Join the Fun

Versatility shows are an opportunity for fun, as well as competition.

The American Quarter Horse Journal

Richard Cook and Heavenly Whiz. PHOTO: Journal Photo

A few years ago, Richard Cook decided to get serious about showing Versatility Ranch Horse events.

He had spent a lifetime around horses, and found Versatility events several years earlier.

“The first couple years I just did it because it was fun,” he says. “I’d go to the show, and if I lost the cow, no big deal. Messed up the pattern in ranch riding, no big deal. But I thought, I’m spending a lot of money coming to do this, I need to start paying attention to what’s going on. I need to get serious about this, because we’re doing good. So I got serious.”

The lifelong New Mexican got a new partner – his mare Heavenly Whiz – and at the Zoetis Versatility Ranch Horse World Championships they won the National Ranch and Stock Horse Alliance novice amateur ranch reining class, among other success.

Richard’s grandfather had a farm, and even as a child, Richard found the horses irresistible.

“We’d get on them, they’d take us clear back to the back pasture to the shade and stand,” he says. “So we’d have to jump off and walk back to the house. (My grandfather) told us to leave his horses alone, but we couldn’t. I’ve been around them, off and on, my whole life.”

He found Versatility by way of the National Stock Horse and Western States Versatility Ranch Horse Association.

“It was just so much fun,” Richard says. “The conditions, the judges, the people is what made it so much better. If I make a mistake, I’ll come out and the judge will say, ‘Richard you did this wrong, do it better.’ That’s kept me going.” 

He found success in the sport, but wanted to do more. It wasn’t quite a year ago that he was seeking reining lessons on his Paint horse, when he found a 2008 bay mare ridden by her owner Jerry Matthews. Richard really liked the mare, but Jerry said she wasn’t for sale. A few more meetings, though, and Jerry decided Heavenly Whiz would have a good home with Richard, and they made a deal.

“He almost didn’t sell her,” Richard says. “I wrote the check, and the puppy dog ears come down. I said, Jerry you don’t have to sell her, it’s OK. I know what it’s like, I sold a horse and cried for two days. He said, no, it’s OK, she’s going to a good home.”

And “Angel” does have a good home where she is highly valued. The daughter of Conquistador Whiz is out of the Gallo Del Cielo mare Heavenly Rooster, and was bred by Zachary Gregg of West Point, Mississippi. While she was originally a straight reiner, she has thrived as a versatility horse.

Richard encourages new riders to come and try versatility.

“Just go,” he says. “They’re willing to help you. The friends you meet are tremendous. When I go to a show, I load my trailer full of bologna and sandwich (fixins). You come to the show, I didn’t bring anything to potluck, that’s OK, just come eat with us. It’s just a big party. No one gets mad, it’s just a lot of fun. It’s up to you whether you want to step up and get serious.”

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 Show at

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