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Nicole Donahoo and Very Smart Pearl make their victory lap as the 2024 World's Greatest Youth Horseman. * Photo by Amy Olson

Nicole Donahoo becomes 2024 World’s Greatest Youth Horseman

In just four short days during the end of the National Reined Cow Horse Association (NRCHA) Celebration Of Champions, Nicole Donahoo and Very Smart Pearl overcame other youth competitors and four rounds of showing for the coveted title of 2024 World’s Greatest Youth Horseman.

Beginning on February 21 with the steer stopping, Donahoo and Very Smart Pearl marked a 219 to top the first round of competition. The very next day, they would compete concurrently with the Youth Cow Horse World Championships to complete their rein work and cow work. During those prelims, they marked a 219 and a 209.5 respectively.

The duo had a day’s break before their herd work on February 24. That morning, they marked a 213.5 for a composite of 861, which was enough to earn them a trip through the Will Rogers Coliseum during the fence work-only finals.

Donahoo and “Captain Jack” bettered their fence score from earlier in the week to mark a 213 in the finals. Added onto their previous scores, the total was 1,074, just half a point ahead of Tylie Norcutt on Soulas Hickory Star (Soula Jule Star x Turn Liz Loose x Doc’s Hickory).

“He was awesome, he had a pretty tricky cow and he handled everything and he covered my butt a couple of times,” Donahoo said.

She’s had Captain Jack for about three years now, and knows she can trust the gelding to give her his all.

“He just comes out every day and tries so hard,” she said. “Since I first bought him this has been my ultimate goal so to get it done is pretty crazy. He just has so much heart and you can always count on him.”

Along with the title of 2024 World’s Greatest Youth Horseman, Donahoo and her horse gathered up $5,100 in purse money and an armload of prizes.

Cow Horse Royalty

Very Smart Pearl “Captain Jack” is a 2015 gelding by Very Smart Remedy, the EquiStat seventh highest earning reined cow horse sire of all-time. Very Smart Remedy is an EquiStat Elite $2 Million Sire, and is the only horse in the top ten EquiStat reined cow horse sires to have actually shown in reined cow horse events.

His dam, Black Pearl (by Smart Little Pepinic) earned $120,203 in the show pen for Ward Ranch, also in reined cow horse events. Black Pearl is EquiStat Elite $1 Million Sire Smart Little Pepinic‘s top earner.