Rebell and Cayley Wilson in the preliminary herd work. * Photo by Amy Olson

Cayley Wilson’s Wreck and Phillips’ Ride

If you were watching the National Reined Cow Horse Association (NRCHA) Snaffle Bit Futurity Finals on Oct. 21, you would’ve seen Cayley Wilson’s wreck. You would’ve also seen Kelby Phillips ride a horse into the fence work finals although he hadn’t made the finals on any horses.

In the first set of fence work finals, the crowd in the Will Rogers Coliseum went silent after Rebell (Metallic Rebel x Smart Marie x Smart Little Lena) fell during his first fence turn. The sorrel stallion owned by Sandy Miller-Allen rolled completely over Wilson, and appeared to step on Wilson’s head twice while standing up.

“Sometimes they’ll they’ll twist or pull a shoe but that wasn’t the case there. I think he it just is an odd thing that happened, it was unfortunate,” Wilson would later say.

In the moment, some fans turned their eyes away and said prayers, while others, including EquiStat Elite $1 Million Rider Kelby Phillips jumped the arena fence to help their friend. The Rodeo Sports Medicine team was quickly at the scene, and after assessing Wilson, were able to help him to his feet and walk him from the arena.

That was just Wilson’s first ride of the night. The trainer conquered a huge accomplishment this year and advanced three horses to the finals. They’d each drawn in a different set during the fence work. Next was Kual Outlaw (Shiney Outlaw x Kual Gun x Playgun) owned by Michelle Cannon.

“I was up again on the second horse and I kind of felt like when I was in there, I realized that I was injured worse than I thought and I couldn’t do the best job showing that second horse,” Wilson said.

Although he may not have been riding his best, Wilson and the buckskin still managed to mark a 212 while the crowd held their breath.

Cayley’s final mount of the Snaffle Bit was supposed to be Hip Hip Rebel Rey (Metallic Rebel x Hip Hip Sue Rey x Dual Rey) owned by Kathy Gentry.

“I had mixed emotions of all kinds. All of a sudden Katie [Wilson’s wife] calls me, and she says ‘as you might’ve well figured out, he’s not going to be able to ride your horse,” and I said no, no that’s fine. And she says ‘but Kelby is going to ride your horse,” Gentry recalled. “I’ve never met him personally, but how could you get a better guy instantaneously on your horse?” Gentry inquired.

The decision wasn’t made lightly, but Wilson thought Kelby Phillip’s style would be a good fit for ‘Hank.’

“He’s the kind of horse that he’s real fast and he’s real athletic and he’s real cowy so he doesn’t like the cow getting away from him,” Wilson said.

“I gave him a couple little tips just on the boxing and then I said when it comes to go down the fence he’ll be there for you, you won’t have to worry he’s gonna go turn that cow in the circling he can get up there,” Wilson said. “He’s a small, little horse but very fast. Then Kelby just showed him excellent.”

A score of 218.5 on a horse that he’d never rode, that’s just how excellent. A testament not only to Phillips’ riding skills but also to Wilson’s training.

“Cayley had done everything, I just jumped on him and went and tried to show him as best as I could,” Phillips later said. “The only reason I did it was to try and help him out, and I’m glad it worked out the way it did.”

Wilson stuck around to watch and was swept away by the crowd’s support of Phillips riding to help his friend.

“I was in the stands and it was just really nice, it was louder for his run than some of the other really great rides, the crowd was just behind him,” Wilson said.

Wilson was eventually diagnosed with a broken rib and a concussion, although he may not ride for a week or two, he hopes his recovery will be short and that he can ride in the National Cutting Horse Association Futurity. Another friend came to the rescue there, Jesse Lennox has taken on the task of continuing to ride Wilson’s cutting horses while he heals.

“All the horses are sound and good at the end of the day, so that was wonderful. And I’m going to be fine too,” Wilson said.

“It just showed great character, Kelby stepping up and doing that, just like Jesse Lennox, taking these cutting horses and working on them for me,” Wilson reflected. “It’s just wonderful the community of people that are willing to step in and help during hard times.”