Back to Basics Circuit Starts Year Off With a Bang

View results and photos from the February 10-14 circuit, featuring stakes and derby classes, in Rancho Murieta, California.

For The American Quarter Horse Journal

The Open Trail Stakes champion was Rolex In Paris, ridden by David Busick and owned by Carolyn and Glen Quigley, and the reserve champion was Lope Up To A Goodbar, shown by Cheryl Busick and owned by Jerilynne Michaels. (Photos courtesy of TEEM)

As spring comes onto the horizon and brings the changes of the season, so does the Back to Basics AQHA Circuit. This show has been growing leaps and bounds for the last several years under new ownership.

Held at the first class Murieta Equestrian Center in Rancho Murieta, California, the five-day event draws a lot of exhibitors from a large variety of western states and Canada. Professionally managed by Total Equine Event Management, the annual event has always experienced large classes, providing the opportunity for a lot of AQHA world show qualifying points to be up for grabs. This year entries blew the barn doors off with a huge turnout that sold out every stall on the large grounds and required portable stalls.

Year after year, this creative group brings new ideas, launches exciting changes and as always provides a fresh approach to holding a competitive, yet fun horse show. It’s been a long time since a show has continued to draw such high numbers of entries and spectators on the West Coast. With exhibitors coming from so many different states and as far as Canada, the good word about this show has certainly spread.

Show manager R.L. Davis pointed out, “The Arizona Sun Circuit is one of the biggest shows in the country each year. We've always had a buffer for people coming home from that huge circuit before they head to our five-day event. But this year Sun Circuit moved to early in January and is almost a month prior to our circuit, so that gives people plenty of time to recuperate financially and horses plenty of time to rest. We believe it was a benefit for the Back to Basics AQHA Circuit.”

First and foremost for 2016, show management added AQHA Versatility Ranch Horse and all-breed ranch trail.

“This event was designed to show a horse’s ability and willingness to perform several tasks that might be asked of him during the course of a normal day’s ranch work," David explained. "Whenever possible we are going to try and use realistic or natural obstacles, which is something we also do in the ranch riding courses for the Back to Basics AQHA Circuit. Exhibitors seem to enjoy that we are offering something new and I think trail exhibitors especially will have fun if they show in our ranch trail class on Wednesday.”

For exhibitors unfamiliar with AQHA VRH ranch trail, the class calls for three mandatory obstacles: gate, rider dismount and remount, and log drag. From that point there are a variety of optional obstacles that can be included in a course design, such as: a slicker, roping a fake steer, etc. The course design by Ann Dennis provided some very creative course design that exhibitors really enjoyed. Cherie Vonada built “cows” and “sheep” that really boosted the look of the ranch trail course in a clever way.

The Dirt & Diamonds Open Trail Stakes had $1,000 in added money sponsored by Stone Gate Farms. The Open Trail Stakes champion was Rolex In Paris, ridden by David Busick and owned by Carolyn and Glen Quigley, taking home a large check, a custom bronze sculpture and a gift certificate from Barbara's Custom Hats.

Reserve champion in the Open Trail Stakes was Lope Up To A Goodbar, shown by Cheryl Busick and owned by Jerilynne Michaels, taking home a sizable check and a custom chest.

Busick Quarter Horses and their customers sponsored $500 for the added money in the Non-Pro Trail Stakes. Hilary Reinhard and her great horse Zippos Ultra Gold artfully negotiated the courses to come out on top with a composite score of 294.5 and took home the championship crystal, Barbara’s Custom Hats gift certificate and a check for $435. Reserve champion was Stephanie Kofu, showing her wonderful horse Traveling Abroad for a total score of 288; the duo took home the custom trunk and a check for $290.

“The trail exhibitors have been asking for something special in their arena, so we structured something similar to what we provide with our National Reined Cow Horse Association derby, and it paid back really well to the exhibitors who participated,” Davis explained. 

Kathy Davis heads up all charitable causes for TEEM and coordinated a unique benefit drive with “Hooves for Hope.” Riders were able to donate money to help find the cure for cancer by cross-entering this fundraising event when they showed in Saturday’s classes, and all process went toward cancer research. Melynda Silvashy and her mother put together fabulous booths in various locations on the show grounds, promoting “Pink Saturday” and every time someone cross entered a “Hooves for Hope” class and donated, their name was entered into a raffle drawing for some wonderful prizes. The exhibitors donated almost $1,500 in total and 100 percent of the funds raised go to the Knight Cancer Institute in Oregon.

The horse industry can always benefit from new ideas and a fresh approach and the fast growing popularity of this show is proof of that TEEM can produce that type of event. For exhibitors and their friends and families, the Back to Basics AQHA show also offered some good ol' hospitality.

“We try to create a schedule that makes time for people to get together, relax and have fun outside of the intense competition of the show. Last year we had nice weather and a very large show. This year you couldn't have asked for better weather and our entries shot through the roof! So it's challenging to get through the large list of classes each day with so many entries and still get done at a reasonable hour. But the exhibitors were thrilled with all of the points available at such a big show,” said Kathy Davis, show secretary. “On Thursday night we had an Exhibitors Welcome and Lucas Oil/Protect the Harvest Dirt & Diamonds NRCHA Derby party, hosted by Protect the Harvest, that included a calcutta prior to the fence/cow work competition. And on Friday night we had a Trail Stakes party.”

The Lucas Oil/Protect the Harvest Dirt & Diamonds NRCHA Derby portion of the show continues to draw increased attention. Lucas Oil Products Inc. and Protect the Harvest are the title sponsors and are very supportive of the equine sport industry as a whole. Since its inception, the derby has been supported by Dan Perez and his nice stallion Brother Jackson. Total payout for the open derby division was $11,750 and the non-pro payout came in at $4,700.

Coming out on top of a very tough field of open riders was Ricky Nicolazzi, riding Short N Catt for Sarah Davis taking home a custom bronze trophy, Protect the Harvest/Lucas Oil product package and Barbara's Custom Hats gift certificate, plus a check for $3,525.

Reserve champion was CD Highlights, ridden by Randy Paul for Linda Katz, taking home a custom chest, Protect the Harvest/Lucas Oil product package, plus a check for $2,820. Third place went to Monica Debie Caetano, showing Smokin Little Ringo for John Pascoe, receiving a prizes and a check for $2,115. Barb Crist's horse Ole Buttermilk Sky, ridden by John McCarty, were fourth, taking home prizes and a check for $1,410. And Monica Debie Caetano also received a second check for a fifth place finish on her other entry, Follow the Star, for $1,057.50. Dan Perez’s new horse, Red Carpet Style, ridden by Ken Wold, received a sixth place check for $822.50.

The non-pro division of the Lucas Oil/Protect the Harvest Dirt & Diamonds NRCHA Derby increased 15 percent over last year and was also host to a tough field of competitors vying for the $4,700 pot. Many were return competitors from last year’s event, in addition to several new exhibitors.

It was a close race among the top four, and they battled it out until the fence runs. In the end and before the judges scores were even announced, there was no doubt Kathy Wilson and her horse Sanalea Chex had dominated their fence run, marking a 147.5!

This team came to show and along with the championship title took home the custom crystal trophy, a Protect the Harvest/Lucas Oil product package, a gift certificate from Barbara’s Custom Hats and a check for $1,410.

Hope Miller, riding Cashs Catmando, was the co-reserve champion, taking home a custom chest, Protect the Harvest/Lucas Oil product package and a check for $1,057.50.

Co-reserve champion was Shannon McCarty, showing Chicaroos Cat and receiving a custom leather checkbook, Protect the Harvest/Lucas Oil product package and a check for $1,057.50. Shannon McCarty also received fourth place aboard Juan Cat Two, taking home a custom halter and a check for $705.

Fifth place and a check for $470 went to Randy Gamble riding QR Hickory Boon, who marked the second highest fence run in the non-pro division – a score of 144.

The Back to Basics AQHA Circuit was host to on average of almost 900 entries per day with classes for every level of exhibitor from beginning to intermediate to advanced, and every age division for horse and rider and in just about every type of AQHA.

The show has support of great sponsors such as: Lucas Oil, Protect the Harvest, Ron Zanetti of George Petersen Insurance Services, Catty Hawk, Stone Gate Farms, Reynolds Ranch & Farm Supply, Busick Quarter Horses, Markel Insurance, Ulcergard, etc.

There were classes for everyone, at every level of ability and age group – both AQHA and all-breed. From halter to pleasure, cattle classes to trail, ranch riding to hunter under saddle, this show offered it all. The 11-&-under all-breed youth exhibitors competed for a high-point 11-&-under buckle. “The new addition of Ranch Trail was a big hit with the exhibitors. Overall, folks just seemed to be enjoying the show and the beautiful weather. Everyone seemed to be in good spirits all week, most of the classes were really big so a lot of points were available. TEEM tries to have positive attitudes both inside the office and out….Happy people are contagious and it spread across the show grounds for the entire week.” says Kathy Davis/Show Secretary.

With the continued success of the National Reined Cow Horse Association sanctioned Lucas Oil/Protect the Harvest Dirt & Diamonds Derby and the non-stop growth of the Back 2 Basics Circuit, there is an added bonus for all exhibitors on the West Coast to come to this great event. It drew contestants from Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Idaho, Arizona, California as well as Canada.

“We have some plans we are tossing around for the 2017 event ... so stay tuned!”

AQHA, PCQHA and NRCHA are the governing bodies of this competition, and are responsible for promoting the sport, insuring high standards of competition, ethical treatment of the animals and educating members and the public about the history and traditions of the horse.

Visit the TEEM website at for upcoming shows and for more unofficial results, go to

Do you have news to share from your AQHA show or event? Email AQHA Internet Editor Tara Matsler at