Merial AQHA Region Two Championships: September 19

Anton Nabuco wins his first buckle at his first AQHA show.

The American Quarter Horse Journal

Anton Nabuco and RN Justa Smart What

Anton Nabuco realized one of his dreams on September 18: winning an AQHA belt buckle at the 2015 Merial AQHA Region Two Championships.

The son of Brazilian-born parents, Anton has always wanted to be involved with horses.

"My grandfather was a jockey for a time in Brazil," he says. "I remember the stories he told about being a jockey."

While horses weren't part of his immediate family, Anton got to them as quick as he was able.

"When I was in eight grade, I started volunteering at a therapeutic riding facility near where we lived in Colorado," he says. "If I wasn't at football practice, I was at the riding facility, grooming and caring for the horses."

He did that until he graduated from high school.

Since high school graduation, Anton has worked construction in Utah.

Now 20, Anton is now apprenticing at Kirk Hall Performance Horses in Edgemont, South Dakota.

"In December 2014, I contacted Kirk when I realized that working construction was just not what I wanted to do," Anton says. "I needed to be doing something with horses."

While waiting to hear if Kirk could make room for him, Anton took a job as a wrangler at a dude ranch in Arkansas.

"Then in March, Shelly (Kirk's wife) called and told me that they wanted me," Anton says with a laugh.

Anton made it clear to Kirk and Shelly that he had little to no real experience with horses, but that it was his dream to learn to train horses and that by the age of 30, he wanted to compete for the National Reined Cow Horse Association World's Greatest Horseman title.

So, with 10 years to meet that goal, Anton has sunk his teeth into learning to start colts at Kirk's place. He even did a little bronc riding at the county fair rodeo.

The pair took a little break to haul three horses to the Region Two Championships 80 miles northeast in Rapid City.

"Kirk is trying to win one of the all-around titles," Anton says. "I've been to several shows, but just as a groom."

This time, he got to show. In ranch sorting.

"I kinda got dragged into it," he says with a laugh. "There weren't very many entries, so Kirk said, 'You know, if we win the open ranch sorting, we get a buckle.' So we entered."

Drawing the last go, Kirk and Anton were in the catbird seat, as the quick, pushy No. 5 cow had prevented the other exhibitors from getting their cattle sorted in the correct order.

So what was the newby ranch sorting duo's strategy?

"That No. 5 cow gave everyone trouble," Anton says. "So, we decided that since the other teams didn't get their cattle sorted, we were gonna get our first cow, then block the entrance of the pen and go with one head."

And they did, with Anton aboard RN Justa Smart What, a 2005 sorrel mare by Justa Smart Doc and out of What Is Magic by Freckles Floyd. Kirk was riding wife Shelly's horse, Pepto In Bluejeans, a 2009 blue roan gelding by Little Mo Pepto and out of  Jakes Bar Bee Girl by Mr Jake Wrangler.

"And I won my first AQHA buckle," Anton says proudly.

So how does it feel to be living your dream at the age of 20?

"It's awesome," he says. "We get to go out and work with and ride horses every day. I don't work ever. This is the last frontier ... like, cowboys. Every kid wants to be a cowboy and a lot of people don't get to do that until they're 50 or 60 because they didn't have the opportunity."