Rubys Radar Wins NRCHA Open Hackamore Classic

Four- and 5-year-old American Quarter Horses were the stars of the National Reined Cow Horse Association event in Pueblo, Colorado.

National Reined Cow Horse Association

Rubys Radar, a 2010 stallion ridden by Zane Davis, scored a 145 in the finals cow work, earning the 2014 NRCHA Hackamore Classic open championship. (Credit: NRCHA)

In 1988, leading National Reined Cow Horse Association professional Zane Davis won a National High School Rodeo Championship at the Colorado State Fairgrounds in Pueblo. Twenty-five years later, he returned to the same venue to win the National Reined Cow Horse Association Hackamore Classic open championship May 3 aboard Rubys Radar (One Time Pepto-Ruby Bagonia byPeppy San Badger), owned by Billie Filippini.
Saturday morning, the day of the Hackamore Classic finals, Davis visited the fairgrounds outdoor rodeo arena, spending a quiet moment in the exact spot where he made his winning National High School Rodeo bronc ride.
"I stood on the same bucking chute that I got in when I won the national championship. I could remember everything that happened that day, 25 years ago. I thought, 'You know, I might lose any other day, but not today,' " he said. "Nobody was over there. I've been wanting to go over there for years. I haven't been back in so long. That was the biggest thing that ever happened in my life, even to this day."
Davis and Rubys Radar held the high preliminary score coming into the fence work-only finals. They were last to work, a draw position that suits the 2009 NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity open champion horseman just fine.
"I've had real good luck being last. When I won the futurity I was last. I like last," Davis said. 
Rubys Radar, a 2010 stallion, scored a 145 in the finals cow work. Added to his preliminary score of 440.5 (146 herd/146.5 rein/148 cow), the 585.5 composite was enough to win the Hackamore Classic title by a four-point margin. The championship came with a $10,708 check; a Bob's Custom Saddle and Gist buckle from the NRCHA; a gift certificate from San Juan Ranch, a division of Santa Cruz Biotechnologies; and a custom sheet from Classic Equine. 
Davis has had Rubys Radar in his training program since the 2010 stallion was a long yearling. He initially bought Rubys Radar for longtime customer John Semanik. When Semanik decided he wanted to sell the horse, Davis knew exactly who to call. 
"Billie Filippini wanted a roan stud prospect, and she bought him," Davis said. As a 3-year-old, Rubys Radar finished fifth at the NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity, and then last month in Las Vegas he claimed the NRCHA Stakes reserve championship.
Filippini, who usually comes to the shows to watch her horse compete, decided not to make the trip to Pueblo. 
"She's in her 70s and couldn't find a traveling partner. Her exact words were, 'I've had horses in training for 30 years and I ain't never won nothin'.' And now she's winning everything, so she's pretty excited," Davis said.
The Blackfoot, Idaho, horseman, whose NRCHA earnings now exceed $822,000, was initially unimpressed with Rubys Radar as a hackamore horse.
"I usually start putting them in the hackamore in November or December of their 3-year-old year after they're done showing, and he was terrible. He's a really soft horse, but he was a terrible hackamore horse. I rode him for two or three months and never got anywhere with him. This last month, he got a little bit better, but he wasn't good, until we got here. I knew he'd do everything, but he just didn't feel good. Then, all of a sudden, we got here and he felt good. He's always been a show horse. At home, he's a terrible cutter. At the show, he cuts every time. Usually you have the opposite problem; they're good at home and terrible to show. He's been good to show and not as good at home," Davis said.
He thanked his herd help, particularly fellow trainers Brandon Buttars and Zeph Schulz, and appreciated his wife, Holly, for "putting up with the life that a horse trainer's wife has to." 
The next stop for Rubys Radar will be the NRCHA Derby in Paso Robles, California, in June. 
Davis had a second horse in the finals, Brother Jackson (Peptoboonsmal-Shes Icing Onthe Cat by High Brow Cat), owned by John Semanik. Brother Jackson finished in eighth place, earning $2,677.
The Hackamore Classic open reserve champion was CD Pepto (CD Lights-Peptowood by Zack T Wood), shown by Luke Jones for owner Kenneth Schueller. He scored a combined 581.5 (145 herd/142.5 rein/147.5 cow/146.5 finals cow), earning $8,567.
Tara Matsler and Soula Boon Sweep Non-Pro Divisions

Based on her preliminary scores, Tara Matsler of Canyon, Texas, claimed the Hackamore Classic amateur championship aboard her homebred mare, Soula Boon (Soula Jule Star-Blues Nu Boon by Peptoboonsmal), and advanced to the non-pro, intermediate non-pro and novice non-pro finals, where she swept the championships in all three divisions.
"Everybody always dreams of doing stuff like that, but in reality, it doesn't work out. It's still surreal. She's such a special horse to me," said Matsler, who is Internet editor for AQHA. "This is a second-generation horse that my family has bred and raised. My dad won an AQHA amateur working cow horse reserve world championship on her granddam, Nu Cash Blues, and I showed her dam for the last few years. It's very cool to win something like this on one you raised and have such a history with." 

"After we got done, I asked my dad, 'Will you finally re-breed the broodmare, Blues Nu Boon?' Because I'd really like another one like her," Matsler said of Soula Boon.  

She guided the 2009 sorrel mare to a total 569 score (139 herd/141 rein/145 cow/144 finals cow). The non-pro championship paid $3,133. Matsler collected another $1,567 for the intermediate title, $523 for the novice and $1,080 for the amateur title. Some of her prizes came four-fold: four Gist Buckles from NRCHA and four custom sheets from Classic Equine. She also took home two gift certificates from San Juan Ranch, a division of Santa Cruz Biotechnologies. 
In the fence work-only finals, Matsler was third in the draw. Her 144 score placed her in the lead, and she had to wait and watch the remaining competitors to see whether she would hold on for the win.

"I was really glad the finals was another fence work. That's my strongest event and that's her strongest event. I felt like I had the horse to go win it; I just had to go show her. It wasn't as good as I know she can do, or I can do, but she gave me all of her heart," Matsler said.
Matsler owns Soula Boon with her husband of almost a year, Cody Matsler, who also competes in reined cow horse events. Her parents, Terry and Annette Christiansen, were in Pueblo to cheer her on and celebrate the wins. Terry is also an avid cow horse competitor, and the family raises their own show horses and does much of the riding themselves. Soula Boon's granddam was successfully shown by Terry; and her dam, Blues Nu Boon, has been a stellar performer for Tara in years past.

Coolreys Clinches Intermediate Open Title

Alzada, Montana, horseman Justin Lawrence piloted Coolreys (Dual Rey-Olena Cindy by Doc O'Lena), a 2009 mare owned by Robin Dangel, to the Hackamore Classic intermediate open championship. They came into the cow work finals with the top intermediate open preliminary score, a 430.5 (145 herd/142 rein/143.5 cow), and scored a 140.5 in the finals cow work to seal the championship with a total 571 score.
Coolreys collected $3,123 for the intermediate open win, and banked another $2,677 for ninth place in the Hackamore Classic open. Her prizes were a Gist buckle from the NRCHA; a Cow Trac system donated by Cow Trac; and a custom sheet from Classic Equine.

"This is the first time for me to have a horse in the open finals for these customers and have a major limited age event win. It's pretty exciting for me," Lawrence said. "We got through the reining decent. She was outstanding in the herd. She was good in the preliminary fence work, and it wasn't quite the run I hoped for in the finals. We kind of left the door open for Kenny (Wold) to come get us, which was an interesting story because his horse, Real Smooth Cat, was right behind us in the prelims, and it was one I trained and sold to Kenny as a 2-year-old. It was fun to have two horses that we had in the hunt for it."
Lawrence's show horses do double duty as ranch mounts on the cattle outfit he and his wife, Kelcie, operate. He frequently reaches for a hackamore when tacking up his horses for outside riding. 

"I'm a real big fan of the hackamore and this mare has been trained primarily the last four months in a hackamore. Riding her on the ranch, that's what we use and it seems to make a better horse out of them," he said.

Lavert Avent Doubles His Money With Jojo Tari in Limited Open


Lavert Avent of Watrous, New Mexico, rode his personal horse, Jojo Tari (Little Polo Joe-Tari Acre by Bob Acre Doc), to the limited open championship with a total 568 score (145.5 herd/140.5 rein/141.5 cow/140.5 finals cow). 


He earned $1,785 for the limited open win and took home another $1,896 for placing third in the intermediate open. HiscChampionship prizes were a Gist buckle from the NRCHA and a custom sheet from Classic Equine. 


For Avent, the win was particularly sweet because of his history with Jojo Tari.


"I bought this mare in Amarillo three years ago at the Western Bloodstock sale. I gave $1,400 for this mare. I kind of stole her. a guy in Texas had been training her as a cutter and she wasn't going to make a big-time cutter, so he sold her, and she's been a blessing to me. She's one of those wonder horses for me. Being so cheap, and turning out to be so good – when you're a broke cowboy, trying to make it in the cow horse world, it takes something like this to be able to go make it, just because I can't pay a whole lot for a horse and you hope one of these cheap ones will make a good horse," he said.


While Avent said the 2009 mare did not perform up to her ability in two out of the three events, he was pleased with her performance in the herd work.


"Her reining wasn't as good as she usually is, and neither was the fence work, but the herd work was way better. I ended up with a 145.5, which was the third high score in the open, so I was real tickled with that," he said.


Hard Luck Breaks for Reys Star Cat in the Open Novice Horse Division
The Hackamore Classic preliminary round determines the champions in several divisions, and a hard-luck horse received a well deserved moment in the spotlight when he won the open novice horse championship. Reys Star Cat (High Brow Cat-Reys Starlight by Grays Starlight), a 2009 gelding shown by NRCHA $2 million rider Todd Crawford and owned by Dom Conicelli, won the title with a total 434 score (143 herd/145.5 rein/145.5 cow). 
Reys Star Cat, originally trained by leading National Reining Horse Association professional Craig Schmersal, entered Crawford's program as a 3-year-old. 
"I showed him at the reining futurity. Unfortunately, it was not successful," Crawford said. When Conicelli, a stalwart NRCHA supporter and non-pro competitor, purchased Reys Star Cat, he was gelded to improve his mental focus, and introduced to cattle last year as a 4-year-old. Making up the training time was a challenge, according to Crawford.

"Not having that foundation as a 2- and 3-year-old with the cow work was difficult. He was very scared of a cow and it took a long time to teach him to go down the fence. If the cow hit him, he would exit stage left. He showed here in all three events very well. I was quite happy with him," Crawford said.
Besides a career change, Reys Star Cat also missed five months of training while he recovered from an injury sustained last fall. Crawford appreciated his owner for refusing to give up.
"Dom is one of our great people in the cow horse world. I always believed the horse had the talent, but I kept telling Dom it was going to take a little time. It's been a challenge, and a lot of people would have bailed a long time ago. I appreciate him sticking with it," Crawford said. 
The novice horse championship came with a check for $2,482, as well as a custom sheet and a set of skid boots, both donated by Classic Equine.  

Coloradoboonsmal Hits His Stride in the Level 1 Limited Open

Pueblo, Colorado, was an appropriate place for Coloradoboonsmal (Peptoboonsmal-Miss Playboys Josie by Freckles Playboy) to win the Level 1 limited open championship. It was a meaningful title for the 2010 gelding's trainer, Keith Vogel, and his owners, Ted and Cheryl Swanson.
"We're all Colorado residents, and that's pretty special. When you have a big event in your local area, it's nice to go get something done," Vogel said. "The horse never ceases to amaze me. I'm really happy with him. Good horse, big heart, big stop, lots of cow. He'll be a great bridle horse, I think. He has yet to live up to his ability."
Coloradoboonsmal scored a total 423 (143 herd/139 rein/141 cow), earning $1,487. He also took home a Gist custom buckle from the NRCHA and a sheet and skid boots from Classic Equine.
The roan gelding, known as "Ed" around the barn, was a less than willing partner as a 2- and 3-year-old, but Vogel was determined to uncover the talented performer that he knew was somewhere inside.
"It takes time. You have to try to get those tougher minded horses to like you. You can't be the reason they hate to go work," said Vogel, who won the 2013 AQHA senior working cow horse world championship aboard his own Little Pistol Peach. "I thank the Swansons for letting me take the time with this horse. With that kind of support from my owners, my family and friends, there's not a whole lot I can do besides go win. I'm just the lucky guy in the middle," he said, smiling.

Curt Fender Celebrates in Style

When Curt Fender of Cave Creek, Arizona, won the Hackamore Classic non-pro limited championship, he became the first National Reined Cow Horse Association Free Ride member to win a NRCHA premier event title. The NRCHA Free Ride program was introduced in 2013 to encourage membership growth.  
Fender was also celebrating his 44th birthday as he piloted Dynamite Nic (Tinsel Nic-Lenas Dynamite Chic by Smart Chic Olena) to a total 403.5 score (130 herd/134 rein/139.5 cow), earning $1,215. The championship also came with a Gist buckle and a custom sheet from Classic Equine.
"I haven't been at this very long, so it's pretty cool to win a major event right off the bat," said Fender. He started showing cow horses last November, at the encouragement of longtime friend, roping partner and professional trainer Brad Barkemeyer. He bought Dynamite Nic in February, and the 2010 gelding, previously trained as just a reiner, received a crash course in cow work.
"He had never seen a cow before I bought him. He was shown in the reining and ranch horse pleasure," Fender said. Dynamite Nic had barely 90 days on cattle before Fender showed him at the Hackamore Classic, and even less time in the hackamore.
"We put him in the hackamore maybe two and a half weeks ago. The day that the entries were due, I asked Brad if we were doing this or not, and he said okay. I'm planning to show him at the (NRCHA) Derby next. We'll see how the next month goes."

Go behind the scenes of AQHA working cow horse world champion Matt Koch's training program in The American Quarter Horse Journal's “Making Cow Horses” series.