Chris Dawson's charmed show season continued at the National Reined Cow Horse Association Hackamore Classic in Pueblo, Colo., when he won the Open Championship aboard Cryin Coyote Ranch's A Spoonful O Sugar (Hes A Peptospoonful x Poco Smokum Oak x Smokum Oak) and took the Reserve Championship aboard his own horse, Travelin Jonez (Smart Chic Olena x Travelin With Sass x Travalena).
"This is officially a lucky shirt. It's not going anywhere," Dawson said, when asked about his vivid pink shirt – the same one he wore to the winners' circle at the NRCHA Celebration of Champions Derby and the NRCHA Stakes earlier this year. At the Derby, Dawson was first and second on the same two horses in reverse order, and he won the Stakes Championship on Travelin Jonez.
Dawson, Jacksboro, Texas, has often said either Travelin Jonez or A Spoonful O Sugar has the ability to win on any given day, and was happy to deliver the good news to Danny and Sherri Rumph of Cryin Coyote Ranch.
"The owners could hardly believe it. I had to make the other calls and tell them my horse beat their horse, so it was really good to get this one on top here," Dawson said.
"Sugar" worked her way to a total score of 439.5 (146 herd/147 rein/ 145.5 cow) earning $14,159, including go-round money. The Hackamore Classic championship also came with a Bob's Custom Saddle and Gist buckle from the NRCHA, a pair of boots from Rios of Mercedes, a custom cooler from Classic Equine, and a cooler bag and $50 gift certificate from Santa Cruz Biotechnologies.
"That mare, she's a darn good horse. She can be so electric on a cow. If things go right, she sure can ring a bell," Dawson said.
A Spoonful O Sugar was one of the last horses to work down the fence, and after her winning score was announced, Dawson had some tense moments when the judges called for a video review of the run. They were debating whether to penalize the mare for knocking the cow down in the circles, which would have deducted six points from the score and dropped her from first to sixth place. Ultimately, the score was not changed.
"I knew that's what they were looking at, and I was pretty nervous about it. I was sure glad it when it came back the way it did," Dawson said.
He had been leading the composite after two events on Travelin Jonez, but a slight error in the fence work left "TJ" second to his barn-mate. The 5-year-old stallion worked his way to a 437 total score (148 herd/148 rein/141 cow), taking home $11,329, including go-round money.
Travelin Jonez had the second-high herd work score, won the rein work round and then incurred some penalty points on his first turn in the fence work.
"He was the best he's ever been in the rein work, just as quiet as could be. He really likes that hackamore. The cow, we knew we had to go early and we went with a lot of cow. He was a little tight down the fence and didn't make that first turn [before the one point penalty marker]," Dawson said. "He finished up real strong and salvaged the run, but it certainly wasn't what we had in mind when we woke up this morning."
Both horses are 5-year-olds, and last year, they also did well at the Hackamore Classic, with Travelin Jonez placing 3rd and A Spoonful O Sugar finishing 5th. Dawson enjoys the single go-round format at the show; without a second chance in the finals, every run counts.
"The fun thing about this horse show, it's all finals. You tell yourself when you walk in there the first day in the herd, that it isn't 'safety up and we get to play again in the finals.' This is for the money, right here, today, so that makes it a really fun horse show."
Dawson said he plans to show both horses at the NRCHA Derby in June.
Intermediate Open Champions
Matt Koch, Douglas, Wyo., is growing accustomed to life at the top of the Intermediate Open division. He rode SDP Blue Blood to the Hackamore Classic Intermediate Open Championship in Pueblo, Colo., just over a month ago, he won the same title with the roan stallion at the NRCHA Stakes in Las Vegas, Nev.
SDP Blue Blood (Laredo Blue x SDP I Got Good Genes x TR Dual Rey), owned by Koch in partnership with his former employer, Haythorn Land and Cattle, earned a total 432.5 (145 herd/143 rein/144.5 fence). The Intermediate Open Championship paid $3,318, including go-round money, and came with a Gist buckle and a custom sheet from Classic Equine. SDP Blue Blood also tied for 6th place in the Hackamore Classic Open division, taking home another $3,491.
While Koch said the 5-year-old stallion is not the best natural hackamore horse he's ever ridden, he was satisfied with his performance in Pueblo.
"He didn't feel quite as good as he did at the Stakes. He's never been really great in the hackamore, but he trained up enough to get through it. He was pretty good in the cutting, a little more forward than he usually is. In the rein work, he was fresh, but we survived. I had real soft cow in the fence work. I didn't box it much, and it slow-loped down the pen and I just got my turns and finished up. There wasn't much else I could have done, I don't think," he said.
Koch, who started a new position with NRCHA Breeder Sponsor Wagonhound Land and Livestock, Douglas, Wyo., this spring, turned to renowned hackamore maker and horseman Don Brown for guidance during SDP Blue Blood's hackamore training process.
"Don Brown got me started in all this. He sends me his hackamores. That's what I ride in. He's been a major contributor to my hackamore horses. I didn't know much at all about it. He coaches me over the phone. I talk to him about once a week. If I have a little bobble somewhere, he tells me what to try, and most of the time, it always works," Koch said.
The Intermediate Open Reserve Champion was Chickarey (Dual Rey x Sonita Lena Chick x Smart Chic Olena), shown by Robert Chown for owner Dominic Conicelli. They scored a 431 (144.5. herd/144.5 rein/142 fence), earning $2,578, including go-round money. Chickarey earned another $1,194 for an 11th place tie in the Open.
Limited Open Champions
The Hackamore Classic Limited Open division wrapped up with Ashland, Kans., horseman Kelby Phillips' name at the top of the results sheet – twice. He rode the Champion horse, Shes Wright On (Hes Wright On x Sue C Shiner x Shining Spark) and the Reserve Champion horse, Fancy Boons N All (Peptoboonsmal x Smart Fancy Zan x Smart Little Lena). Both mares are owned by Phillips' employer, Garth and Amanda Gardiner of Gardiner Quarter Horses.
It was a repeat of Phillips's performance at the NRCHA Stakes in Las Vegas, when he claimed the same placings on the same horses in the same division, and he finds the repetition anything but boring.
"It feels really good for me to win for the Gardiners on their horses at another major event," Phillips said. "I feel blessed to have the opportunities I'm being given right now. It's also the first time I've showed since we got married, so maybe that's bringing me luck!"
Phillips and his wife, Abbie, were married in mid-April.
Phillips guided Shes Wright On to a total 428.5 (141 herd/144.5 rein/143 fence), earning $1,395, including go-round money. The Limited Open Championship also came with a Gist buckle and a custom sheet from Classic Equine. The 4-year-old bay mare took home an additional $1,347 for 4th place in the Intermediate Open.
Fancy Boons N All earned a 428 composite (136 herd/145.5 rein/146.5 cow), good for a total $1,188 in Reserve Championship money and go-round money. She also banked $1,204 for her go-round performances and 5th place finish in the Intermediate Open.
"I didn't get Fancy shown very good in the herd. I had a pretty rough cut on her, but Shes Wright On was really good – that's the best she's felt to me in the herd. In the reining, they were both pretty good," Phillips said. "Shes Wright On has turned out to be a really good fence horse. That's one thing I don't worry about with her. She feels like she can handle any type of cow down the fence."
Both mares are NRCHA Derby-bound; Phillips will show both himself, and Amanda Gardiner may show Fancy Boons N All in the Non-Pro, he said.
Phillips thanked his wife, Abbie, as well as his herd help, Bozo Rogers, Brad Lund, Boyd Rice and Todd Crawford. He also appreciated the help and guidance of Don and Nelle Murphy