Matt Koch and Sargent Stryker earned top honors at The Sagebrush. • Photo by Performance Horse Photography courtesy of CRCA.

Matt Koch “Strykes” in The Sagebrush Derby

The cow horse competitors flocked to Colorado State Fairgrounds in Pueblo, Colorado, for the the Colorado Reined Cow Horse Association (CRCA) $44,400-added Sagebrush show.

While springtime in Colorado can mean sunshine or snow—not uncommonly occurring within the same 12-hour time span—none were dissuaded by weather, even amidst daunting 60-mph winds that ravaged the fairgrounds on Day 3. 

“I think the biggest deal was the fun of getting to show outside and that’s not to say there wasn’t a little adversity with that, but it showed the tenacity of our competitors,” said CRCA President Tawny Fye. “You’d like to have ideal weather every single day of a show, but when you have wind like we did that did not inhibit the competitors’ ability to go out and show and still enjoy the experience, they never backed down from that challenge. When it got windy, everybody powered through and got their horses shown at a high level, everybody put themselves to the test and passed.”

CRCA directors, show staff and cattle crew all worked together diligently to ensure that the show rolled on smoothly, and determined competitors who traveled from across Colorado as well as from a host of other states, rose to the challenge. Fye gave props to the contestants, the stable of CRCA sponsors including Derby sponsor Koch & Co., Inc., as well as the venue for cooperating to make the show a success.

“The Colorado State Fairgrounds management has made it apparent that their staff enjoys putting on a good show and we enjoy working with them to that end,” said Fye. “They communicated well with us so we as a board could be proactively ready to execute our production, which created a great team atmosphere. Another thing I personally enjoyed at The Sagebrush is the history that goes with showing at the fairgrounds in Pueblo. That’s one of the first places we showed when Setting Sun Ranch first got involved with NRCHA events, so there are a lot of great memories.” 

Derby Open

Besting the field of 33 Open Derby entrants was top-ranked National Reined Cow Horse Association (NRCHA) professional Matt Koch, of Elizabeth, Colorado, riding Sargent Stryker (Metallic Cat x Cajuns Little Uno x Smart Little Uno) for owner R. Jeffrey Simpson, of Kirkland, Arizona. Koch and Sargent Stryker’s composite of 444 was worth $4,782. Sargent Stryker banked another $690 as the Novice Horse champion and $541 as the 4-Year-Old Incentive winner in the Open.

“That was only the second time I’ve ever shown him, so I was real happy how he came to town wanting to work,” said Koch. 

“He seems to be a show horse,” Koch commented when asked about Sargent Stryker’s particular strengths. “He’ll go to Scottsdale to the Derby, and we’ll see what he does there and go from there. Hopefully it will go well. Everybody was like, ‘Where did that horse come from?’ I joke that he’s the magical horse that just showed up. He’s a nice horse.”

Koch split reserve honors riding La Veta, Colorado-based XIT Ranch’s Smart Lookin Secrets (WR This Cats Smart x Secrets Blue Angel x One Time Pepto) with Jay McLaughlin and Tee Boone (Once In A Blu Boon x Skeets My Bro x Docs Curious Cat), owned by JT and Sandra Neal III. Each team accumulated a total on three runs of 440.5 worth $3,430 each. 

Koch hit paydirt in the Open Derby and was second in the Open Novice Derby aggregate with MPH Voodoo Badger owned by David Mize, also placing on SJR Diamonds Justify for San Juan Ranch. 

“All the Derby horses were good,” he said. “They’re all 4, so you don’t always know exactly what they’re going to do, but it was a good show for all of them, which you can’t ask for a lot more than that.” 

Koch complimented the CRCA for a job well done with The Sagebrush production. 

“It was a good show, there were lots of horses, and lots of new faces, which is great. The show offered good payouts, good ground, and good cattle. The weather a couple days could’ve been a little bit better, but overall, The Sagebrush was sure a good show. Thank you to the CRCA for providing a nice show for us and to the sponsors who support the association, these shows don’t happen without the support and participation of great sponsors.”

In the Intermediate Open Derby it was Marietta, Oklahoma trainer Ashley Deacon and The Royalty (One Time Royalty x Diamonds With Style x Playin Stylish) besting the field of 23 to earn $1,164 thanks to their 434 composite. The Royalty is owned by Lucinda R. David. Second was Khrome (Smooth As A Cat x Flo Dancing With Rey x Dual Rey) ridden by Kyle Trahern to a 430 for owner Sneed-Pool Cattle Co. Inc. to earn $915.

The Limited Open Derby winner was Hesa Silver Cat (Bet Hesa Cat x Miss Hickory Hill x Doc’s Hickory) ridden by Wes Housler to a 429.50 for $832. Hesa Silver Cat is owned by Lesley L. Marshall. SJR Sumkindarockstar (Smooth As A Cat x Sumkinda Pinkcadilac x Peptoboonsmal) and Debbie Crafton were second with a 428.50 to earn $693.

Canadian trainer Marcha Duvenage made the trek from Idaho with Anne Reynolds to earn the Level 1 Open Derby title riding Got The Money Hunny (Reyzin The Cash x Charmed For Sure x Smart Little Lena), owned by Marcha and Mark Duvenage, to a 425 worth $563. JR Dual Cat ridden by Matt Matusio was reserve with a 423.50 composite to earn $675.15 for Jesse and Renate Gariner. 

Derby Non-Pro

Topping the tough Non-Pro Derby was Nicole Westfall of Calhan, Colorado, riding the home-raised roan stallion Cat Like, owned by her parents Desiree and Jeff Westfall. Westfall originally entered Cat Like in the Open Derby, but after some tough luck in the herd work, she late entered the Non-Pro, which proved to be a wise choice. Westfall teamed with Cat Like for a 433.5 composite to earn $861 (not counting go-round earnings). 

“We raised Cat Like (“Bo”), he’s out of our good mare Smart N Katsi and by Bet Hesa Cat,” said Westfall. “Just like any of Smart N Katsi’s foals he’s got plenty of quirks, but I would say his biggest is he is always so itchy. He LOVES his scratches. I would say his biggest strengths would be his herd work and stops, but he’s really solid everywhere.” 

Bo earned bigtime rewards after having worked through the herd work portion on Day 1, followed by rein work in gusting winds before rising to the occasion down the fence on the final day of the Derby. 

“My biggest highlight on him at this show would be the fence run,” Westfall said. “He was with me every step of the way. He also handled the horrible wind in the rein work and handled used cattle out of the herd; I entered late so I went at the end of the set on the used cattle.” 

The talented young stallion is uniquely talented in that he is capable enough for Open competition in addition to having proven himself with Non-Pro earnings. 

“The plan for Cat Like for the majority of his Derby years will be to show in the Open with Dave Dillman,” said Westfall. “I may get lucky enough to pilot him a few more times throughout the year. Cat Like is a big blessing to us, and the fact that he’s Open caliber and fairly Non-Pro friendly is really hard to find. We are proud of him.” 

Westfall, who serves on the CRCA board of directors, voiced praise for the enjoyable atmosphere fostered by The Sagebrush show management. 

“Pueblo is always such a fun show,” she said. “This year the wind made it a little difficult to enjoy showing, but the overall atmosphere is always a blast. The cattle and ground are good, and there’s plenty of room to warm up and ride! We as an association always strive to have well-planned shows that run efficiently and effectively. 

“I would love to thank the CRCA for putting on shows in good facilities with good cattle and good payouts,” she added. “I would also like to thank Dave Dillman and crew for all the work they’ve done with Bo, and all their support not just with him, but with anything I step on. Dave’s a true role model.”

Last but certainly not least, Westfall thanked the herd helpers who stuck around through the duration of two days of herd work to assist. 

“It’s a fairly thankless full-time job, and every person that sits out there ready to help when asked is very, very appreciated,” she summed up.

Banking $718 for reserve in the Non-Pro Derby was Cutter McLaughlin, of Amarillo, Texas, riding Jay and Wendy McLaughlin’s SCR King Of The Road (Sannman x SCR Crackin Light x Boonlight Dancer) to a 430.  

Topping the Intermediate Non-Pro Derby was Karey Louthan, Elbert, Colorado, riding Surely This Time (Surely A Pepto x Its That Time Again)

 to a 426.50 for $442. BOXO Opus Magnum (WR This Cats Smart x Opus Chic x Smart Chic Olena), owned by Box O Quarter Horses and ridden by Jecca Ostrander, was reserve for $331 with a 422. Louthan and Ostrander were third and fifth in the Non-Pro Derby, respectively, which bolstered their earnings. Louthan also topped the 4-Year-Old Incentive Non-Pro with Surely This Time for $342, while Ostrander and BOXO Opus Magnum won the Select Non-Pro Derby. 

The Limited Non-Pro Derby champion was Mitch Guerrieri who scored a composite of 420 to earn $221 aboard Ruby White And Boon, owned by Guerrieri and Stacy Weisbach. Megan Ciana was second aboard Noshowjonez (Travelin Jonez x Shiner Pine x Sparkuptheballeus), owned by Dean Rand and Megan Ciana, with a 416.50. 

In the Level 1 Non-Pro Derby it was Kelly Valdez riding Smart Sided, owned by Robert and Betty Lou Valdez, to a 411.5 for $596. Smart Sided is by Blind Sided and out of the mare Smart Tic Tac (by Smart Mate) that Valdez rode to numerous championships during her decorated youth career. Sipping Coors Light (Light N Lena x Smart Leo Cat x WR This Cats Smart), owned and ridden by Miriam Altman, was reserve with a 401 to earn $398. 

The Boxing Derby Non-Pro champion was Lori Frampton-Crafton aboard One Smart N Timely (One Time Pepto x Ima Smart Response x Smart Little Lena)

owned by Debbie Crafton. Frampton-Crafton’s cumulative score of 419 earned $684.60, while reserve champ Jared Melton earned $513.45 riding Sista Jackson (Brother Jackson x Hickorys One Time x One Time Pepto), owned by Jared and Crystal Melton, to a 415.