycheck in Gordyville in 1999. He brings his seemingly tireless enthusiasm for reining – and life – to each of our events. Luckily for us, his zest for the world of reining is infectious,” she said.

NRHA Hall of Fame couple Barb and Dick Waltenberry, who have documented great – and small – moments in reining for decades through their photography business, recalled how in the beginning of his career, Vazquez would buy a video of every one of his runs. 

“He did that to study and learn. He’d give us a bunch of cash, and tell us that when it ran out to let him know and he’d give us more,” the couple wrote. “His pride in his daughter, Mariana, was unrivaled. Like many parents, he is delighted when she outscores him.”

Vazquez’s enthusiasm for learning about the sport helped him first become an NRHA Million Dollar Rider in 2015, and his lifetime earnings in the show ring have just passed $1.5 million.

Many of those winners came courtesy of Vazquez’s stallion, Smart Like Juice, who is now an EquiStat Elite $4 Million Sire.

Vazquez’s biggest win to date came in 2009 at the National Reining Breeders Classic, when he rode his homebred Smart Like Juice daughter, Wound By Juice, to win the Non-Pro Level 4 Championship, worth $37,783. He returned to the NRBC winner’s circle in 2018 on the mare’s homebred full sister, Like Shiner, for an additional $30,000 in earnings.

In 2003, he won the Level 4 Non-Pro Reserve Championship at the NRHA Futurity, winning $24,664 on Sugar Like Juice, and took third, and $18,457, in 2019 on Xtra Winding Step. Rounding out his top five wins was his 2012 NRHA Derby Level 4 Non-Pro Championship on Moonshine Juice, where he won $15,604.

All of those horses were sired by Smart Like Juice. Under Smart Like Juice’s name, Vazquez’s equine business Smart Like Juice LLC recently became the newest NRHA Two Million Dollar Owner.

“Jose got into reining later in life, bought a super horse in Smart Like Juice, and it’s rare you don’t see him winning, whether it’s breeding or showing,” noted Past NRHA President and Hall of Fame Committee Chairman Mike Hancock. “One of the attributes we look at for the Hall of Fame is character. Now, we have plenty of characters in the Hall of Fame, but Jose, with his family values and involvement in the industry, is the epitome of great character.”