Still Shiney

Ten-year-old Bailey Shopbell and 23-year-old Bald N Shiney make the finals in boxing at the 2017 Built Ford Tough AQHYA World Championship Show.

The American Quarter Horse Journal

No two ways about it: Bald N Shiney is a champion.

Nelle Murphy of Marietta, Oklahoma, acquired “Hank” as a 3-year-old. Nelle, along with her brother, C.J. Murphy, and AQHA Professional Horseman J.D. Yates, rode the now-23-year-old sorrel gelding by Shining Spark and out of Leos Raffle Lady by Hank Leo to countless titles and paychecks.

All told, Hank has more than $110,000, five AQHA world championships and nearly 970 points to his credit. With Nelle aboard, he earned the 1997 NRCHA Futurity amateur title. C.J. showed him to the AQHA World Show all-around amateur title in 2005. And with J.D. at the reins, he won steer stopping and fence work at the 2011 National Reined Cow Horse Association World’s Greatest Horseman.

Those are just the highlights of the gelding’s illustrious career.

But last year, “Hank” earned his most important title of all: kid’s horse.

“I like to ride him because he just gives me joy,” says Bailey Shopbell, Hank’s 10-year-old jockey from Sadler, Texas. “I like to give him cookies. He likes apple cookies.

“He’s like me,” she adds. “He’s always grumpy.”

The match was no accident. Bailey’s dad, cow horse trainer C.J. Shopbell (yes, he shares a name with Nelle’s brother), worked for Nelle’s father, multiple AQHA and NRCHA world champion Don Murphy.

Originally, Hank was supposed to be Bailey’s younger brother’s horse. However, when Bailey’s mare got bred, Bailey started riding the gelding.

“When (Bailey) needed a horse, C.J. and I talked,” Nelle says, adding that she never officially retired Hank. “We’d won what we wanted. We didn’t find it fair to keep showing him just ourselves.”

This year is Bailey’s first to compete at the Ford Youth World. She qualified Hank for the show last year, but had to forgo competing when he suffered a slightly torn suspensory ligament.

“He was really good today,” Bailey says. “He did good spins. I got all my leads done.”

“Good” might be an understatement. The duo marked a 429 in the boxing preliminaries, securing a slot in the finals. The youngest-rider/oldest-horse combination left the Jim Norick Arena with their first Ford Youth World finalist ribbon August 11.

Always a show horse, Hank is happy to be back in his element – and horse-show regulars are glad to see him, too.

“Everybody knows him here,” Nelle says. “Everybody keeps coming up and saying, ‘We saw Hank! We saw Hank!’ ”

Bailey, who is also qualified for the NRCHA World Championship Show in February and is currently third in the NRCHA youth limited standings, has some lofty goals with Hank.

“I want to make the finals, eventually win the finals,” Bailey says.

Judging by the young horsewoman’s recent progress, those goals are probably reasonable.

“Just the way she thinks out there is pretty amazing,” Nelle says. “We can practice something and she can go do it, which, for anybody, is hard, but for somebody who’s 10, that’s pretty cool.

“It’s fun, but it’s also business,” Nelle continues. “She’s probably the most serious 10-year-old I’ve ever been around, when it comes to practicing and everything.”

Showing in a variety of events kept Hank fresh through the years. After decades of competition, he still loves his job, Nelle says.

“A good show horse is a good show horse,” Nelle says. You ride him around outside and he’s just half grumpy, but as soon as you walk into the pen, his ears come up and he goes and horse shows.”

Bailey is not taking a break after the Ford Youth World. She plans to ride Hank at an NRCHA show next week.

And if the past is any indication, the gelding will be there for her every step of the way.