Top Horse-Show Moments of 2015

Relive 10 of the American Quarter Horse show industry’s landmark moments.

For The American Quarter Horse Journal

AQHA Professional Horseman Blake Weis, riding Snap Krackle Pop, shares his victory lap with junior western riding reserve world champion Jamie Dowdy, riding Its A Southern Thing, at the 2015 Lucas Oil AQHA World Championship Show. (Credit: Journal)

1.     First, we tip our hats to the American Quarter Horses who went viral this year. Back in April at the FEI World Cup in Las Vegas, reined cow horse professionals traded saddles with show jumpers. While the cow horse guys were certainly entertaining to watch jump, we think the star of the show was Reymanator, ridden in Las Vegas by grand prix jumper Tanya Levorchick. “Frozen” fans worldwide are still talking about Laura Sumrall’s mesmerizing performance at the Kentucky Reining Cup aboard Wimpys Top Model. En route to the 2015 freestyle reining world championship, the team let it go in a “Frozen”-inspired routine. And last, but certainly not least, “Smokey the Pony” captured the hearts of America, garnering as much attention throughout the year as his best equine buddy, Triple Crown and Grand Slam winner American Pharoah (TB). Before he was purchased by owner Bob Baffert to serve as an escort, or pony horse, to Thoroughbred racehorses, Smokey (registered as This Whiz Shines), got his start as a reining horse, and even competed at the 2012 National Reining Horse Association Futurity. Smokey returned to his roots in December, when he was invited back to Oklahoma City to be a celebrity guest at the 50th running of the NRHA Futurity.

2.     Sydney Scheckel and A Perfect Pleasure’s breath-taking showmanship pattern. Their performance at the Built Ford Tough AQHYA World Championship Show was so incredible that it earned them a near-perfect score – a 297. When you consider that a perfect score in showmanship is a 100 (or 300 at AQHA world shows), you can appreciate just how phenomenal their performance truly was.

3.     Sweet As Time secured her spot in tie-down roping lore. She won both the AQHA-Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association tie-down roping horse of the year award and AQHA senior tie-down roping world championship, plus helped Marcos Costa finish fifth in the average at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo and 11th in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association world standings.

4.     Kid Coolsified became the halter industry’s first $1 million sire. Every segment of the American Quarter Horse industry has its legendary sires, those who have made significant impacts on the breed and etched their names in history. Add to the distinguished list Kid Coolsified, who secured his place in history in September by becoming the first million-dollar halter sire.

5.     The Lucas Oil AQHA World Championship Show was a resounding success! Entries were up by 32 percent, and Level 2 championship titles were awarded for the first time. Big highlights included Snap Krackle Pop winning the Farnam Superhorse title, AQHA Professional Horseman Charlie Cole and Ima Petite Classic setting a new high score in senior western riding (a 242), and Whizzle For My Spook and Tricia Sarchett setting an AQHA World Show all-time high score in ranch riding, a 241, which they marked en route to the amateur ranch riding world championship.

AQHA Professional Horseman Charlie Cole and Ima Petite Classic

Tricia Sarchett shows Whizzle For My Spook to a record-high ranch riding score.

6.     The NCAA continued its support of women’s equestrian as a Division I sport. When the future of the sport looked uncertain in Fall 2014, the horse-show industry rallied behind the National Collegiate Equestrian Association. The supporters of collegiate equestrian – including alumni, future recruits, parents, trainers and coaches – breathed a sigh of relief in June following a NCAA decision that helped ensure equestrian remains a viable sport.

The 2015 NCEA champions, the University of South Carolina Gamecocks (Credit: NCEA)

7.     Olena Oak became the new all-time leading National Reined Cow Horse Association performer. The 2002 stallion is by Smart Chic Olena and out of Fritzs Oak E by Doc’s Oak, and he took the lead in June with $339,898 in NRCHA career earnings.

8.     Opportunities abounded for ranch horses. Following rule changes to AQHA Versatility Ranch Horse competition, exhibitors were hooked on the six exciting ranch-type classes. Once again, thousands of dollars were on the line at Zoetis AQHA Ranching Heritage Challenges, offered across the country in Fort Worth, Texas; Houston; Pueblo, Colorado; Amarillo; Reno, Nevada; and Billings, Montana. Ranch riding proved once again to be very popular at the AQHA world shows, with senior ranch riding being the No. 1 class (120 entries) at the Lucas Oil World and amateur ranch riding coming in No. 3 (88 entries), and a large number of horses raised by AQHA Ranching Heritage Breeders scoring honors at the Lucas Oil World. And let’s not forget the new challenge that brought ranch horses to the World Conformation Horse Association Breeder’s Championship Futurity, promoting “form to function.”

Kelsey Flessner of Whitesboro, Texas, shows Gotta Hot Gun in the inaugural WCHA Ranch Horse Challenge (Credit: Emily Peak Photography)

9.     Gil Galyean became the National Snaffle Bit Association's first $1 million rider. Gil reached the million-dollar milestone during the 2015 All American Quarter Horse Congress. En route to $1 million in NSBA earnings, the Purcell, Oklahoma, horseman has earned a multitude of titles, including Congress championships in longeline and western pleasure futurities. Here’s something you might not know about Gil, though: He also boasts $216,372 in National Cutting Horse Association earnings.

10.     AQHA 75th Anniversary. What started at the 2015 AQHA Convention in Fort Worth, Texas, with the Markel AQHA Cowtown Showdown, continued throughout the year with special membership cards and merchandise, Breyer’s AQHA 75th Anniversary Collection, and the launch of Jim Jennings’ “They Still Ride Good Horses.”

James Payne shows Once In A Blu Boon to win the cutting at the Markel AQHA Cowtown Showdown during the 2015 AQHA Convention in Fort Worth, Texas.