Demonstrating his typical flair in the fence work, timeless champion Doug Williamson, Bakersfield, Calif., claimed the Open Bridle Championship at the National Reined Cow Horse Association Snaffle Bit Futurity aboard Hes Wright On (Lenas Wright On x Shesa Lota Nic), owned by Gardiner Quarter Horses. Williamson guided the 9-year-old stallion to a 218.5 in the rein work, and then conquered an uncooperative cow in the fence work for a 224 - the highest score of Thursday's Open Bridle finals. The Championship paid $6,076.
"When it comes to a tough cow, he says, 'Bring it on, because I can handle it.' That cow was really a bad one. It wouldn't stay on the fence, for one thing. After the first turn it wouldn't get there. He just open-field turned it anyhow. He's such a gritty, good horse. The harder it is, the better he likes it," Williamson said, grinning.
The two-time Snaffle Bit Futurity Champion horseman is thrilled to have Hes Wright On back under his saddle, following a year-long rehabilitation for a suspensory ligament injury.
"I didn't think I'd ever get to ride him again. He had several stem cell treatments, and we laid him off, swam him all winter and spring, and they brought him back to me as good as new. About four months ago we started riding him and getting him in shape again, and here we are, back in the ring!" Williamson said.
He thanked his farrier and Hes Wright On's owners, Garth and Amanda Gardiner, who plan to send Williamson and the stallion to the NRCHA World's Greatest Horseman in San Angelo, Texas, in January. The pair came close to the title in 2010, but had to settle for the Reserve Championship.
"We're going to try to get it this time. That's our next goal," said Williamson, adding that Hes Wright On tops his personal list of all-time great horses. "I had a horse called Baldy Cee back in the 1960s that was probably the best horse I've ever ridden, until this one. This one has the same heart, he's the same size, and if you had them both together, they'd look just alike. It's amazing," Willamson said.
The Open Bridle Championship also came with a Bob's Custom Saddle sponsored by Eric Dunn, a CR Morrison Trophy from NRCHA, a Gist custom buckle sponsored by Debby Sanguinetti and Tish Wilhite, a 10 lb bucket of UltraCruz Sand Clear and a $50 gift certificate from Santa Cruz Animal Health and San Juan Ranch, a monogrammed Cinch jacket from Bob's Custom Saddles and New West Country Store and Platinum Performance from Doug Herthel.
The Open Bridle Reserve Champion was Jake Telford, riding Nabisco Roan for Holy Cow Performance Horses. Telford and the stallion scored a 440 composite to earn $4,774.
The National Reined Cow Horse Association, now in its 62nd year, is the governing body of cow horse competition. It is responsible for promoting the sport, ensuring high standards of competition and educating members and the public about the history and tradition of reined cow horses. With the support of a Corporate Partner family that includes Bob's Custom Saddles, Boehringer-Ingelheim, Cinch, Classic Equine, Gist Silversmiths, John Deere, Markel Insurance Company, Platinum Performance, Quarter Horse News, Rios of Mercedes, Santa Cruz Biotechnologies, Silver Legacy Hotel and Casino, Bloomer Trailers and Schwalbe Trucks presented by Great West Trailers, and Merial products UlcerGard and Equioxx, the association works to keep the vaquero tradition alive in today's equine industry. For information on the National Reined Cow Horse Association, call 580-759-4949 or visit the official NRCHA web site at www.NRCHA.com.
Photo: Doug Williamson won the Open Bridle Championship aboard Hes Wright On, owned by Gardiner Quarter Horses.