Freestyle Routines Rock Congress

A non-pro gets the highest score of the evening while Tonto rides again to win the open competition at the 2014 All American Quarter Horse Congress.

The American Quarter Horse Journal

Emily Fisher and Whiz Bye Gollie earn the highest score at the 2014 All American Quarter Horse Congress freestyle reining with a bridleless routine. (Larri Jo Starkey photo) For more photos of Emily and "Louie" as well as the other freestyle routines, scroll to the slideshow below.

The scores climbed ever upward October 11 in an electric evening of freestyle reining at the All American Quarter Horse Congress.

Riders offered funny programs, technical programs, heartfelt programs and amazing programs that left cynical ring crew members saying, “I’m glad I saw that.”

In the end, the highest score of the evening went to a non-pro, Emily Fisher of Canal Winchester, Ohio, who rode Whiz Bye Gollie to the new Carrie Underwood song “Something in the Water, which came out two weeks ago, when Emily changed her planned routine to fit the song.

“I think it’s more me,” she said. “It shares the gospel and the word, and that’s what I’m doing this for: to use my talents for God. That’s No. 1.”

Emily bought “Louie” as a yearling and has done all the training herself.

“He’s by Whizard Jac out of a double-bred Sugar Bars mare,” Emily said. “He’s 8 now, so I’ve done 100 percent of the work. I have awesome coaches, but they’ve never ridden him. I’ve done the work.”

Emily started her bridleless routine backward, backing Louie halfway into the arena before they took a single forward step.

“We’ve put the work in every day at home,” she said. “He knows when I’m having a bad day. He knows when I’m having a good day. I can’t even think about anything but he starts to make it happen. We started playing around at home with (bridleless) and I realized he was almost better bridleless than with a bridle.”

Emily’s experimentation led to a score of 230 and a standing ovation. She also collected a check for $1,244.14.

“Freestyle has always been a huge goal of mine,” she said. “I’ve watched it for a long time and to be able to be a part of it has been the No. 1 goal.”

Freestyle has also been a goal of Dan James, who won the open competition on Smart Little Elan along with a check for $7,730.89.

Dan modified the routine he used to claim the freestyle win earlier this year at the Kentucky Reining Cup and wowed the crowd in Columbus, Ohio. Riding bareback – and backward for part of the ride – Dan was dressed as Tonto. For Congress, he added a Lone Ranger on a sitting horse.

“I think the Lone Ranger added to the program,” Dan said. “I just came along.”

Dan’s ride was Smart Little Elan is a 2001 chestnut gelding by Elans Playboy and out of Smart Little Trouble by Smart Little Lena. Dan bought the horse in 2012 and described him as “quirky” in April, when he said the freestyle routine was inspired by Dan’s youth in Australia.

“Growing up, I loved movie horses and what really inspired me was a movie horse trainer,” he said then. “To come along and have a show like this and get to compete with these guys is just unbelievable.”

The gray horse the Lone Ranger rode in the program is also a veteran of the Kentucky Reining Cup – but as a mount for the para-reining demonstration at that event, where Dale Dedrick of Ann Arbor, Michigan, rode him to a second-place finish.

IRA Top Gunner is a 2000 gray stallion by Playgun and out of Little Peppys Vet by Peppy San Badger. He was bred by Bee Jay Jordan of Lees Summit, Missouri, and Dan owns him.

“He’s amazing, amazing horse,” Dan said. “He’s one of those horses that goes in there and gets more relaxed. If he was a guy, he would be someone who’s super reliable. You can clearly depend on him. He’d be the first one to grab a beer in the afternoon and sit on the couch.”

Dan lives now in Nicholasville, Kentucky, and says competing at the All American Quarter Horse Congress was one of his life goals -- one he concluded with a score of 229.

“I’ve been so blessed to be able to come to this country and tick all these things off that I want to do,” he said. “I remember being downstairs and we’d watch the live feed on this (competition.) And of course, who can forget Stacy’s run here? When you see stuff like that, you imagine riding there one day.”

Stacy entertained the crowd before the competition started, taking questions from horseback, teaching the crowd how to whoop appropriately and judging a mock freestyle competition performed with stick horses.

Halfway through the evening, the Ohio Quarter Horse Association honored Shawn Flarida for his gold medal-winning individual ride on Spooks Gotta Whiz at the 2014 Alltech World Equestrian Games in Normandy.