The first Champions of the 2015 National Reining Breeders Classic were crowned Friday, April 17, when the Non Pros battled it out for top honors in the Great Southwest Equestrian Center’s Coliseum Arena. This year was the largest Non Pro in NRBC history, and the combined preliminary and finals payout of $269,473 proved that.
Non Pro Level 4
Taking top honors and the $30,000 check was Sarah Locker who rode Heavy Duty Chex to earn a score of 220. “I don’t think there are any words to explain how excited I am. First of all that’s the first time that I’ve marked a 220, so that’s a really big deal, but then to win something like this is unbelievable.”
Locker made her NRBC debut in 2014, but her entry was a little sore before she showed. Although the possibility of her horse getting sore was at the back of her mind, she hoped she’d have better luck. “I’d say better luck is definitely what we had today,” she shared following the awards ceremony, where she received a bevy of prizes including a two-horse trailer from Twin Cities Featherlite, a saddle from Martin Saddlery, a Gist Silversmiths buckle, Rios of Mercedes boots, a WonPad from WonPad, a Whisper Bit from M3 Products, a championship ball cap from Just Stitch It, a $100 gift certificate from San Juan Ranch & Santa Cruz Biotechnology, a saddle blanket from Yucca Flats, a $50 gift certificate from Thomas Moore Feed, as well as the traditional crystal trophies and other awards from the NRBC.
Locker’s family raised Heavy Duty Chex, by their stallion Nu Chex To Cash and out of the good mare Rondas Tio. “Nu Chex To Cash is sterile now; there won’t be many more babies to compete so it’s really special that I have him. We still have his mother and she’s in her 20s now. She has her own stall in the barn and is very special too,” Locker said. “It’s special when you win a big event but it means so much more when you’ve raised them. This horse and I have been together from the beginning.”
Locker showed the 4-year-old at the National Reining Horse Association Futurity last December, placing seventh in the Non Pro Level 4. “This was our first big show of the year so it was a heck of a way to kick it off. He just keeps getting better and better for me so I’m excited to see how the rest of the year unfolds.”
Locker and Heavy Duty Chex finished third in the preliminary round, and she noted that the horse’s talent put even more pressure on her. “I was so nervous before I went into the pen. I’ve been like that ever since I was a little kid – I’d get so nervous I’d almost cry. I knew that I was on a great horse and I think that made it harder, because as a rider you want to show everything that the horse has and his ability, so you want to do the best job by them. I was nervous about doing that but I think I did ok!” she said with a smile. Locker thanked her family members, who unfortunately weren’t able to attend the show. “My brother was here for the preliminaries but had to leave for another horse show because he’s a trainer, too. My sister is on her way down now. My parents had to collect studs today and they were taking breaks in between breeding and checking mares so they could watch me. I definitely thank my family because they’re a huge support system for me. I also thank the company I work for, Santa Cruz Animal Health, for letting me be here and set up a booth for them and have a good week here at the show.” She noted that she also receives a lot of support from her horse show family. “Casey Deary and his whole crew – it’s an amazing family and group to be part of. Thank you to all my friends and everyone for cheering for me. The horse show family is so huge so you never run out of people to thank and be appreciative of having in your life.”
So how does Locker feel about the NRBC? “It’s such a cool place. I didn’t get to experience a lot of it last year, but it is a great facility and the staff is great. Being here as a sponsor, vendor, and exhibitor I’ve gotten to experience all the different parts of this show and it’s just incredible. You get treated so great and everyone involved with putting on the show does such a great job.” She added, “Even with all the crazy weather we’ve had there have been plenty of places to ride and warm up so you’re prepared to show – regardless of what the weather is doing. It’s a very well-run event, for sure.”
There was a three-way tie for the Non Pro Level 4 Reserve Championship between Cade McCutcheon, Kelle Smith, and Josh Hattig. Each rode a horse by Colonels Smoking Gun, marked a 219.5, and took home checks for $14,650. McCutcheon was riding Custom Made Gun, out of Custom Made Dunit, owned by McQuay Stables, while Smith rode her horse, Dunit The Gunner Way, out of Dun It The Hard Way.
Non Pro Level 3
Former NRBC Non Pro Champion Josh Hattig rounded out the three-way tie on Gunners Snappy Chic. Eligible for the Level 3, Hattig took sole possession of that title, winning an additional $9,745. “I can’t lie, I wish I would have won the Level 4, but this is a great horse and I am blessed to be able to do this. I thank God – he’s number one because this is just a luxury that we get to do. I thank my dad, mom, wife, her parents, and Yonathon Baruch who has helped get the mare ready the last six weeks,” he said. During the award ceremony, Hattig received a custom saddle from Kyle Tack, a Gist Silversmiths buckle, a champion ball cap from Just Stitch It, a Whisper Bit from M3 Products, a WonPad from WonPad, a $100 gift certificate from San Juan Ranch & Santa Cruz Biotechnology, and a $50 Thomas Moore Feed gift certificate.
Hattig recounted his finals run, noting that while the mare stopped big on the first maneuver, she caught her front right in the stop. “She caught it just a tiny bit, which is why she fell forward. I think that made her not want to step really hard turning, so she didn’t turn quite as hard as she can,” he said. “I haven’t shown a really good horse in the last three years so I was a little bit rusty in some of my guiding but she circled really good and changed great. She got set in her large fast a little to the right. I wanted to go a little more but that’s what she had to give today because I think it’s about 94% humidity.”
Hattig’s family raised Gunners Snappy Chic, and her dam, Chics Miss Snap, won the NRBC Non Pro Mare Award and placed fourth in the Non Pro in 2008. “That mare has had three or four babies that have been good. This one was really great in the go-rounds at the Futurity, but hurt her right rear before the finals. I knew she’d be ready to roll. We sent her to Yonathon six weeks ago to get tuned up and acclimated. She has a huge, huge heart and is a huge stopper. She’s a really big turner and she’s become really good at circling. It seems like every day of every week she’s a little bit better and a little bit better, so I think she’ll just continue to improve,” he said.
Non Pro Level 2 & 1
The NRBC was Chandler Winard’s second Derby, and it was the first time for the 16-year-old to compete at the show, ever. However, she made the finals for Non Pro Levels 1-4, finished as the Champion of Levels 1 and 2, Reserve Champion in Level 3, and tied for fifth in the Level 4. All total, she’s taking $22,123 back to Scottsdale, Arizona.
She and her horse, Tags Golden Star, marked a 219 in the finals, having marked a 217 in the preliminary round. “I felt a lot of pressure but I just told myself it was just another show and I didn’t get too nervous. He was really good in the preliminary round and I just wanted to do the same thing in the finals – but he did even more for me,” she said.
Winard’s family purchased Tags Golden Star, by Whiz N Tag Chex out of Boogies Smart Star, in September of 2014 at the High Roller Reining Classic. “I got to ride him a couple times in April and loved him and I never gave up on having him. I tried a lot of other horses but we bought him,” she said.
With eyes now focused on the NRHA Derby, the victory at the NRBC has given the high school sophomore another shot of confidence. “I’m really excited about it now,” she said.
Winnard won a custom saddle from Continental Saddlery, a custom saddle from Bob’s Custom Saddles, $100 in gift certificates from Thomas Moore Feed, champion ball caps from Just Stitch It, two Whisper Bits from M3 products, two WonPads from WonPad, and gifts and prizes from the NRBC including the signature crystal trophies.
She thanked her parents for buying Tags Golden Star. “They always support me. I also thank my trainer Dan Huss for always making sure we’re ready. Daniel Schloemer also deserves thanks for helping me with my horses, and all the people who have supported me through my whole horse career.”
Non Pro Prime Time
Harper Conner and Julie Ridgeway tied for the Reserve Championship of the Non Pro Level 2. Both entries also placed in Levels 3 and 4, earning a total of $13,071. Conner rode Vintage Glamour, by A Sparkling Vintage out of Starjac Miss, while Ridgeway rode Nu Pops, by Nu Chex To Cash out of Sugar Pop Gun 1998.
Ridgeway and Nu Pops also won the Reserve title in the Non Pro Level 1 and the Championship of the Non Pro Prime Time, collecting an additional $2,659. “I’m so very excited. This horse is fabulous. I was very lucky and fortunate because I have this great horse who did everything I asked of him – I was just along for the ride,” she said. “Last year was my first year to show here in the Derby. It’s my favorite show of the year. I think the best horses and riders are here at the NRBC and I feel grateful to be a participant and to have done well.”
Ridgeway noted, “I am very thankful to Matt Armenta and Ricky Nicolazzi for helping get my horse prepared for this event. I also thank Todd Sommers because he started this horse and I am thankful to him as well.”
Along with some big money, Ridgeway won a Gist Silversmiths buckle, a champion ball cap from Just Stitch It, a WonPad from WonPad, a $50 gift certificate from Thomas Moore Feed, and signature crystal and prizes from the NRBC.
Michael Garnett and Blo Gun finished as the Prime Time Reserve Champions with a score of 218.5, collecting $1,001. Blo Gun is by Colonels Smoking Gun out of The Hot Jewel.
Special Awards for Paints at the NRBC
The American Paint Horse Association presents beautiful Gist Silversmiths buckles to the high-scoring registered paint in Non Pro Levels 1-5. Mandy McCutcheon won the Level 4 buckle on Taris Lil Gunner. Julie Ridgeway won the buckle for Non Pro Levels 1-3 on Nu Pops. APHA Director of Business Development Kalyn Sanders was on hand to present the awards.
The Finals action continues Saturday with the Open divisions. The first section will begin at 11am, and the Open Level 4 finalists will compete at 5pm.
For complete results, click here.