The National Reined Cow Horse Association Celebration of Champions Derby in San Angelo, Texas, exceeded Stuart Bozeman's wildest expectations. The Idalou, Texas, competitor made a clean sweep of the four Non Pro Derby divisions and also won the Level 1 Limited Open Championship - five titles in all.
In the Derby Non Pro, Bozeman, 30, piloted his 2009 gelding, Merada In Style 09 (Cats Merada x Stylish In White) to a 144 in the herd work and the rein work, to win both rounds in all the Non Pro and Amateur divisions. Then, he earned the high-scoring cow work, a 147.5, for a 435.5 composite.
Bozeman had to make another set of runs on "Squiggy" in the Level 1 Limited Open, where he once again topped the herd work round with a 142.5 and won the rein work with a 144. He had the second-high cow work score, a 139. His 425.5 won the Level 1 Championship.
Bozeman scored $3,941.77 in go-round money alone, and then netted another $5,744 in combined Championship checks for a whopping $9,685.77 payday! His prizes included five Gist buckles, sponsored by Smart Boons and Kevin and Sydney Knight, and five monogrammed jackets courtesy of Gardiner Quarter Horses and Hes Wright On.
"I really just wanted to win the herd work," Bozeman said, laughing. "I hoped to do good enough to get by and win, but it didn't matter – I just wanted my horse to be good. It's more about the horse, making him the best he can be, than me showing and winning."
His 147.5 fence run in the Derby Non Pro was the highlight of his San Angelo trip, he said.
"That was the most fun I've ever had showing a horse. It was just awesome. I never actually really smiled after showing a horse until after the fence work today!"
Bozeman had shown in cutting, ranch horse and Stock Horse of Texas competition, but had limited experience with reined cow horses until his mom signed him up for a clinic with legendary trainer Don Murphy about a year and a half ago. He bought "Squiggy" from Don and his daughter, Nelle, and has trained the gelding with their help.
"He is really good at applying what he's taught," said Nelle, who jokingly credited Stuart's success to the good-luck keychain she gave him to carry in his pocket while showing.
Bozeman admitted he was at a disheartening point with his horsemanship when he met the Murphys, but their guidance turned everything around.
"When I got this horse, it clicked a whole lot easier. I had been getting frustrated with the cow horse," he said. "I have to thank Don and Nelle for helping me and getting me going again. I had kind of burned out on it because I hadn't had very good horses to ride."
When he's not training his show horses, Bozeman helps operate his 1,200 acre family farm, does day work on other ranches and runs cattle for himself in the wintertime.
He has a shot at another championship in San Angelo; Bozeman qualified Shiney Pixie Dust (Shiners Lena Doc x Hollywood Sure Stop) a mare owned by his parents, Vick and Susan Bozeman, for the Limited Open Bridle World Championship Finals on Wednesday, Jan. 30.
The Reserve Champion in the Derby Non Pro, Intermediate Non Pro, Novice Non Pro and Amateur divisions was Sandra Kaskey, a Florida horsewoman who showed her gelding, Dunitontopoftheworld (Dun It Big x Photons Cowgirl) to a composite score of 420. She earned paychecks totaling $4,366.10.