Imagine arriving at a National Reining Championship to compete on a horse that you have never even seen before! Plus, you will be using someone else’s tack and will have only 15 minutes to get to know the horse you will show.
At the Collegiate Reining National Championship, held May 17 during the National Reining Horse Association Derby, that was the format for the competition that saw Taylor Mason emerge as the Collegiate Reining National Champion.
Taylor and nine other students had qualified for the event at the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds based on their ranking in Intercollegiate Horse Show Association competition. The new event –and national title – is the result of a long and successful association between the NRHA and the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association.
NRHA Board Member and Ohio State University Equestrian Team Coach Ollie Griffith and Oklahoma State University Equestrian Team Coach Larry Sanchez helped organize the event, along with assistance from NRHA Youth Activities Coordinator Alex Drenning.
Nationwide, nearly 300 colleges field teams for IHSA competition and the organization has developed its format of riders showing donated horses by random draw to test the skills of each exhibitor and guarantee a level playing field for all. Judges consider horsemanship abilities while judging the overall reining maneuvers, with the goal of finding the best reining rider – not necessarily the best ride.
For Mason, who attends California State University in Fresno, the win was especially thrilling because she almost missed it! The Collegiate title almost didn’t happen for Mason. The last leg of her flight from California was from the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport in Texas and her plane was grounded due to weather. When she was finally able to leave Texas, the arrival time left just minutes to get to the Oklahoma State Fair Arena. Getting ready on the way, she arrived at the Fairgrounds after the class had already started.
She had just enough time to get on the horse drawn for her, TT Tivios Twist. A 5-year-old quarter gelding owned by Ronnie Fox, he is by VJ Tom Thumbs Tivio out of VJ Sugar Twist and is an NRHA money earner.
An accomplished reiner, Taylor has done very well in West Coast Reining Horse Association competition, winning the Limited Open championship for 2001. She credited her coach Megan McGee for the win, and also thanked Mike and Barbi Boyle, with whom she rides.
The Reserve National Championship went to Kelly Lynn Gratny of Leavenworth, Kansas. She attends Kansas State University where she is coached by Julie Wolfe and has been successful at various reining events throughout the country. She’s also had multiple All American Quarter Horse Congress finalists. Kelly is an Open and Youth Register of Merit earner in reining with a variety of AQHA and Kansas Reining Horse Association titles to her credit. She rode Miss Neat Skeet, a 12-year-old American Quarter Horse mare owned by Carol Brookshaw. By Sierpe De Oro and out of Skeets Eugina, Miss Neat Skeet is a NRHA Certificate of Merit earner and a top-ten finisher in NRHA Intermediate Non Pro world standings.
Griffith was enthusiastic about the success of the first-ever Collegiate Reining National Championship. “The class went off the way we had all hoped. The students had a wonderful time and a great experience. Thanks to the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, the National Reining Horse Association and all the donors of horses that made it possible. The Intercollegiate Horse Show Association appreciates everyone’s support of the college students.”
The NRHA Derby, which showcases the USET Semi-Finals is one of the National Reining Horse Association’s premiere events, presented by Cinch, Sundowner, Saddlesmith, Land O’Lakes/Profile Feeds, Horse & Rider Magazine, Markel Insurance, Pfizer Animal Health, Quarter Horse News, Kiser Arena Specialists, State Line Tack, nrha.reiningnet.com and Classic Equine.
The National Reining Horse Association is the worldwide governing body of reining, responsible for promoting the sport, working to insure the highest standards of competition and educating members and the public. For information on the NRHA visit the web site at www.nrha.com or call 405-946-7400.