The National Reined Cow Horse Association Celebration of Champions, Feb. 14 - 22 at the Will Rogers Equestrian Center in Fort Worth, Texas, began with the Aaron Ranch Cow Horse Classic, a three event herd work, rein work and cow work derby for 4- and 5-year-old horses, shown in the snaffle or hackamore.
Entries were up significantly over 2013, with the Open divisions seeing 80% growth. The NRCHA also welcomed Aaron Ranch of Commerce, Texas, as the new derby title sponsor, and altered its format. Competitors showed first in the rein work, then the herd and cow work. The top preliminary scorers advance to the cow work-only finals, with that score added to the previous three-event composite to determine the champions.
Bakersfield, Calif., professional Doug Williamson had two horses in the Aaron Ranch Cow Horse Classic Derby finals Monday, Feb. 17 at the Will Rogers Equestrian Center in Fort Worth, Texas. He was riding Short And Smart (Smart Little Lena x Miss Shorty Paloma x Shorty Lena), a 2009 stallion owned by Rocking J Ranch; and High Brow Shiner (Shining Lil Nic x High Brow Meow x High Brow Cat), a 2009 stallion owned by Belle Meade Ranch.
The two were evenly matched going into the finals fence work. Short And Smart had a 650 total score after three events, while High Brow Shiner was close behind at a 649.5.
"It was just a matter of who got the best cow in the finals," Williamson said.
The luck of the draw favored Short And Smart. He handled a fast black steer to earn the high score of the finals – a 226. Williamson's combined score on four events was an 876 (217 herd/215 rein/218 cow/226 finals cow). His total paycheck, including go-round money, was $14,281. The Derby Open Championship also came with a Gist buckle and monogrammed jacket sponsored by Aaron Ranch; and a $50 gift certificate from Santa Cruz Biotechnologies. Williamson's other Derby horse, High Brow Shiner, scored a 216 in the finals for a total 865.5, finishing fifth and earning $5,070.
"I'm fortunate to ride these nice horses and have such wonderful customers,'' Williamson said.
The Aaron Ranch Cow Horse Classic Open Reserve Champion was Jackies Sparkle (Nic It In The Bud x Shinersdiamondjackie x Shining Spark), shown by Phillip Ralls, Paso Robles, Calif., and owned by Estelle Roitblat. They scored an 872.5 composite, earning $9,680 and taking home an Aaron Ranch monogrammed jacket, a fleece cooler from Classic Equine and a $50 gift certificate from Santa Cruz Biotechnologies.
Intermediate & Limited Open Derby Championships
Bobby Lewis, Overbrook, Okla., collected the Aaron Ranch Cow Horse Classic Derby Intermediate Open and Limited Open Championships on CSR Dual Glo (Dual Spark x Look At Her Glo x CD O Cody), owned by Circle Star Ranch, Pontotoc, Texas.
They scored a total 855.5 (205 herd/215.5 rein/218 cow/217 finals cow) to earn the titles.
"My horse was real consistent the whole trip. I had a little trouble in the herd. I didn't get any decent cattle cut. He was good both times down the fence, and he was really good in the reining. The horse is just easy. He's a good-minded horse; real pleasant to be around," Lewis said.
He earned combined paychecks totaling $4,418 and a pair of Gist buckles and monogrammed jackets sponsored by Aaron Ranch.
The 2010 stallion is a product of parents Lewis knows inside and out. The veteran horseman bred and trained Look At Her Glo, and he also is the owner/trainer of Dual Spark.
Roping figures prominently in Lewis's training program, even for his cow horses.
"I train a lot of roping horses and really, really enjoy it. We rope to break the monotony of the training an give them a little something else to do. One like [CSR Dual Glo] especially, because he's so easygoing and wants to be such a nice horse," he said.
Although the bay stallion has been exposed to roping, his primary career path, at least for the near future, will be in the reined cow horse arena.
"We're going to continue to show him in some of the cow horse aged events. I love the cow horse because it's so demanding. It's one of the most time consuming events you can do, because a they have to be good in so many events. It takes a very special horse," Lewis said.