Cody Stark gives Smokee Dreams a big hug after their touching performance at the RAM Invitational Freestyle Reining * Photo by Performance Horse Photography

$27,500 RAM Invitational Freestyle Reining sees touching performances

The CINCH Arena was set ablaze Sunday night as fourteen nationally recognized competitors were put in the spotlight to perform spectacular freestyle reining patterns in the $27,500 RAM Invitational Freestyle Reining. With the final draw, 2023 champion Devin Warren took the arena by storm, clenching the top spot in 2024 with an incredible score of 233 points. 

Lil Joes Cash N Gold (Lil Joe Cash x Whiz Me Gold x Topsail Whiz), a grey seven-year-old AQHA gelding owned by Grace Wins LLC, was his partner in the heartfelt routine to “Noel” by Chris Tomlin. By a slim one-point margin, Sharee Schwartzenberger earned the reserve champion title with her horse Game Day Surprise (Hang Ten Surprize x Dunit N Continental x Hollywood Dun It). Her performance to “How Far I’ll Go” by Idina Menzel from the movie “Moana” took the audience on a trip to sandy beaches and beautiful waves. 

As a finale to the opening weekend, Cody Stark was voted the People’s Choice champion. His performance to “The Prayer” by Andrea Bocelli and Celine Dion stole the hearts of everyone at the arena after he dedicated the routine to athletes with disabilities. Smokee Dreams (Magnum Chic Dream x Elans Little Smokee x Elans Playboy), a black 2015 AQHA stallion, affectionately named “Lefty” for his full blindness in his left eye, proved anyone can defy the odds and do anything they put their mind to. Smokee Dreams has a performance record of $7,625 according to EquiStat.

The night also featured three youth in the Youth Freestyle Reining Showcase. Lindsey Thomas created a powerful set to “Girl on Fire” by Alecia Keys, Mary Kathryn Hardin rode in straight from the swamp to “Marie Laveau” by Bobby Bare and Dakota Harvey rocked the arena to “Back in Black” by AC/DC. 

The crowd-favorite event did not disappoint, drawing top reiners from five states for their chance at the impressive prize money, making this the richest freestyle reining in the country.

Devin Warren and Lil Joes Cash N Gold were crowned 2024 champions at the RAM Invitational Freestyle Reining. * Photo by Performance Horse Photography