by Tara MatslerThe American Quarter Horse Journal
Little Pistol Peach and Keith Vogel circle up for a score of 226.5, the high senior working cow horse fence work score. (Journal photo)
One can get a little starstruck looking at the list of senior working cow horse finalists competing November 22 at the 2013 AQHA World Championship Show.
To start, there’s AQHA Professional Horseman Jake Telford, who was paired up once again with Nabisco Roan, the 2012 senior working cow horse reserve world champion.
Oh, and AQHA Professional Horseman Corey Cushing, who piloted Rising Starlight to back-to-back senior working cow horse world titles in 2011 and 2012, as well as the 2012 Farnam Superhorse win. This year, Corey was mounted on The Big Day.
Seeing industry legends and AQHA Professional Horsemen Doug Williamson and Bobby Lewis is enough to make your knees knock a little. And the same could be said for Chris Dawson, won four out of the five National Reined Cow Horse Association open limited-age events this year.
When Keith Vogel and Little Pistol Peach snuck into the senior working cow horse finals, the Colorado trainer was just grateful for the opportunity to be amongst such celebrated company and to make his first-ever finals at the AQHA World Show.
“A lot of the guys I showed against today are guys I really looked up to before I started this deal – Corey Cushing and Jake Telford, especially,” Keith told the Journal. “All those guys are great competitors and have been really great help to me, starting this deal. I’ve got to thank all of my colleagues for that.”
But Keith pushed all those names out of his head and focused on the special mare he was riding. Owned by his wife, Lauren, Little Pistol Peach is by Playgun and out of Lone Star Peach by Texas Kicker. The 2006 sorrel mare was bred by George Pachello of Lone Tree, Colorado; Keith and Lauren purchased “Shooter” when she was a 3-year-old.
“(My plan) was to just let her go do her thing,” the Avondale, Colorado, trainer said. “Once you’re in the finals at this event, that’s kind of what you need to do: Just go show your horse and make the other competitors and the judges and the cattle determine who’s going to be the winner. Just go do your thing.”
And that’s exactly the way it unfolded for Keith and Shooter.
“Everything happened pretty fast,” he said. “She was good in the reining, like she always is. She ran, stopped good, turned good for me and had a lot of feel. She stayed clean and marked decent.”
Decent being a 217.5.
“The cow came out and didn’t really want to go anywhere,” Keith recalled. “Shooter hooked up really fast, and as soon as I could get the cow pushed around to where I felt like that cow had moved and wasn’t just standing on the same place and getting stopped all the time, I went ahead and went with him."
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“The cow was just perfect. After my first turn, I wasn’t real sure if that was gonna work out without going for a second turn without a loop, but it did.”
With the cow a little off the fence, Keith hustled Shooter into position, executing a red-dirt-churnin’, sand-flingin’, open-field turn.
“And the rest is history,” Keith added with a smile. “She circled up good and felt good the whole time.”
The duo’s bovine mastery earned them a score of 226.5 down the fence, the high fence-work mark out of both the senior working cow horse prelims and finals.
“She’s just really a gamer,” Keith said of his mare. “She shows hard every time and feels like a spaceship.”
And what exactly does a spaceship feel like?
“Like her. Like a really good cow horse.”
Showing and training reined cow horses is relatively new to Keith, who grew up roping. Working for AQHA Professional Horseman J.D. Yates in Pueblo, Colorado, Keith was first introduced to the sport that continues the vaquero tradition of building a true bridle horse.
“It’s hard to quit (cow horsin’) – if you’re good down the fence one time, that’s about all you need to be to keep doing it,” Keith admitted with a laugh.
The new world champion considers himself lucky to have enlisted help over the years from respected horsemen such as AQHA Professional Horseman Don Murphy and longtime trainer Darren Miller.
“Don’s been great; he’s taught me a ton. Nobody’s probably helped me more than him,” Keith said. “But Darren Miller and Chris Dawson are probably the other two guys who need to be thanked.
“Darren has spent a ton of time with me, trying to teach me how to go show my horse and has let me come to his house numerous times and we’ve spent lots of time on the phone, talking about what we expect out of our horses, and that means a lot to me.”
What also means a lot is the opportunity not just show, but to own a horse like Little Pistol Peach.
“She was my first derby horse and I won the Level 1 on her at the NRCHA Stallion Stakes and I was top five at the Circle Y Derby,” Keith said.
The mare has earned money and accolades in the hackamore, two-rein and bridle, the most recent of her awards coming at the 2013 NRCHA Hackamore Classic in Pueblo, Colorado, where she and Keith won the event’s open bridle spectacular, an event requiring each horse-and-rider team to compete in herd work, rein work and fence work.
“She does it all. We cut on her, rein on her and rope on her and cow horse on her.”
And it’s not just Keith who shows the all-around mare – Lauren and Shooter are fierce boxing-class competitors.
Unfortunately for Keith, he has a hunch that Lauren will take over Shooter’s romals entirely.
“She is probably going to be a professional box-only horse,” Keith admitted with a laugh. “I’ll try to get her stolen away to show her again in the open at some point, but I’ll bet my wife will show her now.”
And with a wistful smile, it’s clear Keith already has his eyes set even further down the road.
“If I never get to show her again, maybe she’ll make some junior horses."