In a thrilling, down-to-the-wire fence work finish Saturday, Feb. 2 at Spur Arena in San Angelo, Texas, leading NRCHA professional Ron Emmons claimed his second consecutive World's Greatest Horseman Championship aboard Olena Oak (Smart Chic Olena x Fritzs Oak E Doakie), a 2002 stallion owned in partnership between Nichole Scott and Emmons' wife, LaDona Emmons.
Emmons and Olena Oak scored a 219.5 in the herd work, a 214.5 in the rein work, a 221.5 in the steer-stopping and 219 in the cow work. While they did not place first in any of the events, the steady stream of above-average scores added up to the winning 874 composite total on four events. The World's Greatest Horseman Championship came with a $25,000 check, a Bob's Custom Saddle and a host of other prizes.
"I'm ecstatic," Emmons said, following the win. "I'm just excited. It's a great deal and a great event, with great horses to compete against. To be able to get by those guys and win a prize is pretty awesome."
Heading into the all-important final event, the cow work, Emmons and Olena Oak were deadlocked with Boyd Rice and Oh Cay N Short (Oh Cay Quixote x Bit Of Shorty), who were first to work down the fence. Their 215.5 score brought their total on four events to 870.5, which held the lead until Emmons and Ernie worked second-to-last in the draw.
"Boyd left the door open," Emmons said. "I knew it was going to end up that the cow would tell us who won. If I could be solid down the fence and not make any mistakes, I knew I could be good."
Emmons' cow acted wild when it first entered the arena, and as soon as it settled down, he took it down the fence. The cow challenged Olena Oak in the first fence turn, but the gritty stallion never weakened.
"The cow did not want to turn. Ernie had to hold his shoulder against it and make it turn. After that, I knew I had him. We made a second turn and circled real tight," the Ione, Calif., horseman said.
As the horn blew to signal the end of the run, Emmons flung his hat high into the Spur Arena rafters as the spectators roared, knowing they had just witnessed a repeat victory.
Olena Oak's co-owners, Nichole Scott and LaDona Emmons, said their confidence in Ron and Ernie overcame the butterflies in their stomachs as they watched their stallion enter the arena for the fence work.
"We just wanted him to go in and have a good run. That's all we want, go have a run and however it ends up, it ends up," LaDona said.
Nichole agreed: "I don't get nervous as much as I used to because Ron and Ernie together are amazing, and whatever they do is whatever they do. They've proven themselves over and over and over."
Nichole previously owned Ernie in partnership with her father, Mel Smith. When he was ready to sell his share of the stallion, it was only natural for LaDona to buy in – a deal they completed late in December.
"The three of us work really well together. Everything is discussed and everything is for the best of the horse. It's not about us," Nichole said.
"I'm blessed to even be a part of it," LaDona said.
Boyd Rice, Oh Cay N Short Capture World's Greatest Horseman Reserve Championship
Riding Oh Cay N Short (Oh Cay Quixote x Bit Of Shorty), his 2007 National Reined Cow Horse Association Snaffle Bit Futurity Champion, Boyd Rice captured the World's Greatest Horseman Reserve Championship,scoring 870 on four events.
The Spearman, Texas, professional won the World's Greatest Horseman preliminary round and led in the finals until Olena Oak's winning cow work late in the set.
Rice and Oh Cay N Short, known as "Coyote," won the finals herd work with a 222, then scored a 216 in the rein work, a 215 in the steer stopping and a 215.5 down the fence.
"He gave me everything he had," Rice said of Oh Cay N Short.
Oh Cay N Short showed in San Angelo under the name of his prior owners, Kevin and Sydney Knight, but Rice is now the 2003 gelding's owner.
"Kevin gave him to me for Christmas, but he had already entered him here so I told Kevin I'd partner with him until it was over. After this, he's mine," Rice said, adding that the gift came as a complete shock.
"I was big-time surprised! Everybody else knew it, but I didn't. a couple days after he gave him to me, I called [NRCHA Million-Dollar Rider and 2012 NRCHA Futurity Champion] Corey Cushing and said, "Did you know they gave me that horse?" And he said, "Oh yeah, I knew it three months ago!" Everybody knew it but me," Rice said.