Zoetis Ranching Heritage Challenge Finals
Ranching-bred horses compete for rich purses in inaugural Finals.
By Andrea Caudill | March 25, 2017
Ranch Horse Journal
The inaugural Zoetis AQHA Ranching Heritage Challenge Finals closed out a huge weekend celebration of ranch horses, coming on March 26, on the day after the close of the Zoetis Versatility Ranch Horse World Championships in Houston.
The event attracted 134 entries that competed for just shy of $115,000.
The Ranching Heritage program celebrates the working ranch horse. There are about 350 ranches participating in the Ranching Heritage program. Horses bred by these ranches are eligible to compete in the Ranching Heritage Challenges, which this year will offer more than $90,000 in cash and prizes at six Challenges.
Open Ranch Riding
The Finals kicked off with 23 entries in the open ranch riding. Sidney Dunkel of Archer City, Texas, and Bobbie Can Do the previous day had secured their second youth world championship. Not ones to rest on their laurels, they wheeled back to post a career-high 228 score in the ranch riding.
The next highest competitor – which happened to be herself – scored a 224.5 aboard her sister, Ashton’s horse, Boots Be Tuff.
“I knew I’d have to have a good run in the open,” she says. “I knew I had to be aggressive. He was really good for me.”Amateur Ranch Riding
Bryan Lee of North Platte, Nebraska, rode his homebred Lees Doc O Sunrise to the amateur ranch riding title. The consistent 2005 gray stallion is an excellent example of Lee’s breeding program, which he has competed at the VRH World every year since it began.
Bryan’s wife, Christine, rode full sibling Snip O Sunrise Lobo to finish fifth in the class of 18.
Howdy Smith and Cielos Electric Jac were second, followed by Rita Glaser Lauby and Circle Bar Pistolcat in third.
“I just tried to make the pattern strong and like the judges wanted,” Bryan says. “Sitting right, not letting my horse get away from me, keeping him in the bridle and showing his natural movement. That’s what I like to do is show how they naturally move, so they can just judge him on how he is to ride.”
Youth Ranch Riding
Once again facing off against herself, Sidney Dunkel rode Boots Be Tuff and Bobbie Can Do to matching 225 scores; a tie-breaker put Boots Be Tuff on top.
The horse had the previous day finished with a bronze trophy in the open division at the VRH World Championships with Ben Baldus aboard.
“I knew going into this one I would have to be good,” Sidney says. “I was the first one out and I wanted to set the bar high.
“I tried to keep him a little more collected up,” she says. “Last run he wasn’t near as smooth. I tried to be softer with my hand and my cues so he’d be smoother, and it just worked out really well.”
Open 4-Year-Old WRH
Limited Open 4-Year-Old WRH
Justin Stanton swept both divisions of the 4-year-old working ranch horse class with the 2012 stallion Trixies Sixes. The pair laid down a powerful 434 score – almost 10 points higher than the next competitor.
Trixies Sixes was bred by Burnett Ranches of Ft. Worth, Texas, but owner Camille Farris Briggs bought the horse in-utero when she purchased dam Trixies Petite. Justin has trained the horse from the start, and last month rode the horse to a third-place finish in the limited open hackamore at the National Reined Cow Horse Association Celebration of Champions.
“From Day One he has been super,” Justin says. “There was something about today, I thought, ‘Man he feels really good.’ I thought here goes nothing, and sure’nuff, he was spot on. He was right there with me the whole time.”
Open 5- and 6-Year Old WRH
Ben Baldus catch-rode Royal Smart Fletch to with the 5- and 6-year-old working ranch horse class for the horse’s breeders and owners, Kit and Charlie Moncrief.
Baldus also rode their Mr Stylish Cat to finish second in the same class.
Royal Smart Fletch is fresh off a sixth-place finish at the World’s Greatest Horsemen competition with his regular trainer Boyd Rice.
“It was a great opportunity, I was very fortunate to get to catch ride this horse,” Ben says. “He was great. The reining was smooth – big stops, quick turns. Really good in his circles, he felt really good everywhere. He was really dynamic (in the cow), the cow didn’t box quite like I wanted, had to go a little early, but he was really good down the fence, and roped really strong. He was really fun to show.”
Limited Open 5- and 6-Year-Old WRH
Myles Brown of Stinnett, Texas, would win his first of two Finals classes with his rock-steady partner Royalrock Hancockrab.
The two have had a great deal of success in the Ranching Heritage Challenges this past year, and crowned it with a Finals victory. The horse is a homebred for Rob A. Brown of the R.A. Brown Ranch.
“He felt pretty good trotting in, was relaxed,” he says. “He was consistent. He was decent on the ends, then had a big first turn. It was try to be textbook and then read the cow best we could.”
Level 1 Amateur
Not to be outdone by her family, Lydia Brown claimed her own Finals class with Lexy Hancock RAB, a 2007 gray mare. After a steady reining run, they worked their cow cleanly and Lydia dropped a clean loop to rope it.
“She felt really smooth and calm, was listening to me,” Lydia says of her mare. “The cow came out and seemed pretty tough – we boxed for a long time. Then I took her down the fence, and she did what she needs to do.”
In a touching finale to a wonderful career, Western Sequel came out on top in the amateur class for owner Baru Forell of Wingate, Texas.
The accomplished pair marked a 419, making the most of a rather numb cow with a credit-earning run.
“She knows her job,” Baru says. “I’m just so proud of her, I can hardly stand it. We won the very first Ranching Heritage Challenge amateur class in Ft. Worth, so to win the very first amateur Final is a wonderful finish to her career. She’s going straight to the breeding shed from here.”
Myles Brown returned on a second mount to win his second class. This time his partner was Ima Wynna RAB, and he rode the gelded son of PG Shogun to clear his competition by more than 15 cumulative points.
“I got my start showing horses in the Ranching Heritage,” Myles says. “The evolution of my horsemanship has really revolved around the Ranching Heritage Challenge. Every year I try to show up on a better one, while still making the older horses better. So this has been really good to me.”
AQHA VRH amateur high-point winner Donna Stewart of Colorado Springs, Colorado, and her eye-catching dun partner Riskey Irish Whiskey topped the amateur boxing with a steady reining pattern and a credit-earning cow work.
The pair have worked on their cattle handling, and it paid off handsomely.
“It’s been four days of showing, and this was our last class,” Donna says. “I’m tired, he’s tired. I thought, you know, this isn’t the time to play it safe. So I kicked a lot, which is what they always tell me to do and I don’t do. I did it this time!”
Level 1 Amateur Boxing
Inspirational 76-year-old Patricia "Mam" Muhr won the Level 1 amateur boxing with Lil Miss Blue Hen.
The blue roan mare marked a solid 418.5 to not only win the Level 1, but also finish second in the amateur boxing.
How did Mam feel about the win?
“Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!” ‘Mam’ cheers with excitement, “and you can quote me on that! This is such a thrill! I am so happy. This is what I love to do, and it’s fun when it comes together and is successful. It’s a grand feeling of accomplishment, because it’s not easy out there.”
Level 1 Youth Boxing
Sweeping both the youth boxing and Level 1 youth boxing, Charles Christopher Lee of McAllen, Texas, rode Sassy Greyt Lady to victory.
Charles is very involved in AQHA youth leadership. He is the Texas Quarter Horse Association youth president, was a representative on the United States’ American Quarter Horse Youth World Cup team, and is also a keen competitor.
This time he was riding his mom’s horse, who was bred by the W.T. Waggoner Estate.
“She’s a horse with a big motor,” Charles says of his mare. “We were trying to keep her cool, calm and collected. I was really happy with that ride.”