Versatility Ranch Horse at Sun Circuit

See photos from Day 3 in Arizona, plus meet a German cowgirl making Versatility Ranch Horse her favorite show pen activity.

The American Quarter Horse Journal

Nina Burkart and WR This Cats King (Credit: Journal)

As much as Nina Burkart loves WR This Cats King, she knows that with the right buyer, the 5-year-old stallion is going to go down the road to a new home. That’s why her goal is to put a wide variety of Versatility Ranch Horse and cow-horse experience on his resume as she can.

At the 2015 Arizona Sun Circuit, Nina and WR This Cats King were the reserve all-around amateur champions in Versatility Ranch Horse. The pair was second in amateur ranch horse conformation, ranch riding and working ranch horse; first in ranch trail and ranch reining; and third in ranch cutting. WR This Cats King, aka “Mr. Bakey” is by WR This Cats Smart and out of Kings Sweet San by Mr San Olen, and was bred by Vintage Oaks Ranch of Oakville, California.

“The Versatility Ranch Horse is something I enjoy, but he’s supposed to be a cow horse,” Nina said. “But I’d really like to get on his record that he’s a versatility horse so that maybe someone would want him for that.”

Nina and her husband, Arno Gorgasser, are both natives of Germany, but they have been in the United States for four years. They’re headquartered at Clements, California, half way between Sacramento and Stockton, and buy young horses and train them for cow horse events and then sell them.

“We have a ranch and my husband is a trainer,” Nina said. “He trains reiners and cow horses, and he helps people who compete in ranch sorting.”

A horse lover since she was a tiny little girl, Nina explained that putting together a horse training operation in Germany is really hard.

“In Germany, there’s very little space and land costs a lot of money – we measure it by the square foot rather than by the acre,” she said. “And where I come from – in southern Germany – there is snow, so every structure you build has a snow load, so you need to have a very strong structure, which is then very expensive to build. And with the bad weather, you need an indoor arena to be able to ride all the time, but with the building requirements and the permit system, it could take you eight to 10 years to get a permit. With the money we had, it was easier to buy acreage in a warm and sunny country where you don’t need to build an indoor arena unless you really want to. Then you can put all your money in land and horses.”

Nina didn’t start out riding Quarter Horses.

“As a little girl, I always wanted to sit on horses,” she said. “My grandma said when I was still a baby, the police rode by, I was stretching out my arms wanting to ride with them. One day, when I was about a year old, a policeman put me on his horse. My mom allowed me to ride ponies from a very young age. We were living in the city, but we had a friend that had a racehorse training barn and they had a mascot pony and I was allowed to ride that pony. It was the worst – the most bad-behaved pony ever. He would try to roll with me, blow up his belly and then run off and duck so the saddle with me in it would slide under him. But I would still hang on.

Nina graduated to Quarter Horses when she was 12.

“I wanted riding lessons and I always wanted to be a jumper and be wild,” she said. “My mom was a little bit worried that I would get killed. So she told me I could only get lessons in western riding. She thought it was safer and the horses were quieter.”

Arno and Nina brought three horses with them from Germany.

“I sold 15 before we moved over here,” she said. “I brought one good mare, who I was European champion on in the cow horse in 2010. She is now one of our two broodmares.”

That mare is Beat This Enterprise, a 2004 dun mare by Jacs On Top and out of Wish You Good by Surprise Enterprise, who was bred by Julia Caselitz of Germany.

Even though Nina is a 10-year cumulative Quarter Horse breeder, she pointed out that “breeding is not a business for us. Our couple of babies are what get us up every morning, but we would rather buy weanlings or yearlings so that you know what you’re getting as far as gender, color and conformation.”

As mentioned earlier, Nina really likes Versatility Ranch Horse.

“I like that you can do the cow stuff, but that the horse needs to be broke and do the trail and ranch riding,” she explained.

The first AQHA Versatility Ranch Horse shows debuted 13 years ago. At the time, exhibitors were looking for something different from the usual AQHA show classes. So, AQHA developed the five-class VRH shows, and at each show, exhibitors competed in ranch riding, ranch trail, ranch cutting, working ranch horse and ranch conformation. The classes harkened back to a day when an American Quarter Horse would show in halter in the morning and do all of the other classes – cutting, western pleasure, etc. – through the rest of the day.

Those 13 years have been enough time for exhibitors to say, “We love VRH, but … ”

In 2015, VRH has been adjusted to address the “but.”

Ranch horse exhibitors have been requesting the option to show in just one – or two or three – of the five VRH classes. So, AQHA has reworked VRH and developed a new ranch division. (Read this recent article about VRH.)

“Many Quarter Horse enthusiasts appreciate the versatility of the horse and enjoy riding a horse that can do all the events in Versatility Ranch Horse,” said Charlie Hemphill, AQHA senior director of shows and new events. “But modern lives are busy, and our members don’t always have time to prepare adequately for all of those classes or even the time in a single day to show in all of them. We think this reworking will address some of those concerns while bringing more people and more horses to our shows. Our goal with this division is the same as it has always been with Versatility Ranch Horse classes: to demonstrate the performance, versatility and conformation of the Quarter Horse as a working ranch horse.”

The new ranch division gives exhibitors the opportunity to compete in open, amateur, youth and cowboy classes in ranch riding, ranch trail, ranch reining, ranch cow work, ranch cutting and ranch conformation. AQHA ranch shows will be stand-alone events that can be run within other similar events, such as Stock Horse of Texas events, Charlie said. The six classes will be divided among four categories. Shows that choose to put on a ranch event must offer one class from each category, and to be considered for an all-around award, exhibitors must show in three categories, including ranch conformation and one cattle class (either cutting or ranch cow work).

And the Arizona Sun Circuit was the second show to offer the new VRH format in 2015.
Nina said she likes that one of the rule changes has made, in her opinion, a positive change to the ranch cutting class.

“I like that in the ranch cutting that you’re not required to cut a specified cow,” she said. “That change gives the ranch cutting more credibility and makes it more real.”

Another change to VRH is that exhibitors in the working ranch horse class are no longer required to rope the cow.

“It was probably OK that AQHA changed that because it will help them get more people to compete,” Nina said. “For me, I think every cowboy should learn how to rope. It really got me started to learn how to rope because I really wanted to do this class. Then when they announced the rule change, I must admit that I haven’t been roping as much as I should have. It took the pressure off … but I want to learn to rope because I want to be a California cowgirl and roping is a big part of that!”

Journal Coverage of the 2015 Arizona Sun Circuit

  • All-Arounds and High-Points – These are the all-around and high-point champions from the 2015 Arizona Sun Circuit in Scottsdale.
  • Final Weekend – Rain sure didn't dampen their spirits! Look through these Sun Circuit candids from January 29 to February 1 in Scottsdale.
  • Day 3 – See photos from Day 3, plus meet a a German cowgirl making Versatility Ranch Horse her favorite show pen activity.
  • Day 2 – View photos from Day 2 in Scottsdale, Arizona, plus meet ranch riding newbies Karen Matlo and Meradas Blu Starlite.
  • Day 1 – Take a look through photos from Day 1, and see what working cow horse legends Bob Avila and Al Dunning have to say about 'position' during Friday's clinic.