Phillips and Duals Lucky Charm Win 2016 NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity Open Championship
Kelby Phillips rides Mike and Robyne Stewart's Duals Lucky Charm to a $100,000 payday at the National Reined Cow Horse Association's crown jewel.
October 3, 2016
Saturday, October 1, was decision time for 25 horses in the 2016 Snaffle Bit Futurity Open Finals at the Reno Livestock Events Center in Reno, Nevada. They had risen to the top of the field of nearly 200 preliminary entries for a shot at the coveted $100,000 Championship and the title which represents a life-altering, pinnacle moment for owners, trainers, and breeders alike. The young equine triathletes were piloted by capable horsemen and -women with a wide range of experience, from National Reined Cow Horse Association Hall of Fame Horseman Ken Wold, pushing 70 years old; to newlyweds Chris and Sarah Dawson, each with two horses in the finals; to first-time Open Finalist Tyson Benson, who celebrated his 24th birthday just days before the Futurity preliminaries began September 19 in Reno, Nevada.
When the second-to-last horse in the draw, Duals Lucky Charm, scored a 224.5 down the fence to lock up the Championship for owners Mike and Robyne Stewart, the gelding’s trainer, Kelby Phillips, punched the air three times. It was an uncharacteristic celebration for the soft-spoken 28-year-old horseman, but he couldn’t help it. He knew everything had just changed.
“It’s great. I really don’t know what to say,” Phillips said in his post-win interview, visibly emotional as he rubbed a hand across his forehead.
“We usually don’t have this kind of luck!” said Robyne Stewart. “I had tears in my eyes when they called out the score. This is something we’ve never experienced. It’s awesome.”
It was an unforgettable night of fence work, with 10 of the 25 finalists marking a 219 score or above.
“As many years as I’ve been doing this, I can’t remember a finals where so many people got showed in the reining, and so many people got showed down the fence,” said NRCHA 2 Million Dollar Rider and Open finalist Todd Bergen, Eagle Point, Oregon. “I heard from several people, it’s one of the best finals they’ve ever seen, and I think that just shows where this sport is going, how good it’s gotten, how good the horses are, how good the trainers are.”
For most of the fence work finals, it appeared that two-time Futurity Champion and Million Dollar Rider Corey Cushing, Scottsdale, Arizona, and Moonstruck One Time (One Time Pepto x Moonstruck Cat x High Brow Cat), owned by Allan Kaplan, were on track to win it all. They were fourth in the working order, and made a big 221.5 run to move into the lead with a 660.5 composite.
Cushing and Moonstruck One Time maintained that lead until the 24th horse went down the fence – Duals Lucky Charm (Dual Smart Rey x TRR Miss Pepcid Olena x Pepcid), a gelding shown by NRCHA Top 10 Professional Kelby Phillips of Bend, Oregon, and owned by Mark and Robyne Stewart. Phillips, who arrived in Reno with just over $276,000 in lifetime earnings, had been in the Futurity Open finals before, but never won the big prize. That all changed in the span of one fast fence work – when the score of 224.5 became a life changing moment for the young horseman. His composite 663 score (218 herd/220.5 rein/224.5 cow) claimed the Snaffle Bit Futurity Championship.
In his post-win interview, Phillips admitted the full impact of his achievement with Duals Lucky Charm hadn’t quite sunk in. The resident trainer at NRCHA Corporate Partner DT Horses, Bend, Oregon, felt confident on the gelding he started riding last November.
“This horse, he’s solid every day. He doesn’t ever do anything bad. He’s been really fun to train. He’s really good in the cutting. I didn’t get good cows cut for him here, especially in the prelims,” Phillips said. “In the reining, he does about the same thing every time. Every time I’ve shown him, he’s been a 220, so I can rely on him in the reining to be pretty solid there.”
Phillips knew he had to bring a big fence work score if he was to overtake Cushing for the Championship.
“I knew it was going to be plenty of cow when it came out. Brandon Buttars, he had been telling me, ‘Don’t weaken,’ so I was trying not to. Once I knocked him around down there, I knew I had to go, because to be a big enough score to win, I knew we had to go with a little bit of cow. After the first turn, I knew he was good, because he’s always good after the first turn, if I can get him out of there. And then he circles really good. I know I can turn him loose and he’ll just hunt that cow on both sides. I can trust him there,” Phillips said.
Besides the $100,000 paycheck, the Futurity Championship came with a Scottsdale Saddlery Custom Saddle sponsored by Matthews Cutting Horses, an original CR Morrison bronze trophy sponsored by Beverly Vaughn/Triangle Bar V Ranch, a Gist buckle sponsored by McSpyder Ranch, boots from Rios of Mercedes, a 100x and 30x JW Brooks Custom Hat, a $500 CR RanchWear gift certificate, a cooler from Classic Equine, a jacket from NRCHA, and product from Platinum Performance.
Phillips thanked his owners, the Stewarts, as well as his wife, Abbie; close friends Brandon and Sophia Buttars; Don and Nelle Murphy, and his herd help: Mark Luis, Phillip Ralls, Brandon Buttars, and Zane Davis.
“It’s nice to know you have so many friends around here,” Phillips said.
Futurity Open Reserve Champion
When Cushing, a two-time Futurity Champion and NRCHA Million Dollar Rider, piloted Moonstruck One Time (One Time Pepto x Moonstruck Cat x High Brow Cat) to the Reserve Championship, he earned $70,000 for owner Allan Kaplan, Phoenix, Arizona.
Moonstruck One Time’s composite 660.5 score (217.5 herd/221.5 rein/221.5 cow) represented the consistently above-average performances Cushing has come to expect from the bay gelding.
“This horse has been so great ever since I started with him. I’ve got faith in him through all three events. He’s got a lot of style, a lot of finesse, and it gives me confidence, which is a huge help. I knew I could handle whatever cow was thrown at us,” Cushing said.
In another accolade for Cushing’s program, his assistant trainer, Tyson Benson, qualified for the Limited Open, Intermediate Open and Open finals riding My Gun Goes Boom (Smart Boons x Gunners Easter Lilly x Gunner), owned by Cathy Corrigan Frank. Benson and the mare earned $13,500 for their 12th place Open finish.
“How can you forget a night like this? So many great horses, so many great runs… I’m just happy with the way it turned out,” Cushing said.
CINCH Intermediate Open Champion
Dual N Tomcat, a small but mighty gelding bought on a whim at last year’s Snaffle Bit Futurity Select 2-Year-Old Sale, worked his way to the CINCH Intermediate Open Futurity Championship on Thursday, September 29, in Reno, Nevada.
Shown by Aubrey, Texas, professional Sarah Dawson, and owned by Dawson’s parents, Richard and Cheryl Winters, Dual N Tomcat (Tomcat Chex x Dual N Mary x Dual Rey), scored a 656 composite (218 herd/215.5 rein/222.5 cow) to earn the $30,000 paycheck. Since 2010, NRCHA Corporate Partner CINCH has sponsored the Intermediate Open division to guarantee that payout to the Champion.
Dawson’s prizes included a DC Cow Horse Custom Saddle presented by CINCH, a CR Morrison Trophy sponsored by Jim Lane Equine Insurance, a Gist buckle sponsored by TKO Ranch/Bob Stevens, a $500 CR Ranchwear gift certificate, a JW Brooks Custom Hat, a jacket from the NRCHA, and product from Platinum Performance.
“I thought he was great,” Dawson said, describing Dual N Tomcat’s performance in the finals. “I liked him all year. He was always so little, but he always tried so hard, and he’s been fun to train all year. It’s even more fun that my parents own him, so I’m happy for them.”
Dawson’s father, Richard Winters, also a NRCHA Professional and well known horsemanship clinician, bought Dual N Tomcat at the 2015 Snaffle Bit Futurity Select 2-Year-Old sale with minimal research beforehand.
“Clayton Edsall [a NRCHA Professional from Oakdale, California] had him in the sale, and I don’t even think my dad looked at him. I think he just saw him down in the sale pen and it was kind of a spur of the moment buy. He seems to have pretty good luck with those so far – so good on him!” Dawson said. “And I have to say, my dad, he’s just about the best owner ever. It’s very low pressure, and he’s just happy to see his horse in there. He’s been fortunate so far because I’ve had two of his horses and they’ve both been in the finals so far.”
In 2015, Dawson rode Shine Smarter (WR This Cats Smart x Shiney Tari x Shining Spark), also owned by her parents, to the CINCH Intermediate Open Reserve Championship, the Limited Open Championship, and 5th place in the Open.
Besides winning the Intermediate title on Dual N Tomcat, Dawson collected the $10,000 third place paycheck aboard Travelin Miss Jonez (Travelin Jonez x Playin With Rubies x Lectric Playboy), owned by Steve Roseberry; and finished with another $2,000 for 11th place on Wright On Hickory (Hes Wright On x Hickorys Miracle x Doc’s Hickory), owned by Wright On Hickory LLC.
The CINCH Intermediate Open Reserve Champion was Maytown Moonshine (Cats Moonshine x Bunny Lena x Smart Little Lena), shown by Powell Butte, Oregon, professional Shane Steffen for owner Carrie Whisler. They collected $15,000, a Gist buckle and monogrammed jacket from the NRCHA, a $500 CR Ranchwear gift certificate, a JW Brooks Custom Hat, a $300 gift certificate from Farnam, and product from Platinum Performance.
Limited Open Champion
Clay Volmer, Cisco, Texas, was already a well-established cutting horse trainer with approximately $150,000 in NCHA earnings when he crossed over into reined cow horse competition in 2015.
He claimed his biggest NRCHA title to date when he won the Snaffle Bit Futurity Limited Open Championship riding Hesa Royalena (Bet Hesa Cat x Black Tie Queen x Smart Little Ricochet), owned by Kirk Johnston.
Volmer guided Hesa Royalena to a 636.5 composite (214.5 herd/213.5 rein/208.5 cow), earning $10,914. HIs prizes included a DC Cow Horse Custom Saddle presented by Smart Luck, a CR Morrison Trophy from the NRCHA, a $500 gift certificate from CR Ranchwear, a Gist buckle sponsored by McSpyder Ranch, a CowTrac System sponsored by CowTrac, a JW Brooks Custom Hat, a monogrammed CINCH jacket from the NRCHA, a cooler from Classic Equine, and product from Platinum Performance.
“I was real happy with how my horse was in the herd this morning. In the rein work, I thought he circled good and really turned around well. I would’ve liked to see him stop a little harder. In the cow work, I think his first turn was probably as big as he’s ever had, and then the cow just kind of weakened on us. I could’ve done a little better, but he tried to bail us out, so I was pretty happy,” Volmer said.
Volmer got his start in the NRCHA when Jecca Ostrander, his wife, Carrie’s, aunt, sent him a horse to train last year.
“She said ‘I want this horse to be a cow horse,’ and I mainly train cutters, but I said, ‘OK.'”
With help from leading professionals including Million Dollar Rider Boyd Rice, 2 Million Dollar Rider Todd Crawford, and Chris and Sarah Dawson, Volmer made the Limited Open finals on Ostrander’s horse, Boxo Valentines Cat, during his first trip to the Snaffle Bit Futurity in 2015.
The Limited Open Reserve Champion was Night Time Cat (Nitrocat x Quixote Jesse x Holidoc), shown by Grant Lindaman II and owned by Phil Hagadorn. They scored a 635 composite (206 herd/216.5 rein/212.5 cow), earning $8,751. They won a Gist buckle sponsored by Deer Creek Ranch, a $500 CR Ranchwear gift certificate, a JW Brooks Custom Hat, $300 in Farnam products, a monogrammed jacket from the NRCHA, and product from Platinum Performance.
Level 1 Limited Open Champion
The Level 1 Limited Open Champion was determined by the scores in the preliminary go-rounds, and it was Dustin Mills, a 24-year-old assistant trainer to NRCHA 2 Million Dollar Rider Todd Crawford, who rode away with the Championship.
Mills guided Unos Smokin Chic (Uno What Time It Is x Dew It Flo x Mr Peponita Flo) to a 639 composite (215.5 herd/212.5 rein/211 fence), earning $6,484. His prize package included a CR Morrison Trophy, a Gist buckle sponsored by McSpyder Ranch, a $500 CR Ranchwear gift certificate, a JW Brooks Custom Hat, a cooler from Classic Equine, a monogrammed Cinch jacket, and product from Platinum Performance.
“In the reining, he was real good. He’s a little bit of a goofy horse so he’s kind of jumping and looking at the signs and things here. In the herd work, he was about as awesome as I could ask him to be. In the fence work, same deal. He was really good there too,” Mills said. “He’s always wide awake but really easy. He’s been kind of a dream to train, and awesome to show.”
The Limited Open Championship was Mills’ biggest NRCHA win. The 24-year-old son of cutting horse trainer Mark Mills, Brookshire, Texas, started working for Crawford almost a year and a half ago.
“It means a lot, especially in the short time I’ve been doing this,” he said.
Mills and Unos Smokin Chic also qualified for Thursday’s Limited Open finals. He said he formed a strategy with friend and fellow Limited Open Finalist Clay Volmer, who was also the Level 1 Reserve Champion riding Kirk Johnston’s Hesa Royalena (Bet Hesa Cat x Black Tie Queen x Smart Little Ricochet) to a 637.5 (213 herd/213.5 rein/211 cow)
“We just decided we were going to come in here and lope around a little bit early in the morning and then just go show. Go have fun,” Mills said.
He thanked Todd and Pam Crawford, Clay Volmer, Chris Dawson, and Matt Koch for their various roles in his success, from mentoring to herd help.
When Snaffle Bit Futurity Open and Intermediate Open Finalists Sarah Dawson and Wright On Hickory (Hes Wright On x Hickorys Miracle x Doc’s Hickory) entered the arena for those finals, they were already Snaffle Bit Futurity Champions. Their preliminary score of 656 (216 herd/223.5 rein/216.5 fence) earned the Ladies Champion title.
Wright On Hickory is owned by a unique 10-member syndicate from other segments of the equine industry who are new to the NRCHA.
“I’m extremely happy for those people, because they’re all first time cow horse owners, so its pretty special for them to come here and do well. Now they’re spoiled! They’re going to think it’s easy, when it’s not,” Dawson said, laughing.
She took home a check for $1,134, along with a pile of nice prizes: a CR Morrison Trophy sponsored by Stacy Lynch, a $500 CR Ranchwear gift certificate, a Gist buckle and Cinch jacket from the NRCHA, a JW Brooks Custom Hat, a cooler from Classic Equine, and product from Platinum Performance.
Non Pro/Intermediate Non Pro/Novice Non Pro Champion
Kathy Ferguson, of Cottonwood, California, pulled off a clean sweep of all three National Reined Cow Horse Association Snaffle Bit Futurity Discount Tire Non Pro, Intermediate Non Pro and Novice Non Pro Championships on Friday, September 30, at the Reno-Sparks Livestock Events Center.
Ferguson, who arrived in Reno with just over $17,000 in prior NRCHA lifetime earnings, had plenty of experience showing bridle horses and derby horses, but virtually no prior futurity experience.
She piloted Royal Isabella (One Time Royalty x Oaks Rowdycat x High Brow Cat), to a 644.5 composite score (217 herd/ 215.5 rein/212 cow), winning the Championship by a three point margin.
“I wanted a derby horse, and the only way I could get one was to futurity it, so now I have my derby horse,” she said, smiling. “I knew she could do it. I’m amazed I was with her on the trip. I didn’t think I could do it. I knew she could, but I didn’t think I could.”
Her triple paychecks totaled $28,951. Ferguson also won a Scottsdale Saddlery Custom Saddle presented by Discount Tire, a Don Rich Custom Saddle and a Bob’s Custom Saddle presented by the NRCHA; an original CR Morrison Bronze and two CR Morrison Trophies sponsored by the NRCHA; three Gist custom buckles sponsored by Jon and Jody Semper, Stuart Ranch, and JT and Sandra Neal; three $500 CR Ranchwear Gift Certificates; three JW Brooks Custom Hats; boots from Rios of Mercedes; polar fleece coolers sponsored by Classic Equine; and product from Santa Cruz Animal Health and Platinum Performance.
Ferguson’s husband, Dave, was also a Snaffle Bit Futurity Non Pro finalist, finishing 7th on Metalic Dual (Metallic Cat x Dual Whisper x Kit Dual). Kathy said that typically, her husband shows the Futurity horses and then she takes the reins during their Derby years.
“He did really good. He’s taking it really well. I’ll disappear now. He can have this futurity horses and I’ll keep my derby horses,” she said.
Ferguson purchased Royal Isabella from Million Dollar Rider Corey Cushing, with the help of NRCHA Professional Erin Taormino. Ferguson admitted she had her heart set on a different horse, but Taormino urged her to take a second look at the blaze-faced sorrel mare.
“I’m glad I did,” Ferguson said.
The Reserve Champion in all three divisions – Non Pro, Intermediate Non Pro and Novice Non Pro – was Jenny Newman, Bly, Oregon, who collected combined paychecks totaling $22,198 when she scored a 641.5 (213 herd/214 rein/214.5 cow) aboard One Kool Moon (Cats Full Moon x One Stylish Babe x One Time Pepto).
Futurity Amateur Champion
The Snaffle Bit Futurity Amateur Champion was determined by the scores in the preliminary go-rounds, and it was Jenny Newman, a cattle rancher from the south-central Oregon town of Bly, who took home the Championship, riding One Kool Moon (Cats Full Moon x One Stylish Babe x One Time Pepto) to a composite score of 642 (215 herd/213 rein/214 cow). Newman also earned a place in Friday’s Non Pro, Intermediate Non Pro and Novice Non Pro finals.
Newman, who arrived in Reno with $2,550 in prior NRCHA earnings, began her journey with One Kool Moon at the urging of her late sister-in-law, Jennifer Rice, who passed away in 2015 following a battle with brain cancer.
“She encouraged me to find a good horse,” Newman said, through tears. Although her sister-in-law wasn’t a horsewoman, “she was my biggest supporter.”
Newman consulted NRCHA Professional Clayton Edsall, Oakdale, California, who helped her find and purchase One Kool Moon, nicknamed “Koolie” by Newman’s granddaughter. Edsall rode the gelding from last November until May, and then Newman brought him home to finish his training and use him on the ranch she operates with her husband, Kevin.
“Clayton did a wonderful, wonderful job, and without him, there would have been no chance I could do this,” Newman said.
She was pleased with One Kool Moon’s steady performance in all three events.
“He babysits me. When I screw up, he babysits me. That’s the best way to put it. Clayton told me to go out there and stay calm and let him do his job. They picked good cattle for me in the herd work, and it all fell together. In the reining, we had a little bobble. We drug a lead a little bit, but other than that, he was perfect. We drew a good cow in the cow work, and from there, it’s history, I guess,” Newman said, smiling.
Before the fence work, Edsall’s advice to Newman was brief, but inspiring.
“He said, ‘Don’t be afraid to be great.’ Those were his exact words to me. It was awesome,” she said.
Newman took home $5,400, a custom saddle courtesy of Don Rich Saddlery and presented by Ellen and Larry Bell; a CR Morrison Trophy and Gist buckle from the NRCHA, a JW Brooks Custom Hat, a $500 CR Ranchwear gift certificate, a fleece cooler from Classic Equine, product from Platinum Performance, and a monogrammed Cinch jacket.
The Futurity Amateur Reserve Champion was Sonia DiStefano, Calgary, Alberta, Canada, riding High Brow Kitty Cat (Palo Duro Cat x Hickorys Jac O Lena x Jac Pic A Nic). She scored a 637.5 composite (208 herd/212 rein/217.5 cow), earning $4,320. Her prizes included a Gist buckle and monogrammed Cinch jacket from the NRCHA; a hat from JW Brooks Custom Hats, gift certificates from Farnam and Platinum Performance; and a $500 gift certificate from CR Ranchwear. DiStefano also advances to the clean-slate finals in the Non Pro, Intermediate Non Pro and Novice Non Pro Futurity.
Futurity Non Pro Limited Champion
Scottsdale, Arizona, competitor Mindy Barkemeyer almost decided to scratch her Futurity horse, Cattyholic (Catty Hawk x Boomerita x Boomernic), out of concern they weren’t ready to compete as a team on the big stage at the Snaffle Bit Futurity. But some last-minute intervention by her husband, NRCHA Professional Brad Barkemeyer, made her change her mind.
“I told Brad I didn’t want to come, I was done, and he said, ‘Let me ride him, and give me until Wednesday.’ We were leaving on Friday. He said, ‘Come ride him Wednesday and you can make up your mind.’ I threw my saddle in the trailer, and here we are!” she said. “I’m so glad I decided to show, just from a personal standpoint of proving something to myself, that I can do this.”
Barkemeyer scored a 627.5 (213 herd/201 rein/213.5 cow) on the gelding she calls “Gummybear.”
“He is an amazing cow horse. His weakness is in the reining. I knew I had to be aggressive and be a showman. So I just put him in the right spots and hoped that it all worked out, and it did,” she said.
Cattyholic comes from a breeding program and a family of horses that Barkemeyer knows well.
“Bill and Michelle Cowan bred him, and they also bred my bridle horse [Dulce Smart Boomer, nicknamed “Clark,” also out of the mare Boomerita], and they’re our really good friends. We went out in the pasture and looked at their 2-year-olds last fall. Their little girl, Mackenzie, named all their 2-year olds and his name was Gummybear. She said ‘Mindy, I think this horse is most like Clark,’ which is my bridle horse. I said ‘Oh, I’ve got to have him!'”
Despite the inevitable ups and downs that came with showing her first Futurity horse, Barkemeyer said the reality “far exceeded” her expectations.
“God put me in a position where I had an opportunity and I needed to take it, and I’m so glad I did, and so glad it worked out the way that it did,” she said.
She thanked her husband, Brad; her herd help, Doug Williamson, Shadd Parkinson and Corey Cushing; NRCHA Hall of Fame horseman Don Murphy; her mom, who stayed home to take care of the Barkemeyers’ young sons, Bryce and Zane; and her huge cheering section of friends in Reno.
Barkemeyer’s paycheck was $2,850, and she also won a saddle courtesy of Don Rich Saddlery and presented by Linda Wood/Chandler Ranch; a CR Morrison Trophy sponsored by the Colorado Reined Cow Horse Association; a Gist buckle from the NRCHA; a JW Brooks Custom Hat; a cooler from Classic Equine; a jacket from the NRCHA; a $500 CR Ranchwear gift certificate; and product from Platinum Performance.
The Non Pro Limited Reserve Champion was Rainy Walker, Eunice, New Mexico, who rode Tex Me A Cat (Zezes Pepto cat x Texas Switch x Texas Kicker) to a 617.5, earning $2,375. Walker’s prizes were a Gist buckle and monogrammed jacket from the NRCHA, a JW Brooks Custom Hat, a CR Morrison Trophy sponsored by Stacy Lynch, and gift certificates from CR Ranchwear, Farnam and Platinum Performance.