2015 Cowtown Showdown

The 2015 Markel AQHA Cowtown Showdown, Presented by the City of Fort Worth, featured cutting, reining, ranch horse and reined cow horse competition.

The American Quarter Horse Journal

James Payne and Once In A Blu BoonJournal photo

The dirt was flying at the first Markel AQHA Cowtown Showdown as American Quarter Horses wowed the crowd with their slides, spins and cow sense.

Presented by the city of Fort Worth, Texas, the Cowtown Showdown was an offsite 2015 AQHA Convention event. This year's convention is a celebration of the Association's 75th anniversary and is hosted by Fort Worth, as that's the city where AQHA was founded.

The Cowtown Showdown opened with the presentation of the American flag, escorted by four Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. The "National Anthem" was sung by singer/songwriter/actor and AQHA life member Lyle Lovett, accompanied by cellist and long-time band member John Hagen.

Then the real fun began.

The audience watched and cheered as National Cutting Horse Association icons Lloyd Cox, Clay Johnson, Johnny Mitchell and James Payne played keep-away with a herd of steers and heifers. James Payne of Overbrook, Oklahoma, and Once In A Blue Boon (Peptoboonsmal-Autumn Boon by Dual Pep) won the class with a score of 229.

James, an NCHA Riders Hall of Fame member, started his show career in the reining industry, but soon changed to the cutting horse business. James’ lifetime earnings exceed $1.4 million and he won the 2014 NCHA Classic Challenge open show. Once In A Blu Boon is a 2008 stallion owned by Charlotte Farms of Rosston, Texas. Once In A Blu Boon is the 2014 NCHA Classic/Challenge open champion and has lifetime earnings of more than $300,000. James and Once In A Blu Boon also won the senior cutting at the 2014 AQHA World Championship Show.

Lloyd Cox of Marietta, Oklahoma, rode RW Rockin, a 2010 mare (Dual Rey-Boon San Kitty by High Brown Cat) owned by Monty Johnson of Weatherford, Texas. Clay Johnson of Weatherford, Texas, rode A Play Rey, a 2008 gelding (Reys Dual Badger-Playin Blues by Playin Stylish) owned by Katherine Hermes of Cotulla, Texas. Johnny Mitchell, originally from Australia, and now living in Weatherford, Texas, rode Junie Wood, a 2010 mare (Nitas Wood-Tuffs Junie by Tuff Lena) owned by the Slate River Ranch of Weatherford, Texas.

After the cutting, National Reining Horse Association champions Shawn Flarida, Dell Hendricks and Tim McQuay, along with singer/songwriter and AQHA life member Lyle Lovett slid, spun and circled their horses for the audience.Shawn showed the audience why he's NRHA's only Five Million Dollar Rider by picking up the reining win aboard Smart Spook at the Cowtown Showdown.

Shawn, who is from Springfield, Ohio, has won every major event multiple times, including the NRHA Futurity and Derby, National Reining Breeders Classic and All American Quarter Horse Congress. Shawn’s a multiple AQHA world champion and highly successful multiple gold medalist in FEI World Equestrian Games international competition. Smart Spook is a 2001 stallion (Smart Chick Olena-Sugarplum Spook by Grays Starlight) owned by Rosanne Sternberg of Aubrey, Texas. Smart Spook is a NRHA Futurity and Derby champion, three-time FEI Masters champion and AQHA world champion, with $405,000 in lifetime earnings

Dell Hendricks of Tioga, Texas, rode Custom Made Gun, a 2011 stallion (Colonels Smoking Gun-Custom Made Dunit by Hollywood Dun It) owned by McQuay Stables of Tioga, Texas. Lyle, who lives in Spring, Texas, rode his 2003 stallion Smart And Shiney, who is by Smart Shiner and out of Tronas Pearl by Dox Tronalena. Tim McQuay of Tioga, Texas, rode Shiney Enterprise, a 2008 mare by Smart And Shiney and out of My Royal Enterprise by Be Aech Enterprise and owned by McQuay Stables of Tioga.

Ranch Horse
Seven of the 16 AQHA 75-year breeders were represented in the ranch horse competition, which was won by Ben Baldus and Cruze Mode, representing the W.T. Waggoner Ranch.

Established in 1849 by Dan Waggoner, the Waggoner Ranch is the largest ranch in Texas under one fence. The ranch was presented with the AQHA Best Remuda Award in 1994 and AQHA Legacy Award, for breeding American Quarter Horses for 50 consecutive years, in 1997. Poco Bueno, veteran sire for the ranch, is a member of the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame, as is E. Paul Waggoner, grandson of Dan Waggoner. Cruze Mode is a 2009 stallion by Wimpys Little Step and out of Smart Lassie Chick by Smart Chic Olena.

Here are the horses and riders that represented the other ranches in the ranch horse event:

R.A. Brown Ranch, Throckmorton, Texas
Represented by Bubba Nolan & Eddie Rocks RAB, a 2006 stallion (Hesa Eddie Hancock-Smooth Hearted Rock by Smooth At Heart)

Burnett Ranches
Represented by Dusty Burson & Playin With Pick, a 2008 mare (Playing Attraction-Natural Pick by Tenino Badger)

Haythorn Land & Cattle Co.
Represented by Craig Haythorn & Lone Four Chex, a 2005 palomino stallion (Figure Four Chex-Drifters Gitanna by Lone Drifter)

King Ranch
Represented by Robert Silguero & A Lil Bit O Flash, a 2011 stallion (Marsala Red-Poquita Dynamite by Dynamite Badger)

Norell Family
Represented by Kevin Norell & Roandalay, a 2003 stallion (Keenbob-Tom Ta Vassa by Tom Cat Two)

Pitchfork Land & Cattle Co.
Represented by Brooks Hodges & Sir Hickory Bar, a 2003 gelding (Cat Silver-Ms Sir Fifty Nine by Sirs Sir)

Cow Horse
Fresh off his win at the World's Greatest Horseman competition, Corey Cushing showed the crowd how he got it done, this time aboard Oh Cay N Short with a score of 222.5, just a half point ahead of Todd Crawford and Shakin My Head.

Corey, who is from Scottsdale, Arizona, had his first professional breakthrough in 1999, winning the NRHA Futurity intermediate open champion title. He claimed his first major National Reined Cow Horse Association title, the Stakes open championship and won the 2011 and 2012 AQHA senior working cow horse world championship. In 2012, Corey became an NRCHA Million Dollar Rider, also winning his first NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity open championship. Oh Cay N Short is a 2004 gelding (Oh Cay Quixote-Bit Of Shorty by Shorty Lena) owned by Boyd Rice of Weatherford, Texas. Oh Cay N Short won the 2007 NRCHA Futurity open championship and has more than $200,000 in lifetime earnings.

Todd was riding Shakin My Head, a 2010 stallion (Cats Headliner-Berettas Shorty Girl by Shorty Lena) owned by Nicolle Boyd and Jefe Livestock of Stephenville, Texas.

Todd and Corey also competed againstTodd Bergen and Smark Luck, a 2006 stallion (Very Smart Remedy-Gunna Be Lucky by Gunna Smoke) owned by Cable Creek Ranch of Aurora, Oregon; and Boyd Rice, riding Royal Smart Fletch, a 2010 stallion (Royal Fletch-Little Smart Ginger by Smart Little Lena) owned by Kit and Charlie Moncrief of Fort Worth.

Be sure to view the slideshow below to see highlights from the 2015 Markel AQHA Cowtown Showdown, Presented by the City of Fort Worth.