RHAA National Finals

Ranching Heritage-bred tops Ranch Horse Association of America National Finals.

Ranch Horse Journal

Gatlin Duncan and Gray Hope Stik take the senior class at the RHAA National Finals. PHOTO: Andrea Caudill

For the second time in three years, Gatlin Duncan and his AQHA Ranching Heritage-bred gelding Gray Hope Stik brought home a championship trophy from the Ranch Horse Association of America National Finals, this time in the senior class. Two years ago, they won the cowboy class.

This year, they marked a remarkable 397 to top the class, as well as earn the day’s best score.

“He felt really good,” Duncan said. “He ran really good to his stops, turned around, swapped leads pretty good. He had a little slower cow and had time to think and he hooked up better down the fence. He stayed in my hand the whole time and made pretty good turns.

“He was consistent the whole weekend,” he added. “It was a fun weekend, for sure.”

Duncan originally hales from the Texas Panhandle, and the Texas Tech University graduate now works in Clarendon, Texas, where he is the assistant rodeo and ranch horse coach at Clarendon College and has a ranch.

Gray Hope Stik comes from the breeding program of AQHA Professional Horseman Mike Major’s Major Cattle Co. of Bowie, Texas. The 7-year-old gelding is by Major’s late world champion Smart Whiskey Doc and out of the Rails Skipper Pine mare Hope Stik. This makes him a full brother to world champion to Major's Black Hope Stik.

“He’s gotten way more consistent,” Duncan said of how his horse has changed over the years. “I’ve worked a lot of cattle on him, and he’s gotten a lot stronger on it. He’s always been pretty good in the reining.”

Gray Hope Stik has earned about $10,000 in lifetime earnings, including RHAA, National Reined Cow Horse Association and Zoetis AQHA Ranching Heritage Challenge competition.

In June, the pair will contest the Zoetis AQHA Versatility Ranch Horse World Championships and Zoetis AQHA Ranching Heritage Challenge Finals at Guthrie, Oklahoma, before the gelding will get a well-deserved vacation.

Riley Smith and Sparkin Jo Beckett
PHOTO: Andrea Caudill

Junior Class
Some of the softest stops demonstrated at the RHAA Finals were demonstrated by Riley Smith and his 4-year-old gelding Sparkin Jo Beckett on their way to winning the junior class over a talented field of young horses.

Smith is based in Earth, Texas, and operates a yearling and feedlot business. His horses work for a living, including Sparkin Jo Beckett, whom he bought as a yearling from the Clovis Livestock Auction in New Mexico.

Sparkin Jo Beckett was bred by Maynard and Joetta Iverson of Bandera, Texas, and he is by the Smart Little Lena stallion Smart Beckett and out of the Sparkin Hot mare Jos Sparkin Lady.

“I started him myself and just used him,” Smith said. “I just used him roping and doctoring, riding pens, just working on him. We have a job where we have to saddle one every day, and he gets used a lot. There was never really time spent in a round pen on a cow. More just doing a job every day.”

The horse won the Clovis-Cactus Cow Horse Futurity in November, which is offered to graduates of the Clovis Sale.

“He really hasn’t been shown a lot, but he’s just an easy colt,” Smith said. “He’s easy to get along with, and we’ve been lucky.”

Smith said he plans to rope a little more on the gelding, and to keep him as his kids’ future riding horse.

Dee Oles and Too Suen Laddie
PHOTO: Andrea Caudill 

Ranch Hand Class
Taking the Ranch Hand division, which is open to riders who have not earned more than $3,500 in RHAA-sanctioned events, was Dee Oles and Too Suen Laddie.

Oles is based in Claude, Texas, and rode the 9-year-old gelding to mark a 337 for the win.

Too Suen Laddie is by Boon Too Suen and out of the Docs Stylish Oak mare Moms Stylish Laddie. He was bred by Rose Cutting Horses of Weatherford, Texas, and has earned more than $2,100 in RHAA competition.

Lane Birkenfeld and Sparksgenuinearticle
PHOTO: Andrea Caudill 

Cowboy Class
Lane Birkenfeld of Nazareth, Texas, rode Sparksgenuinearticle to win the cowboy class, which is open to riders that have not won more than $1,500 in any RHAA-sanctioned event.

Birkenfeld only had a couple days at home to practice on cattle before heading to the show, but it was enough, as he and "Artie" marked a 319 to clear their nearest competitor by four points in the final.

"He did pretty good," Birkenfeld said.

Sparksgenuinearticle is an 8-year-old palomino gelding bred by Susan Hunnewell of Des Moines, New Mexico, and one of a few young horses the Birkenfeld family bought from the breeder and started up. He is by Generatin A Spark and out of the Dox Warbler mare Quien Smoke Warbler.

"He's incredibly gentle," Birkenfeld said of the palomino gelding. "And he's been massive since he's been 3, he has never had a problem dragging a cow in his life. He's just a massive, kid-friendly horse."

The gelding has more than $9,000 in career earnings in Stock Horse of Texas, collegiate and RHAA competition, and has also been very successful as a team roping header.

Trey Mitchell and SCR Crackin One Time
PHOTO: Courtesy of Singleton Ranches 

Wrangler Class
On May 17, Trey Mitchell and the Ranching Heritage-bred SCR Crackin One Time won the wrangler class.

SCR Crackin One Time is an 8-year-old mare bred and raised by Zoetis AQHA Best Remuda winner Singleton Ranches. She is by One Time Pepto and out of the Smart Chic Olena mare Smart Crackin Chic.

The mare has earned more than $13,500 in Zoetis AQHA Ranching Heritage Challenge, National Reined Cow Horse Association and Ranch Horse Association of America competition.  

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