by Samantha EckertThe American Quarter Horse Journal
AQHA Professional Horsweman and Harley D Zip win their last AQHA world championship title in senior western riding. Journal photo.
On November 19, Harley D Zip and AQHA Professional Horseman Jason Martin announced their retirement as a team from open classes. Jason and "Harley" made the finals of the senior western riding finals for the seventh time.
Harley has earned more points, world championship titles and Incentive Fund money than any other horse in the history of AQHA. And he added to his resume his 17 world championship title.
Jason rode three horses in the finals, all placing top five. Harley, Vital Signs Are Good and Knowtorious all scored high enough to put Jason first, reserve and fourth.
Harley and the black gelding, A Certain Vino, have battled it out for the past few years in the senior western riding. Vino claimed the amateur western riding title while Harley was second. But this time Harley and Jason rose to the top for their final ride in the Jim Norick Arena.
“It was an amazing feeling,” Jason says. “It has been a long ride, it’s bee a great ride and I’m not really sorry that it’s over, just very blessed that it has happened.
“It was good,” Jason says about his and Harley’s pattern. “He went over the log clean, with the competition being so stiff, every little half point counts. His pace was good, his changes were clean and his stop and back were good. So I was really happy with his pattern today.”
Stiff competition hardly explains it. The horses that made it into the senior western riding final had earned 52 accululative AQHA world titles.
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After their finals pattern, Jason brought Harley in one last time to say goodbye. The pair demonstrated their exquisite talent by executing the same western riding pattern bridleless. The sight brought tears to many viewers’ eyes as they watched Harley lope around and change leads so effortlessly.
“I’ve shown bridleless a couple times at some of the freestyle western ridings,” Jason says, “so I knew he’d be good. I was a little worried at the end because camera guys were down at the end. And he was lookin’ like he was going to spook. I didn’t want to go out with a bad ride but he was good.”
Harley remained bridleless through the remainder of the class and awards ceremony. Jason and Harley waited patiently to be the last ones called.
For the last time Jason took Harley for a victory lap around the arena as the 2011 world champion in senior western riding.
“I think Harley is different from other horses because he points his toe so much,” Jason says. “I think that’s really the biggest difference between him and the other horses.”
There are a lot of memories Jason has of riding and winning with Harley.
“Well today will definitely be a memorable one,” Jason says about his most memorable win with Harley. “There’s very few horses that win their first world championship and twelve years later win their next one. But, probably one of my ride-offs a few years ago when I tied and had to do a ride off with Vital Signs.”
The Papendicks will continue to show Harley in the amateur and Select events for the remainder of his showing career.
“I’d love to thank the Papendicks for always believing in me,” Jason says, “and Harriet Yakatan, who I originally bought Harley for. He has a whole fan club. Everyone is always rootin’ for Harley.”