The National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) Derby is an annual one-week event held in Oklahoma City, June 23-July 1. The competition showcases the world's best reining horses and riders and attracts thousands of spectators each year. One of the highlights of the Derby is the Collegiate Reining Championship scheduled for 1 p.m. Friday, June 29, at State Fair Park in Oklahoma City, featuring the top college riders from North America.
This year, four standout Intercollegiate Horse Shows Association (IHSA) riders are slated to compete in the Collegiate Reining Championship. The riders include Morgan Knerr, Danielle Paulson, Kendall Woellmer and Travis Fortune. The draw takes place Thursday at 1 p.m. The warm-up starts Friday at 1 p.m. with the class kicking off at 1:30 p.m.
Morgan Knerr is the IHSA 2018 NRHA Individual Open Reining champion and is a freshman at the University of Findlay studying pharmacy. From Plain City, Ohio, her parents are actively involved in reining and she has grown up in the sport. Before joining the University of Findlay, Knerr rode at Autumn Rose with Ollie and Debbie Griffiths. She has held multiple positions as an NRHyA officer, including president in 2017, vice president in 2016 and secretary in 2015.
“Showing in the Collegiate catch ride is a great opportunity,” Knerr said. “I’m really excited because it will be a completely different experience. I’m really looking forward to it!” Danielle Paulson is from Rochester, Minnesota, and is a junior at the University of Wisconsin River Falls. She qualified for IHSA Nationals for the first time this year and earned the 2018 IHSA Nationals AQHA Team Reining Open Reining championship and was third in 2018 NRHA Individual Open Reining. Paulson has shown American Quarter Horses for 10 years, this is her first year competing in reining. She credits her coach, Janie Huot for giving her a leg up in the sport.
“I am so excited, it’s such a blessing to compete at this huge event,” Paulson said. “(Competing in) IHSA is the only time I’ve reined in my life. I hope to ride my best on some amazing horses that they’re providing for us."
Travis Fortune is from Booneville, Indiana, and studies at Murray State University. Fortune finished second in the NRHA Open Reining at Western Semi-Finals and fourth the 2018 IHSA Nationals.
“I am really excited about competing at the Derby,” said Fortune. “ For me, it’s the fact that I made it there. The first horse show that I reined at was in October for IHSA. To go to Nationals and be fourth and qualify for the Derby for the Collegiate Championship is just really awesome."
Kendall Woellmer is a sophomore from Sedona, Arizona, and attends West Texas A&M University where she is majoring in agriculture communications and minoring in English. The talented rider competes in both Western and hunter seat. Woellmer earned the 2018 IHSA Sportsmanship Award and the 2018 IHSA Versatility Rider Award at the IHSA Nationals. Along with top placings in the hunter seat divisions, Woellmer finished third in the AQHA High Point Western Rider fifth in NRHA Individual Open Reining.
“I am very honored to compete against some of the best collegiate riders in the nation,” Woellmer said
For more information on this year's Derby, visit www.nrhaderby.com.