Team Blue: The American Performance Horseman

Team Blue: The American Performance Horseman

Fernando Salgado, Sarah Dawson and Adan Banuelos are Team Blue 2023. See the pedigrees and earnings for their primary and reserve horses.

The 2023 American Performance Horseman Team Blue consists of Fernando Salgado, Sarah Dawson and Adan Banuelos.

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The American Quarter Horse Journal logo

By Becky Newell

“Two No. 1’s and an up-and-comer” is how Fernando Salgado describes Team Blue in The American Performance Horseman. In the competition to qualify for TAPH, Sarah Dawson finished first in the National Reined Cow Horse Association 2022 earnings, Adan Banuelos was first in the National Cutting Horse Association and Fernando finished third in the National Reining Horse Association. 

“I got to not drop the ball,” says Fernando with a laugh.

Reining: Fernando Salgado

LTE: $782,576

Brazilian-born Fernando comes into The American Performance Horseman with two top-five finishes in the National Reining Breeders Classic Level 4 and Level 3 open divisions aboard Gunnabeabrightstar. Fernando began his career in the United States in 2010, after training with his family in Brazil. He got his start in the United States with Thiago Boechat at Xtra Quarter Horses. He has also ridden with Andrea Fappani. Fernando’s two TAPH horses are Gunnabeabrightstar and Pale Dun Star (APHA).


2016 palomino stallion (ARC Gunnabeabigstar-Abbie Be Tuff by Lil Ruf Peppy) 
QData earnings: $157,018
Breeders: Solum & Andersen 
Owner: Neiberger Performance Horses LLC of Weatherford, Texas

Pale Dun Star (APHA)

Earnings: $72,208 
Owners: Kristen and Rodion Cantacuzene

Reined Cow Horse: Sarah Dawson

LTE: $1,374,048.97

Sarah Dawson of Perrin, Texas, earned more than $375,000 in NRCHA competition in 2022, more than any reined cow horse rider. After graduating from high school at 16, Sarah made the limited and intermediate open finals at the National Reined Cow Horse Association Snaffle Bit Futurity at 18 and was offered a job by Jon Roeser. Sarah, the daughter of natural horsemanship clinician and Road to the Horse competitor Richard Winters, won the 2017 AQHA junior working cow horse world champion title aboard Shiney Outlaw and has earned 115.5 AQHA performance points. She crossed the NRCHA million-dollar mark following her win at the 2022 Tres Osos Cow Horse Derby in Fort Worth, Texas, aboard Selvarey. She is one of the youngest to achieve this milestone. Sarah joins her husband, Chris Dawson, in the elite list and also becomes the second woman in history to achieve this title. Sarah also competes in three-day eventing. Sarah is taking Shine Smarter and Wanna Be A Pepto to The American Performance Horseman event.

Shine Smarter

Shine Smarter and Sarah Dawson (Photo by Carolyn Simancik, courtesy of Teton Ridge)


2012 sorrel mare (WR This Cats Smart-Shiney Tari by Shining Spark)
QData earnings: $216,766
Breeders: American Quarter Horse Hall of Famer and AQHA 50-year breeder Carol Rose and Richard Bell
Owner: Linda Mars of Jackson, Wyoming. 

This mare was “probably was the gateway to a conversation that led to us getting married,” Sarah says of Shine Smarter and her marriage to Chris Dawson. “I had bought the horse and I needed somewhere to keep her and so I called him and kept her there. She was a yearling at the time. But yeah, we got married about a year later.

“She is the same horse I showed in The Run for a Million last year,” Sarah says. “I do have a lot of confidence in that horse and I know it's going to be a whole another level and 10 times more people and everything's bigger and all that. But definitely from the horses that I've showed so far, she's the one that I trust and I can call her and I'm hoping that's going to hold on. She's the horse that has given me the opportunity to do everything I do today. She was the first one I made the Snaffle Bit Futurity opened finals on. She was my first open Derby finalist. She's the mom of my first Snaffle Bit futurity finalist. She's just given me all of these major milestones.

“I don't know that I could pick just one thing about that mare. She's throughout her bridle years, throughout her bridle career, I think there has been one more show where she was not in the top three. So she has just been an extremely consistent mare for me. And I think it speaks volumes for her talent and ability for me to have made the mistakes that I've made on her for being kind of having her so young in my career and to be still competing as solidly as she is now. And so she's had to almost be retrained through the years and that I think speaks very highly of her intelligence and her ability. And I don't know that there's a lot of horses out there that can be that forgiving.”

Shine Smarter was the 2020 AQHA NRCHA leading dam, having produced Selvarey (by Dual Rey), the 2020 NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity open champion with Sarah in the saddle.

Wanna Be A Pepto

2015 bay roan stallion (Pocket Fulla Pepto-Wanna Be Blonde by Double My Whiskey) 
QData earnings: $11,969
Breeder: AQHA Best Remuda-winning W. T. Waggoner Estate 
Owner: Kobyn Greathouse of Baird, Texas

Cutting: Adan Banuelos

LTE: $5 million

Cutter Adan Banuelos can’t believe he’s getting to compete with and against some of his heroes in the reining, cutting and cow horse industries. 

“I’m responsible for 90% of their YouTube clicks,” says Adan, who is the son of Ascension and Tiffani Banuelos. With a strong background in cutting, Adan has also branched out into roping and cow horse events. But his love is cutting competition and training. With lifetime earnings of more than $5 million, Adan most recently won the 2023 Ike Derby and Classic 5/6 Year Old Open with All Spice, his primary horse for The American Performance Horseman event.

All Spice

Adan Banuelos and All Spice (Photo courtesy of NCHA)


2017 red roan mare (Once In A Blu Boon-Show Biz Kitty by High Brow Cat)
QData earnings: $398,813; 2021 NCHA Open Horse of the Year; 2020 NCHA Futurity open champion; 2020 QData leading cutting mare.
Breeder: Royce Stallcup
Owner: Teton Ridge

The only love letter that Adan Banuelos has ever written was to a special mare named All Spice. Seriously. And he can't talk about the mare without getting tears in his eyes.

"I've been through a lot of relationships and messed some stuff up, and she's the only thing I wrote a love letter to. This is the best horse I have ever ridden," says Adan, who won the NCHA Futurity with the mare in 2020. "I had ridden her full brother, Badboonarising, and thought that he was the best horse I had ever ridden, but then his little sister came along and said, 'Hold my beer.' I didn't know God could make horses that good. She is just so elegant, you know? She is massive; she weighs almost 1,400 pounds. I cannot begin to tell you what it means to be back on her," for The American Performance Horseman.

Hottish Metal

2018 sorrel stallion (Hottish-Snow Me The Rey by Metallic Cat) 
QData earnings: $370,304; won the Breeders Invitational Open Cutting Derby and The Ike Open Cutting Derby.
Breeder: Terri Brown of Nocona, Texas
Owner: Jim Good of Alvarado, Texas

The American Performance Horseman, which will be held at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, will be broadcast on Teton+ on March 10. Use promo code AQHA23 to save 25% on tickets at