Trail Blazing

Floridian ranch horse trail blazers compete in Oklahoma.

The American Quarter Horse Journal

Sandy Johnson, This Cat Loves Chics and Paige Farr (Kaycie Timm photo)

When they hear ‘Florida,’ most people think of sandy beaches and ocean waves – not cow horses. But just a few years ago, a group of avid American Quarter Horse riders formed the Gulf Coast Reined Cow Horse Association to foster the love of their favorite pastime. The club welcomes exhibitors from all over Florida, and as far as Georgia, the Carolinas and Kentucky to their shows, which are currently all hosted at the Triple J Ranch in Sarasota. They expanded their show bills to include “fun” ranch classes, which meant that several club members qualified for the 2017 Zoetis AQHA Versatility Ranch Horse World Championships in Houston, and then again this year.

“We have horses that rope, work cows, rein and do trail,” says Sandy Johnson, one of the club’s board members. “Why not add more events?”

This week, Sandy and her 72-year-old non-pro rider, Paige Farr, traveled to Guthrie, Oklahoma, for the 2018 Zoetis VRH World.

Although she started riding hunt seat at an early age, Paige transitioned to the western saddle she now prefers around age 50.

“I realized what I’d been missing, which is a lot of fun,” Sandy laughs.

Originally from New York, Paige and her husband moved to Florida in 2000. Shortly after, she found Sandy, who at that time focused on training western pleasure horses. After Sandy developed an interest in cow horse events, Paige traveled with her to a show to get a better idea of what the competition involved. Paige recalls sitting in the stands and watching an exhibitor work a cow for the first time. When the dirt began to fly in the heat of the action, Paige immediately wanted to give it a try.

Now, she’s in Guthrie with two horses. Sandy is showing This Cat Loves Chics, a son of Metallic Cat known as “Punk,” and Paige is competing with CGS Stars Command, fondly called “Spock.”

Spock is by Soula Jule Star and out of Spark Command. With Spock, Paige finished in the top-10 at last year’s VRH World and was fourth in boxing at the 2017 Adequan® Select World Championship Show. This year, they compete in the limited amateur division at the VRH World.
 
“We’ve sort of bonded,” Paige says. “He takes good care of me.”

Spock is an accomplished reined cow horse, and takes exceptional care of his non-pro rider and excels in ranch riding, trail and cattle-working classes. 

“He knows his job in the arena, especially the cow work,” Paige says. “I don’t have to worry.”

Paige credits Sandy for introducing her to this exhilarating discipline. The transition from western pleasure to cow horse and ranch classes was a natural fit for Sandy, who runs cattle with her husband on their ranch in Florida. In addition to caring for their herd, the couple team roped for 10 years, so Sandy felt right at home in ranch horse competitions.

“When you add a cow, anything can happen,” Sandy admits. “It’s very challenging, but it’s right up my alley.”

After training horses professionally her entire life, she feels blessed to have been able to introduce both her children, Matt and Jamie Lee, and her four grandchildren to the American Quarter Horse.

In Guthrie, she’s excited to support Paige as she competes on Spock.

“I’m just thankful that I’m in good health and that I can ride at my age,” Paige shares. “You never know what will happen, but I’m just having a great time.”

And her smile confirms it.

Watch for news and results from the Zoetis AQHA Versatility Ranch Horse World Championships, AQHA Level 1 Cattle Championships, Zoetis AQHA Ranching Heritage Challenge Finals and National Ranch and Stock Horse Alliance National Championship Show at www.aqha.com/versatility.

AQHA News and information is a service of the American Quarter Horse Association. For more news and information, follow @AQHAnews on Twitter and visit www.aqha.com/news.