Tammy Jo Hays has won the Non-Pro Championship at every National Reined Cow Horse Association Premier Event except one: the Snaffle Bit Futurity. That all changed Friday, Oct. 4 when Hays claimed the Futurity Non-Pro title on SDP Got Fancy Genes (RC Fancy Step x SDP I Got Good Genes x Dual Rey), a mare she owns with her father, Walter Greeman.
"I can remember watching the Snaffle Bit Futurity and thinking it was too big a dream, much less make the finals, or win it. It's indescribable. It's the biggest blessing. I feel beyond blessed," Hays said, through tears.
Hays won the title by a six-and-a-half point margin. She and SDP Got Fancy Genes racked up a total score of 675 (218 herd/217 rein/222 cow), and they had the top score of all three events. The championship paid $15,317. It also came with a Bob's Custom Saddle sponsored by Holy Cow Performance Horses LLC; a custom saddle rack sponsored by Sunmoon Ranch; a Gist buckle sponsored by John and Jody Semper; a CR Morrison Bronze sponsored by the NRCHA; the Keith Christie Perpetual Trophy, a polar fleece cooler from Classic Equine; a Cinch jacket from Bob's Custom Saddles/The New West; a 30x Hat from JW Brooks Custom Hats; a 40th Anniversary Edition Don Dodge custom snaffle bit handcrafted by Greg Darnall; a 10-pound bucket of UltraCruz Sand Clear plus a $50 gift certificate and a coffee tumbler in a cooler tote bag, sponsored by San Juan Ranch, a division of Santa Cruz Animal Health; Platinum Equine from Platinum Performance; and therapeutic equine products from Back On Track.
Though the mare is well-endowed with talent, Hays said SDP Got Fancy Genes did not perform to her ability in preliminary fence work. The finals were a different story. Hays' fence work ignited the crowd at the Reno-Sparks Livestock Events Center as the sorrel mare glued herself to the cow, finishing the run with a dramatic open-field turn and aggressive circles which unseated her petite rider.
"I nearly fell off circling! All week we'd had trouble with her in the fence work. She wasn't good for me in the prelims. She wasn't good for my husband in the prelims [NRCHA professional Shawn Hays, who showed the mare in the Futurity Open]. We went and schooled her. I thought I had the problem fixed, but I didn't know I had it fixed that well," Hays said. "She's the very best she's ever been today. I'm speechless. All I can say is, it had to be God. It doesn't happen that perfectly without Him."
Hays and SDP Got Fancy Genes also racked up another $8,400 for winning the Non-Pro Sale Incentive. Hays won the same award last year with her Futurity Intermediate Non-Pro Champion and Non-Pro Reserve Champion horse, Two Kitties (Smooth As A Cat X SR Jaguar X Doc O'Lena).
"It's kind of a nice thing," Hays said. "We bought [SDP Got Fancy Genes] because I wanted another sale incentive horse. I bought another one here [at the NRCHA Futurity Sales]. I think there's a few people on to my racket – a few other non-pros bought some sale incentive horses too!"
Hays arrived in Reno with $155,767 in NRCHA earnings. Her performances at Reno augmented that number by more than $25,000, putting her total career NRCHA record right at the $181,000 mark.
She thanked her husband; her family; her veterinarians; herd helpers Phillip Ralls, Chris Dawson, Jon Roeser and Robbie Boyce; and NRCHA Hall of Fame horseman Don Murphy.
The Futurity Non-Pro Reserve Champion was Laurie Ward, Kingsburg, Calif. She rode Lites Out (Smart Little Pepinic x Justa Hot Chic x Just Plain Colonel) to a 650.5 composite (216 herd/215 rein/219.5 cow), earning $11,488.
Intermediate Non-Pro Champion
JJ Fisher, Arroyo Grande, Calif., guided Keg Of Jules (Soula Jule Star x Shes A Hickory Girl x Doc's Hickory), a gelding he owns with his wife, Teresa, to the Intermediate Non-Pro Championship with a 637 total score (215 herd/204.5 rein/217.5 cow).
"It feels great. It's awesome. It's been a great year. Probably the best year I've ever had doing this," Fisher said.
The Intermediate Non-Pro Championship paid $7,958 and came with a Bob's Custom Saddle sponsored by Jerry Kimmel; a custom saddle rack sponsored by Sunmoon Ranch; a Gist buckle sponsored by the Vangelos family/Polymer Logistics; a CR Morrison Bronze sponsored by the NRCHA; a polar fleece cooler from Classic Equine; a Cinch jacket from Bob's Custom Saddles/The New West; a 30x hat from JW Brooks Custom Hats; Platinum Equine from Platinum Performance; and Back On Track product from Back On Track.
Fisher also placed 4th in the Futurity Non-Pro, adding another $7,658 to his earnings.
"He probably struggles the most in the rein work. The first two futurities I showed him at, he drug a lead from left to right, and here, in the rein work, he drug a lead from left to right. It was my fault. The herd work is my personal weakest event. I spent a lot of time with [NRCHA professional] Phillip Ralls this past year
He purchased "Barney" from the Level 1 Limited Open Futurity Champion, Russell Probert, last summer.
"He was his personal horse. I went to look at some other horses but I fell in love with him," Fisher said.
Fisher's 15-year-old son, Wyatt, and wife, Teresa, also show cow horses, and Fisher looks forward to upcoming NRCHA shows as a family affair.
"My wife is going to show my other 3-year-old, and I'm going to show this one. We'll go to the [NRCHA Celebration of Champions] Derby in Fort Worth. My son qualified [for the NRCHA World Show] on his hackamore horse so I plan to take him down there."
Fisher's dual Futurity paychecks totaled $15,616 and elevated his career NRCHA earnings to nearly $90,000.
The Intermediate Non-Pro Reserve Champion was Bubba Petty, Roseburg, Ore., riding Pepinics Lil Outlaw (Smart Little Pepinic x Pand Delight x Grays Starlight). Petty scored a 637 on three events (211.5 herd/211 rein/214.5 cow), the same total score as Fisher, but the fence score tiebreaker went in Fisher's favor. Petty earned $6,367 for the placing, and took home some prizes: a Gist buckle sponsored by Eagle Valley ABM; a Cinch jacket from Bob's Custom Saddles/The New West; a 30x hat from JW Brooks Custom Hats; Back On Track product from Back On Track; and Platinum Equine from Platinum Performance.
Petty also was the Futurity Novice Non-Pro Reserve Champion, collecting another $1,297. His lifetime NRCHA earnings exceed the $134,000 mark.
Novice Non-Pro Champion
The Futurity Novice Non-Pro Champion was Betty Lou Valdez, La Junta, Colo., riding A Shooting Spark (Cinnabars Lil Lena x Gees A Shining Star x Shining Spark). They scored a 637 (208 herd/ 213 rein/219 cow) earning $1,852.
The Championship also came with a Bob's Custom Saddle from NRCHA; a custom saddle rack sponsored by Sunmoon Ranch; a Gist buckle sponsored by Robertson Ranches; a CR Morrison Bronze sponsored by the NRCHA; a polar fleece cooler from Classic Equine; a Cinch Jacket from Bob's Custom Saddles/The New West; a 30x hat from JW Brooks Custom Hats; Platinum Equine from Platinum Performance; and Back On track product sponsored by Back On Track.
"It's nice to have success, and real rewarding when you find a nice colt and can ride it yourself. It's a good feeling to know you can take a colt out there and be competitive on some level," Valdez said.
She retired last year from her 25-year career as a special education teacher, and her new status provides more time to ride her young horses.
"I don't have an indoor arena. part of the year, I had to dash home from school and try to ride two horses or three, or whatever I could get ridden, and a lot of times, it's really cold. I was just very limited on the amount of time I could ride. When it looked like I was going to retire, we went ahead and bought a couple of colts I could take to the Futurity," Valdez said.
She and her husband, Robert, also a horseman, were interested in A Shooting Spark before he was even born. They purchased him from his breeders, Justin and Leslie Hill, Peyton, Colo., who own his sire, Cinnabars Lil Lena.
Valdez rides her own horses with occasional help and coaching from NRCHA professional and Hall of Fame horseman Don Murphy. Her husband also went the extra mile to help her prepare for the competition at Reno.
"In May, the colts weren't as far along on cattle as they needed to be. Every single morning before work, my husband would help me with those horses out of the herd or on the fence. Robert, he bought in, and helped me every day. It made a lot of difference," she said.
Her other futurity horse, High Shining Nic (Shining Lil Nic x High Brow Meow x High Brow Cat) didn't make the finals, but he still has a job in the Valdez family. Betty Lou's daughter, Kelly, a champion cow horse competitor and high school rodeo competitor, will put him to work as a rope horse.
"They don't all make show horses, but around here, we are able to give them another job," she said.