Through the years, my job has presented me a lot of fabulous opportunities when it comes to horses. I’ve gotten to talk to the world’s best horsemen, and I’ve met some of the greatest horses across different disciplines and industries. One of my fondest memories, however, wasn’t work-related at all. It centered around a clinic.
As this issue (Sept. 15, 2016) was going to press, I received a letter from well-known trainer Bobby Ingersoll. He wanted to address the National Reined Cow Horse Association’s (NRCHA) announcement that its Snaffle Bit Futurity is moving from Reno, Nevada, to Fort Worth, Texas, in 2017.
The decision to change venues is potentially the most controversial issue the cow horse industry has ever faced and certainly the most polarizing in recent years. Horsemen either agree with the move or they don’t, and there are plenty of opinions on either side.
On Tuesday, May 19, at 5:18 p.m., I was sitting in my office when I got a text message. By 5:55 p.m., still sitting in my office, I owned a horse.
After two years of not owning a horse, it wasn’t the way I expected to dive back into horse ownership. For starters, I generally like to figure out what, exactly, I want to do with a horse before I start looking for one. I set a budget, then I start shopping. I’ve driven across the state of Texas to look at horses and spent too much money on pre-purchase exams that ended up being cheap compared to the veterinary problems I would have dealt with had I bought the horse. I’ve passed on horses I should have bought, and bought horses when I should have passed.
But I’ve never bought a horse sight unseen off the Internet. And I’ve never rescued a horse out of the kill pens…until now.
As we were preparing the June 1 issue, I sat down to read Associate Editor Brandyl Brooks’ article on the National Reining Breeders Classic (NRBC). The Level 4 Open finals ended in a tie between Casey Deary, on ARC Gunna Sparkya, and Andrea Fappani, on SG Frozen Enterprize. In reining, tied competitors can both opt out of a run-off and split the championship, but if either person wants a tie-breaker run, the other must comply or forfeit the win. While Casey would have split the title, Andrea called for a run-off. It was a smart call, as Andrea and “Iceman” turned in another solid run and took top honors. What really stuck with me was Casey’s comment afterward. He said, “I voted to not run [ARC Gunna Sparkya] off just because he’s 4, but I know Andrea’s horse is older and so broke...that his horse could probably come in there and do that same thing again.”
While cutting has 3-year-old futurities, 4-year-old derbies, and 5- and 6-year-old classic/challenge events, most reining derbies are for 4-, 5- and 6-year-olds. Deary’s comment about not wanting to run-off his 4-year-old versus Andrea’s 6-year-old made me wonder...does age matter that much?
Recently, I did something I rarely do – I took a vacation. Many times through my 20-plus-year career as a journalist, I’ve managed to take “working vacations,” where I kept working while visiting family in other states. One year, I went to Rillito Park, did a couple of interviews, took pictures and wrote an article while visiting my sister in Tucson, Arizona, during my Christmas “vacation.”
But last week was different. Last week, I took three days off work, boarded a plane and landed in another state with no work plans other than an occasional glance at my email to make sure a headline-grabbing story hadn’t hit the Western performance horse industry in my absence.
It happened at the National Reined Cow Horse Association (NRCHA) Snaffle Bit Futurity and the National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) Futurity. It happened at the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) Convention. It happened at the National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) Convention last year, and again at the NCHA Futurity. In each case, the associations paid tribute to the inductees – human and horse – to their respective halls of fame.
I admit, seeing the videos honoring inductees, hearing their stories and reading about them can be awfully inspiring. More than once, I’ve found myself humbled by the lives represented through the stories and pictures.
While attending the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) Convention in March, I had the great privilege to sit and visit with Carol Harris. A longtime Quarter Horse breeder, Harris is best known as the owner of Rugged Lark, the two-time AQHA Superhorse who filled many a young girls’ dreams (including mine) with his beauty, athleticism and outstanding bridleless performances. His trainer, Lynn Palm, was one of my idols growing up in Michigan, and I thought Harris must be the luckiest woman alive to own a horse like Rugged Lark.
Harris was at the Convention to talk about Protect Them, a new group she formed to…well…protect horses. With the cloning lawsuit resolved (see page 30 for a potential new development), the hot topic at the Convention this year was animal welfare. Equipment, such as lip chains, and drug rules and penalties were debated, many times with strong opinions on opposing sides.
Just a few days ago, the 2015 American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) Convention wrapped up four days’ worth of meetings in Fort Worth, Texas. Horsemen and women from around the world converged on the Omni Hotel for committee and membership meetings, Hall of Fame and award banquets, and social activities all centered around the American Quarter Horse.