by Tara ChristiansenThe American Quarter Horse Journal
Corey Cushing and Rising Starlight marked a 449 in the senior working cow horse finals at the 2011 AQHA World Championship Show. (Journal photo)
To make it back to the finals at the AQHA World Championship Show on one horse is great. To make it back on two, even better. To make it to the finals on all five of the horses you brought to Oklahoma City, that’s phenomenal.
However, to top it all off with your first world championship, well, it’s just icing on the cake, says Corey Cushing of Scottsdale, Arizona.
“I made it back on my three junior horses and my two senior horses,” says the newly crowned senior working cow horse world champion. “I’m telling you, it’s just icing on the cake. It was already a real excitement to make it back on all of them, but it’s just icing on the cake.”
Corey and Rising Starlight, his 6-year-old world champion mount owned by Eric Dunn of Norwich, Kansas, go back several years.
“(AQHA Professional Horseman) Jimmie Paul trained her, and I made the (National Reined Cow Horse Association Snaffle Bit) Futurity finals on her a few years ago, and (AQHA Professional Horseman) Steve Orth has had her and roped on her,” Corey says of the daughter of Little Bay Starlight and who is out of Peppys Hot Star by Lucky W Peppy Lena.
“I qualified her at the beginning of the year, beings as this is her first year in the bridle,” Corey says. “You know, we took some extra time, really got her in the bridle the right way, the way I truly think a bridle horse should be.
“It took a little bit to get her qualified, but it sure paid off tonight, and after I got done qualifying her, then we sent her back to Steve and he got her qualified in the roping.”
Corey and Steve have high hopes for the bay mare, who was bred by Casey Deary of Weatherford, Texas.
“Luckily enough, she made the heading and heeling finals, and we’re really pumped that she’s sitting good for the (Farnam) Superhorse award,” Corey says. “Tonight she was just a star – she was really good.”
When it came to the senior working cow horse finals, Corey really wanted to do right by the mare and ride smart.
“She’s just got so much talent, I just didn’t want to override,” he says. “I didn’t want to overdo it and make it look sloppy, if that makes sense. You know, she’s got such a huge stop and she’s very pretty to look at.
“In the rein work, she came back to me really good. Run and drug her butt. Never cheated, never one time had a bad thought.”
And riding smart sure paid off – the duo marked a 221 in the rein work, which set them tied for first heading into the fence work.
“When I got that cow, it boxed really soft and I thought, ‘Well, there’s a lot of good trainers behind me that are left to go. I better take a chance here,’ and she was right with me the whole way. That first turn was just as good of a first turn as I’ve ever felt, and on the second turn, I was right there next to the cow and just finished the run.”
It was evident to the crowd that Corey was thrilled with his run as he took off his hat and punched the air.
“I was just so proud of her. It’s always such a great feeling when you get done with a run like that and the crowd’s behind you, and you’re excited and pumped. I was just trying to stay in the middle of her, because she knew what she was doing and what she had to do to finish the run.”
With a 228 down the fence, Corey and Rising Starlight wrapped up their run with a combined score of 449.
Taking the reserve world championship was Doug Williamson and Shining Lil Nic with a 445.5, and in third was Trent Pederson and Tejons Boomencommand with a 437.
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“They’re both such great friends,” Corey says of Doug and Trent. “Trent and I, we’re really, really close, and Dougie, he and I have been friends since I first got involved with the cow horse 10 years ago, and we’re always fighting each other back and forth. Don’t get me wrong, I’m really excited about this moment, but no matter where any of us would’ve ended up, it just makes it so much fun just because we’re competitors against each other, but we’re such good friends.”
In addition to his friends and their support, Corey is also grateful for his sponsors and his family, who all helped him reach this monumental win.
“It’s my very first win. That’s the biggest part,” he says. “We all try so hard to get to this point and look forward to it and it’s our dream, and like I said, any of these guys in the competition tonight could have won it. I just feel very lucky that I ended up on top.
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“We’re all praying for the good cow, but there are some times when we’re praying for the toughest cow. Depending on how your horse is, and how he can handle. That mare, I’ve got all the faith in the world in her. She had such a great foundation, and the way she felt tonight going in there, I had a real good feeling I could handle whatever was thrown at me.”