NRHA Board of Directors Vote to Create Category 13

For Immediate Release –- May 15, 2019 –  Oklahoma City, Oklahoma –  The National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) Executive Committee and Board of Directors convened on Wednesday, May 15th, 2019 to share and discuss the thoughts and concerns of the membership regarding how the Run for a Million Invitational will affect NRHA Lifetime Earnings (LTE). The board unanimously voted in favor of creating a new category so that the earnings from the Run for a Million Invitational will not count towards LTE and NRHA Million Dollar status.

On Tuesday, the Executive Committee voted unanimously to rescind its previous motion and to recommend the creation of Category 13. This opened the way for the board of directors to also reassess its previous decision.

“The NRHA Board of Directors heard, listened, and took action to move in the direction that stakeholders felt was important,” said NRHA President Mike Hancock. “Members from around the world chimed in and spurred the decision to revisit the topic and take additional action.”

In order to recognize the class at the Run for a Million Invitational without counting the winnings toward the Million Dollar LTE acknowledgment, a new category had to be implemented by the board. The new category will read as follows:

Category 13

NRHA approved classes not corresponding to other NRHA Categories. Not for lifetime earnings, Million Dollar (sire/dam/owner/rider/breeder) status, rider/horse eligibility, Top 20 Program or World Champion and Top Ten Awards. Requires an NRHA Professionals, Non Pro, Youth, or Youth Non Pro membership in order to show.

“Given all additional information from the event’s promotor, Amanda Brumley, and the great amount of input that the board of directors received from stakeholders by emails, texts, calls, and social media outlets, the board has chosen to introduce Category 13 to recognize the earnings for the Run for a Million (Invitational),” said Hancock.

Related Board Action

Also in a letter to the board from Brumley, she shared her preference for the $100,000 Open Shootout to be deemed a Category 1 class. To do so, Brumley confirmed she would remove the stipulation excluding Run for a Million Invitational riders from entering the Shootout. The board approved. Therefore, the board approved the Shootout as a Category 1.

The Freestyle Invitational was approved as Category 9, and the Non Pro and Rookie Championships were approved as Category 11.

Best Little Derby in the West 2019 Rookie 2 Shootout

By Jan Anderson – Always innovative and full of surprises, the management of the Best Little Derby in the West put together an exciting program of classes at the 2019 event, held April 20–27 in Nampa, Idaho, at the Ford Idaho Center. New this year was the Rookie 2 Shootout! This special event was for all Rookie 2 entries who showed in the two slates. The classes were held on Tuesday and Thursday, and the top 10 (plus ties) combined scores were eligible to compete in the finals which was held on Saturday, right before the Open Derby. The excitement was evident as the contestants watched the bubble right up till the last of the over 50 entries came out of the pen. When it was over, there were 11 qualifiers with the bubble score at 139. Each of these rookie riders were winners of a finalist vest and buckle! But the big prize was a trophy saddle sponsored by Equine Oasis! The Shootout was seeded so that the highest score went last in the draw. There was a buzz all week as the class approached!

It was a privilege getting to know each of the finalists and their strategies.

Draw # 1 Jade Marie Whitmarsh from Cochrane, Alberta, is a 16-year-old who rides with Austin Seelhoff. She grew up around horses at her mom’s riding arena and boarding facility called Willow Acres. She also enjoys figure skating and basketball. She has been reining for about three years and used to barrel race and do other events, but she likes the reining because, “I like the community and family around it…the togetherness. It’s like a little family of support. And I like the thrill of it!”

Whitmarsh is working on becoming a team with her five-year-old palomino mare, Spook N Ebony (Stella) as it is their first show together. They are working out the kinks and trusting each other more. She admits to being nervous and thinks it’s great to give the rookies a chance to have “their moment.”

Draw #2 Nancy Brugato is a prime-timer who with her husband owns a wholesale produce company in Tigard, OR, just outside of Portland. She often rides with Matt McDowell and bought her cow-horse bred black nine-year-old gelding, Mister Black Magic from Robert Chown. She spent time in Texas last year with Billy Williams and was a Rookie Shootout Finalist at the 2018 NRBC. She says that she began doing reining because her daughter was taking lessons.

Brugato’s goals are to improve a little bit more every time she shows. “I want him to enjoy his job—I want consistency with a little improvement each time. My favorite thing about reining is that it is good for me and my mind, and the people are fun. I really respect what these horses can do and how well they’re trained; they are just dialed in, doing their jobs.”

Draw #3 Kathleen Cooney, another prime-timer, sells technology software and is from Portland, OR. She rides with Kyle Kellmer Performance Horses in Battleground, WA. She began riding about 10 years ago, doing breed shows, but after a break from it, came back and decided to do reining only. It is the challenge that she likes best about reining. “It’s unpredictable. When you’re in the pen, you correct something, and then there’s something else you need to work on. You don’t usually come out and say, ‘I did everything right!’ It just doesn’t happen.”

Cooney’s horse ARC King Snapper (Tritan) is a nine-year-old gelding that she is still in the process of getting to know. This is their third show together and Cooney confesses that she has terrible show nerves. “I’m an absolute nervous-wreck! I really get torqued up! I just have to keep focused on myself, the horse, and what we can do together. I am excited—just thrilled to be in the top 10!”

Draw # 4 Samantha Etsell is a 27-year-old from Arlington, WA, where she works in sales for Barn Pros. She has been riding since age 12 and started reining while at Kansas State. She shows her big black five-year-old gelding, Devils Cut Whizkey in the Rookie classes and is showing him in the non pro derby, so this is a real bonus for her. “We have been trying to get him show-broke and we’ve been growing as a team.”

This is her first time at this show and she thinks it is “awesome!” “The spotlight concept for the rookies is great and definitely gives you more incentive to be here and go for it. It grows the sport for the rookies. I love it!”

Draw #5 is the youngest of the finalists, 14-year-old Madison Wigen of Plain City, UT. She enjoys basketball and track when not riding. She has a new partner, Gee Whiz Ima Dunit, a six-year-old buckskin mare that has never been shown until this year. Lucky for Wigen, her dad is a reining trainer (Travis WIgen)! The mare, purchased last year, came with the nickname “Phoenix” because she was stuck and frozen in a water trough and managed to survive.

The goals for this team have been just to get to know each other and to get the mare “seasoned.” But the shootout has been an extra bonus, and she feels lucky and excited to be a part of it. Now she just wants to have a clean run. “The best thing about reining is all the people we get to meet and the relationship with your horse—going out there and getting to show them.”

Draw #6 is Kitrina Makin from Wallowa, OR, where she and her husband run an RV rental and diesel mechanic shop. Now that her daughter has gone off to college, she has decided it is her turn. She enjoyed watching her daughter rein and wants to give it a try. She rides her gelding KR Sweet Shine, who came from Darren Stancik’s barn, with help from her trainer Matt McDowell.

This is Makin’s first show and she says she has no idea how she got to be a finalist! She comes from a speed event background, so she likes the speed, but her challenge is to make it pretty. She credits McDowell for being a great teacher and her horse for being talented. “I want to get confident and consistent. My horse has definitely got it. I’m just trying to survive!”

Draw # 7 is Rochelle Zimmerman, a single business woman from Medford, OR. She began reining several years ago after western pleasure wasn’t fun anymore. She purchased her now six-year-old chestnut gelding Olenas Little Step (Wimpy) a few years ago through Todd Bergen where he stays in training and gets help from Bergen’s assistant Titus Covington.

Zimmerman says reining is way harder than it looks and that she was intimidated by the big class. “It’s a cool program to offer a saddle. It’s the biggest thing I’ve ever done. I get nervous beforehand but not once we get started. It’ll be fun!”

Draw #8 is Erick Sorenson, a 62-year-old full-time veterinarian from Townsend, MT. Sorenson rides his 12-year-old sorrel gelding, Wimpys Ritzy Bud, that he has had for two years. He started showing reining horses about 20 years ago, but only a few times; then he got too busy. He began again about five years ago, but never got to more than a couple of shows a year. He spent last year trying to figure out his horse. This is the first time he has ever gone to a show for so long. He says it has been fun to spend a week with his wife Jackie at a horse show. She is a successful non pro and according to Erick, his favorite thing about reining is to spend time with Jackie.

Sorenson likes reining and says, “In my career, I’ve just had to work with horses as a vet, which I enjoy, but I’ve never had the luxury to do the horsemanship. Most of the people I see (at the reinings) are really good to their horses and the horsemanship is inspiring. This rookie thing has really improved the interest!”

Draw #9 is Claudia J (CJ) Green from Idaho Falls, ID. She started riding at age 53 when she met her husband. She calls him her “horse enabler” because he supports her so fully. She found a good reiner at Jackson Porath’s when she was looking for “just a good horse to ride” and had no intentions of reining. But, when Porath “dared” her to show, she did and got hooked. The next year she bought Slj Custom Style, a 10-year-old chestnut gelding that she affectionately calls “a goofball.”

Green, who rides with Johnette Burman, claims that she is really a “greenie” playing with the rookies and credits her horse for being really consistent. “I’m not very good at stopping. That rundown thing… He’s great to get me here!”

Draw #10 is Sydney Weaver of Sandy, UT. She rides with her brother-in-law Mack Weaver and is married to Mack’s identical twin, Randy. She and her husband have a high-end custom car business and show cars from coast to coast. Although she has ridden her entire life and shown all-around and English horses, she is new to the reining. “Because I come from the all-around world, which is slow precision, this is a change of pace for me. Mack has to make me go faster than what I’m used to.”

Weaver bought her eight-year-old grulla gelding, Whizards Little Step, after riding him and falling in love with him last December. “This is our very first show together. If I focus on one maneuver at a time, it’s really helpful and I don’t get overwhelmed. And it’s nice that he knows his job, so I can focus on me. He’s teaching me a lot!”

Draw #11 is the final contestant, Heather Priddy of Deer Park, WA, riding her eight-year-old gelding, Gunnin For Wimps. This 40-year-old stay-at-home mom has ridden since she was little, but finally got back into it with an interest in reining last year. She was able to compete and make the top five at the 2018 Rookie of the Year competition. Priddy rides with Matt McDowell and purchased her horse from him as well. “His patience and positive words helped me keep at it when things were tough. He’s a great trainer and coach!”

Priddy believes that she is already a winner just by making it this far. She’s pretty excited and says it is a “cool deal” for the rookies. “The technicality of reining makes it a great challenge and the chance to improve yourself. I just want to go clean and have a nice ride. On the finals, we’re going for it. We’re going to run a little faster and stop a little bigger!”

AND SHE DID! She won the finals with a 215. Afterward she had this to say, “I appreciate the opportunity. It was a really nice program to do for the rookies. When I saw it on the premium, it was so exciting to see something for us rookies: to have a clean-slate finals and go for a saddle! I appreciate that they are thinking about the rookies!”

Images courtesy of Caleb Tipton Photography

The National Reining Horse Association is not responsible for information contained in this press release. Please contact the author or submitting organization for further information, requests or questions.

Yellow Jersey to return to Italy

The great Yellow Jersey, the hugely attractive palomino stallion with an impressive show record, whose career advanced between the reins of six different riders all the while maintaining excellent results, is coming home – or, at least, to the country, Italy, where his fame as a great athlete was initially built and established. The news is as fresh as it comes: the prestigious Elementa Centre will now be home to the ‘golden’ Champion who is due to arrive in the coming weeks. Thus, the Facility adds a second World Equestrian Games Gold Medallist to its collection of “happy” horses – because welfare is top among the priorities that Cecilia Fiorucci, owner of the magnificent Centre near Rome, has for her equine guests.

Yellow Jersey, who won a Gold medal with Team USA as well as Individual Bronze at the 2014 Normandy WEG, preceded by a team Bronze medal with the Italian squad in 2010 in Lexington, is currently the only horse that has participated and won medals in two World Championships. In the prestigious location at Bracciano, he will be joining the now “Roman” Custom Made Gun, who brought home the same medals (team gold, individual bronze) from Tryon 2018. What makes this encounter even more extraordinary is that the riders on these two special occasions were mother and son: respectively Mandy and Cade McCutcheon: “Cade and I owe so much to these two horses and it was extremely difficult for us to see them go,” says Mandy. “However knowing they are with Cecilia and her amazing staff makes it easier for all of us. We visited them last February at their beautiful facility and this is why we knew it was the best decision for Jersey to join the team at Elementa. Both Custom and Jersey will have the best care and be able to continue great breeding careers with first class work of E-Genetics.”

And while Custom Made Gun gave 18-year-old Cade the chance to become the youngest Gold medallist in the USA Dream Team and mark top score in the 2018 WEG, Yellow Jersey has probably done even more for Mandy McCutcheon. Indeed, this horse contributed greatly to taking her across the threshold of two million dollars in Lifetime Earnings to become the first woman and first Non Pro to reach this milestone as well as accompanying her when she was the first woman and the first Non Pro to represent the USA at the WEG. “This was not an easy decision for Colleen and I,” says Yellow Jersey’s former owner and Mandy’s father Tim McQuay, “but knowing Jersey and Custom will have the best care and homes to live out their lives and breeding careers made it much easier for all of us. We currently have several Yellow Jersey offspring we are looking forward to showing and can’t wait to start riding the Custom babies.”

Before being bought by the McQuays in 2014, Yellow Jersey had belonged to Bob Thompson and Lisa Coulter. Bob bought him after his trainer, Andrea Fappani noticed the stallion at the 2010 WEG where the horse was ridden by Stefano Massignan, the trainer who had guided Jersey to his first round of brilliant successes. In fact, while still under the ownership of Eleuterio Arcese, currently the NRHA’s only Two Million Dollar Owner, and with Massignan in the saddle, Yellow Jersey garnered a host of triumphs: at the age of four, Italian Open Maturity Co-Reserve Champion and finalist at the Italian Open Derby; at five, NRHA European Futurity Open Champion, Italian Open Derby Co-Champion and Italian Open Maturity Reserve Champion. Then, after winning the Bronze medal at the WEG in Lexington, Yellow Jersey returned to the US, where he had been born in 2004, sired by NRHA 10 Million Dollar Sire, NRHA Hall of Famer, 2018 Equi-Stat # 2 Reining Leading Sire and # 3 All Time Reining Leading Sire Wimpys Little Step out of Ms Clara Melody. Jersey had departed the US for Italy three years earlier after finishing among the Top 12 of Okla’s Futurity between the reins of Brent Wright. In 2010, it was Fappani who showed Yellow Jersey in the $100,000 Shootout and despite the pair’s short time together they won, thereby significantly advancing the horse’s annual NRHA earnings and enabling him to capture the title of 2010 NRHA World Open Reserve Champion.

Yellow Jersey continued to earn credit and dollars as an aged horse until 2014, closing his competitive career at the grand age of 10 having reached total career winnings of over

$153,000 in NRHA events as well as being AQHA Senior Reining World Show qualifier and receiving the AQHA Register of Merit (ROM). Despite going to the breeding shed relatively late, he has sired offspring that have earned over 164,200 dollars. The Top 5 performers among his offspring: The Star Jersey ($36,444, 2018 High Roller Reining Classic Futurity Open L4 Reserve Champion with Craig Schmersal), Yellow Bug (+$23,830, Half Arabian 4/5YO Reining Futurity Open Champion), New Jersey (+$17,310, 3rd Arhfa World Championship Roping Futurity Heeling), Ruf Up My Jersey ($12,503, 3rd Reining Southwest Futurity with Brian Bell), Lil Jersey (+$10,000, Reserve Champion at the Tulsa Reining Classic L3 Developing Horse Futurity with Tim McQuay). In Europe, not to forget Arc Jersey Out (French Futurity 3-yr-olds Reserve Champion) and Arc Snap Chic (Austrian Futurity 3-yr-olds Reserve Champion), all of which were shown by Gennaro Lendi. Now, managed in Europe by E-Genetics, he will be able to further consolidate his talent as a sire.

“Yellow Jersey’s long and healthy career is exactly what Elementa would like to see made possible for any reining horse”, explains Communications Director, Domenico Lomuto. “While it takes special mettle to do what he did, we would like to see the same conditions created everywhere for other horses to enjoy the same chance. It is clear that the well- being of our athletes depends on a long list of care and skills related not only to their training but also to their daily management. Elementa will ensure that Yellow Jersey, like all the other residents of our Centre, is guaranteed the highest standard from this point of view. Therefore, we are certain that our new guest will enjoy the optimum conditions to best express his potential as a sire”.

The National Reining Horse Association is not responsible for information contained in this press release. Please contact the author or submitting organization for further information, requests or questions.

NRHA Governance and Consideration of the Run for a Million Invitational

Reining fans and participants around the world are aware of the Run for a Million Invitational, its magnitude, and the unique platform it brings to reining. The National Reining Horse Association Board of Directors understands and appreciates the opinions of all members and how they feel lifetime earnings should be recorded. The board of directors and executive committee took part in many discussions with members, and, as a decision-making body, fulfilled its responsibility to make a decision with the best interests of the organization in mind. The steps are outlined below.

The corporate organizational documents of the National Reining Horse Association relating to board action and conflicts of interest are consistent with best practices followed by other similar tax-exempt organizations. The board of directors and executive committee are obliged to act with duty of care and loyalty to the Association, which includes following its bylaws, rulebook, and policies while exercising reasonable judgment and good faith. When recently presented with the question of approving the Run for a Million Invitational, the process was followed—at both the executive committee and board level.

The event was discussed at the February executive committee meeting. In early April, the executive committee reviewed the application for approval as it was different from typical applications received by the NRHA office. After discussion of the possible benefits and disadvantages, the executive committee approved for the event to be recognized as a Category 11 event (NRHA-approved class not corresponding to other NRHA Categories. Not for horse/rider eligibility, Top 20 Program or World Champions or Top Ten Awards.). As with any other event not owned by NRHA, NRHA will not provide funding for the event, distribute payouts, or manage the event in any way. However, the venue’s potential to raise awareness of reining, create and engage fans, and distribute significant payouts within the industry surpasses anything on the horizon for NRHA.

Discussion continued about how the earnings would be counted for historic milestones. Therefore, the question was brought to the board in April to reconsider. The NRHA Bylaws state that the board can countermand any decision made by the executive committee. A 2/3-majority vote is required. A motion was made and seconded to handle the earnings in a different manner than previously approved by the executive committee. Following discussion, including disclosure of perceived conflicts, the directors disapproved the motion (by six votes in support of the motion and 11 votes in opposition). Therefore the board of directors did not overturn the executive committee’s decision. The event is still approved as a Category 11 show and the winnings count for lifetime earnings.

For any board, there may be potential conflicts of interest especially because boards are most often populated by leaders in the given sector. The presence of a conflict of interest does not violate the duty of loyalty, nor is it regarded as a reflection on the integrity of the board or the director. According to the NRHA’s governance documents, any director or officer who has a material direct or indirect financial interest shall disclose his or her financial interest in any proposed transaction or arrangement involving NRHA. An individual has a financial interest if he or she has, directly or indirectly, through business, investment, or family: a material ownership or investment interest in any entity with which the Association has a transaction or arrangement; or a material compensation arrangement with the Association or with any entity or individual with which the Association has a transaction or arrangement.

In this instance, the president asked board members, prior to the vote, to disclose and discuss any potential conflicts. NRHA considers that disclosure important because it gives the board sufficient knowledge to evaluate the overall fairness and propriety of the transaction. With this in mind, the board then proceeded to deliberate and vote. Additionally, after the board’s consideration of the matter (including potential conflicts) and subsequent review of the bylaws with legal counsel, it was confirmed that the matter did not involve prohibited conflicts of interest.

Again, the NRHA Board of Directors keeps members’ opinions top-of-mind in all its deliberations. In this instance, and many others, the board went through an exhaustive process to properly deliberate before making decisions.

Founded in 1966, NRHA is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the reining horse worldwide while celebrating and advancing the finest traditions of Western horsemanship. NRHA encourages the public interest in agriculture and ranching activities, provides for all levels of reining competition, and maintains the recognition of worthwhile purses.