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Lilla Bell and Ole Dan * Photo by Amy Olson

Ole Dan & Lilla Bell Thrill in NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity Level 1 Open

A good horse named Ole Dan and California native Lilla Bell earned the biggest wins of their young careers in the National Reined Cow Horse Association (NRCHA) Snaffle Bit Futurity.

Bell, 22, rode the gelding by Thomas E Hughes to the win in the event’s Level 1 Open on Tuesday, Oct. 17, in Fort Worth, Texas. They marked the top composite of 649.5 (218 herd/220.5 rein/210.5 cow), just edging out Reserve Champions Fancy Love and Kelsey Thomas by a half-point.

“This whole week has kind of been unreal,” Bell said. “It all feels like a dream a little bit. I keep waiting to wake up.”

In addition to winning the Level 1 Open, Ole Dan and Bell made the finals of the Snaffle Bit Futurity Intermediate Open and Limited Open, so their show isn’t over yet.

“I was just just just proud of how honest he was for me in the show pen,” Bell said, of her run through the prelims. “In the reining, he locked into those circles and I knew running him down there [that] I could run him and he was gonna stop for me. He was really good there. In the herd work, as soon as I started up to the cow, I could tell he was he was locked on and he was gonna be good and I just needed to show him and stay out of his way. I was proud of him for that.

“I love that horse.”

Though the Snaffle Bit Futurity was their biggest success, Bell and Ole Dan also did well earlier in 2023 at the National Stock Horse Association (NSHA) Futurity, where they won the Limited Open and the Level 1 Open.

Bred by Don and Kathy Boone, Ole Dan is by EquiStat Elite $3 Million Sire Thomas E Hughes and out of SDP Debbys Dream (by Dual Rey). He is the leading earner for his dam, and his $19,0000 first-place check for the Level 1 Limited Open win pushed his dam’s lifetime EquiStat produce record to more than $46,624.

Bell found Ole Dan late last year at EquiStat Elite $2 Million Rider Justin Wright’s facility. She said she saw him shortly after the trainer and Cooper Smith had bought the horse from JoJo Lemond out of the 2022 Western Bloodstock National Cutting Horse Association Futurity Sales. Bell knew she wanted the horse as soon as she saw him.

“I just told Justin, ‘I’ll take him.’ And, I loaded him in the trailer — and, thankfully, my mom helped me pay for the rest of him. But, I just knew I had to own that horse and I knew he was special.”

“It was all kind of crazy how it all worked out.”

California Roots

Growing up near Hollister, California, Bell competed in rodeos and also showed in cow horse events in the National High School Rodeo Association. She later began working with cow horse trainers, saying she spent time working for Wright as well as Kelby Phillips. Currently, she works out of Wyatt Fisher’s facility in Nipomo, CA.

“I ride some horses for him and have some of my own outside horses and client horses … a little bit of both there. It’s been a lot of opportunity for me there to have more of my own show horses and start kind of doing my own thing. My goal is to be able to go out on my own.”

Bell appreciates all the help she’s gotten over the years, including from her parents, Dean and Nikki Bell, as well as longtime supporters Wyatt and Lacy Bourdet.

“I’m just thankful for everybody who’s helped me along the way,” she said.

With her winnings in the Level 1 Open, Bell currently has a lifetime EquiStat record of $48,131.