The man who is known by his classic forest green show shirts has joined the $7 million rider club. Shawn Flarida of Springfield, Ohio, posted his first check to EquiStat in 1988, and learning how to become a better horseman has consumed him ever since.
“I don’t know if I even have an earliest memory of reiners,” Flarida said. “I was so fortunate that my father [Bill Flarida] liked reining horses and was always around them. From the time I was a really little boy, all I wanted to do was train horses.”
According to Flarida, he wasn’t diligently watching his lifetime earnings, but was aware he was approaching the $7 million mark.
“I focus on doing the best I can do and the rest will work out itself. I’ll be there for my horses and everything else will fall where it’s supposed to fall,” Flarida said.
Riding industry sires such as Wimpys Little Step (Nu Chex To Cash x Leolita Step x Fourty Seven), Gunnatrashya (Colonels Smoking Gun x Natrashya x Trashadeous) and Spooks Gotta Whiz (Spooks Gotta Gun x Prettywhizprettydoes x Topsail Whiz), Flarida’s hand in the reining is evident.
“It’s been an honor for me to be a part of all these horses’ lives. They’ve been awesome to me,” Flarida said. “There are some horses out there that have not only made some huge contributions to my career, but to this industry. And that, for me as a horseman, I am most proud of.”
Flarida earned his first National Reining Horse Association major event title – the NRHA Futurity Open Championship aboard Wimpys Little Step – in 2002.
In 2003 Flarida reached $1 million in earnings, and in 2008, he became the first NRHA professional to reach the $3 million milestone.
From 2007 to 2010, Flarida went on a four-year winning streak at the NRHA Derby, riding Walla Walla Whiz (Topsail Whiz x Shiney Walla Wanda x Shining Spark), Wimpys Little Chic (Wimpys Little Step x Collena Chic Olena x Smart Chic Olena), RC Fancy Step (Wimpys Little Step x Sonita Wilson x Doc Wilson) and Gunnatrashya to championships, respectively.
“Those horses that I’ve rode, they were so real. They had great souls, they had great brains, and what you saw was what you go. They showed up, did their job, did their work and we were sure hoping it was good enough [to win],” Flarida said.
With more than 30 years in the reining industry, Flarida has seen generations of horses run down the pen.
“It’s so fun for me to be able to ride their offspring and see what they produce. I get to know how good [the progeny] are everyday because I get to be with them, but when they go show it to the public it makes me very proud,” Flarida said.
Some of Flarida’s recent winners include familiar pedigrees. 2022 NRHA Derby Stakes Open Champion and High Roller Reining Stakes Open Champion Alpha Jac Sparrow bears a striking resemblance to sire Spooks Gotta Whiz. Boasting $77,497 in lifetime earnings according to EquiStat, Alpha Jac Sparrow, who is out of Chexanicki (by Bueno Chexinic), is headed into his 5-year-old year with plenty of derbies on the horizon.
In early October, mare Andiamoe (Gunnatrashya x Wimpys Little Chic x Wimpys Little Step) became the Congress Futurity Open Champion with Flarida, winning $34,302. According to Flarida, riding the progeny of his previous champions brings an extra dose of satisfaction.
“I want to thank the horses. The horses mean everything to me. Even the ones that only won me $10. I am sure glad they were there and I got to ride them,” Flarida said.
What’s Next for Flarida?
“I love competing,” Flarida said. “I love showing and I love being involved with the horses. The whole aspect for me still fascinates me. I’ll wake up in the middle of the night and be thinking about a horse. It’s in my blood. I don’t think about anything else.”
Flarida’s family is ingrained in the business, too. Flarida’s father, Bill, still watches him every day and Flarida’s son, Sam, has taken interest in the sport.
Flarida thanked the horses, owners, farrier Mark Flarida and veterinarian John Mehaffey for their continued support and commitment.