The Gift of Retirement
The Gift of Retirement
By Annie Lambert
National Reined Cow Horse Association Hall of Fame member Don Murphy and his late wife, Melene, surprised their daughter Nelle with Bald N Shiney when he was just 3.
The son of Shining Spark, who was out of the Hank Leo mare Leos Raffle Lady, clicked with the Murphy family, spending the better part of the past two decades chalking up accolades.
On November 9, Hank was retired.
Nelle rode him into the Jim Norick Arena at the 2019 Lucas Oil AQHA World Championship Show, accompanied by Don and her brother, C.J., who won the 2005 World Show All-Around Amateur title on Hank.
Many working cow horse trainers followed on foot as well.
Nelle dismounted, C.J. unsaddled the horse, and Nelle led Hank out.
It was the end of a career that would have been the envy of many.
Nelle and Bald N Shiney were a match from the very beginning. She was a horsebacker and showman, and Hank fit right into her routine. He had been trained as a reiner but was not loving that lifestyle. When Nelle and Don introduced him to the reined cow horse playbook, he dug it.
“When he was in reining training, he hated having his head down low,” Don says of Bald N Shiney. “He was pinning his ears, switching his tail and hating life. When I got him home, we pulled the sliding shoes and put keg shoes on him. I used him like a burro, gathered cattle on him and everything. That was in February.”
But the young bald-faced horse showed promise.
“We went ahead and entered him at (the NRCHA) Snaffle Bit Futurity,” Don continues. “I worked the horse, we took him to Snaffle Bit, and Nelle won the reined work on him. He had the highest work of the whole deal in the reining, and that was back when they ran (all the divisions) together.
“He was Nelle’s first snaffle bitter, and she won the amateur Futurity on him.”
Outside of the show pen, Hank can be a bit quirky, Nelle says. She doesn’t spoil all her horses, but thinks a little extra coddling has helped Bald N Shiney throughout his career.
“He was a little snorty and standoffish, so he was easy to make a pet because he wasn’t already in your pocket,” Nelle explains. “Hank got treats and we took good care of him; it gave him confidence between us.”
“Hank’s real quirky,” she adds with a laugh. “He’s bad cinchy, he won’t cross water, he’s weird in the stall, and runs into and out of the trailer. He snorts at shoers and the vets. He’s just always been that way, and we’ve just always left him alone. It’s just the way he is.”
Leaving Bald N Shiney with his own personality identity may have been just what he needed. The sorrel has lifetime earnings of more than $110,000. As a 4-year-old, Bald N Shiney qualified in eight events for the 1998 AQHA World Championship Show.
C.J. Murphy showed Bald N Shiney to the 2005 All-Around Amateur title at the AQHA World Show.
Bald N Shiney won five AQHA world championships and close to 970 points. CJ Murphy won the AQHA amateur heading world championship en route to the all-around amateur title in 2005.
The Murphy family star was shown in the NRCHA World’s Greatest Horseman contest three times, making the finals twice – once with Don and once with AQHA Professional Horseman J.D. Yates. J.D. showed Hank at the World’s Greatest twice, once earning a paid entry by winning the World’s Greatest Shootout in 2010 at AQHA’s Battle In The Saddle. When J.D. made the World’s Greatest finals in 2011, Hank won both the steer stopping and the fence work.
“Every time Hank has been (at World’s Greatest), he won the fence work,” Don reminds. “He could have won that event if I’d have concentrated on it more. I was so busy at the time and had such a big barn that it was hard. Those four-event deals take a lot of time and work.”
There are almost too many titles to compare, but Nelle figures her favorite win on Hank was probably the 1998 AQHA amateur working cow horse world championship.
Cow horse trainer C.J. Shopbell of Sadler, Texas, once worked as Don’s assistant, and by the time he ventured out on his own, the Murphys and the Shopbells were more like family than friends. When C.J.’s daughter Bailey was in need of a show horse, Nelle just happened to have one. Nelle and her brother, C.J. Murphy, decided to pass the gelding along to Bailey for an addendum to his already successful career.
Bald N Shiney became a gift horse for a second time, delighting Bailey by being a good ride and also by winning third place at the 2018 Built Ford Tough AQHYA World Championship Show.
Bailey Shopbell is mature beyond her years with show-pen goals already listed within a determined mindset. Those goals included Bald N Shiney from spring 2016 until fall 2019.
Bald N Shiney is all show horse, but not necessarily easy to ride. Not a problem for Bailey, who can really horseback, according to Nelle.
Nelle Murphy and Bald N Shiney at the gelding's retirement ceremony at AQHA's 2019 Lucas Oil World.
“She’s a good little rider,” Nelle confirms. “He’s just a smart horse, you know. Everybody always thinks he’s going to be really hot before you go in the pen, because he kind of gets wound up outside. He trots in the pen kind of prancey-looking, but as soon as you lope off, you’ve got to be kicking him to make him go.”
Bailey was surprised by all the attention she and Bald N Shiney received during the 2017 Ford Youth World.
After all, she had not won.
Michelle Shopbell, Bailey’s mom, explained to her that she was riding a famous horse, a champion, and everyone was rooting for Hank and his new rider.
Then at their second Ford Youth World – the 2018 edition – Bailey and Hank tied for the reserve world championship in boxing, but the tie-breaking cow work score pushed them to third place and the bronze trophy.
By fall 2019, though, it was time for Hank to retire.. With applause from fans, Hank walked away from the show ring.
Annie Lambert is a special contributor to AQHA Media. To comment, write to email@example.com. Portions of this article originally appeared in the December 2018 issue of The American Quarter Horse Journal.