Ricotta Reins in a Million

The National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) is proud to announce NRHA Professional Marco Ricotta as the newest NRHA Million Dollar Rider. Originally from Tuscany, Italy, Ricotta joins an elite group of reining professionals who have achieved this milestone in their NRHA career.

Ricotta’s passion for reining began when he would ride a scooter to the barn at 14 years old. That passion led him to become an NRHA Professional, a role in which Ricotta has consistently impressed audiences with his talent and horsemanship. Throughout his career, he has ridden numerous champions and claimed victories across various NRHA divisions.

Ricotta’s impressive resume includes recent success on Savage Love (SG Frozen Enterprize x Miss Whizzletown), a horse that holds special meaning to the Ricotta family. The Ricotta-bred, -owned, and -nominated 2020 stallion is out of a mare nominated and owned by Ricotta’s wife, Jenny. Miss Whizzletown’s NRHA Lifetime Earnings (LTE) of $104,940 were earned exclusively with the Ricottas at the reins.

“I came from Italy, so I was dreaming, and those dreams came true,” said Marco. “To be a little trainer, this means a lot. I say all the time, ‘We got lucky.’ We raised this mare [Miss Whizzletown] from day one, and she was an orphan. We both showed the mare, and we were successful, and she produced some babies, and it all looks like it is working. Overall, they are all show horses and winning, and that doesn’t happen often.”

Savage Love, known as ‘Lucifer’ because he is devilishly handsome, and Marco earned ninth place in the Level (L) 4 Open and third place in the L3 at the 2023 NRHA Futurity. Recently, the pair scored a 225.5 to finish third at the 100X L4 Open Cowtown Classic Stakes to help push Marco over the NRHA Million Dollar Rider mark. His ability to build successful partnerships with the horses he breeds, trains, and competes with, including Savage Love, has been instrumental in his achievements and makes the journey even more meaningful to him.

“With all the prize money coming up lately, becoming a million-dollar rider is something you can achieve quicker than compared to the past. I am old school and achieved it check by check,” said Marco. “With Savage Love, I don’t have the clients to provide me what I need to compete at this level compared to the larger trainers who are overloaded with horses, so we decided to keep him, and it has worked out.”

Throughout his career, Marco’s top finishes are:

  • 2009 NRHA Derby L4 Open Reserve Champion on Hollywoodstinseltown earning $33,848
  • 2009 National Reining Breeders Classic (NRBC) L3 Open Champion on Hollywoodstinseltown earning $28,854
  • 2010 NRBC L4 Open fourth place on Hollywoodstinseltown earning $39,000
  • 2017 NRHA Futurity L3 Co-Champion on Shine Plum Shine earning $21,946
  • 2023 NRHA Futurity L4 Open ninth place on Savage Love earning $37,237
  • 2023 NRHA Futurity L3 Open Futurity third place on Savage Love earning $26,190

NRHA congratulates Marco Ricotta on this well-deserved accomplishment. We look forward to seeing his continued success in the reining industry. To learn more about Marco’s trip to the million, check out the September issue of the NRHA Reiner Magazine.

Reining Horse Foundation Announces 2024 Scholarship Recipients

Reining Horse Foundation Scholarships (RHF) have steadily increased and now include 10 awards in varying amounts from $1,500 up to $5,000. These scholarships are part of a larger program that awards over $70,000 annually through the Varsity Reining Club, Affiliate Regional Scholarships, NRHyA’s CINCH Speaking contest, and the new RHF Merit Scholarships.

The 10 RHF Scholarships are structured as three at $5,000, three at $2,500, three at $2,000, and one at $1,500. Selection is based on financial need, academic record, involvement in the school and community, a special essay, and references.

To apply, students must be members of the National Reining Horse Youth Association (NRHyA) for at least 24 months and be seniors in high school pursuing an undergraduate degree in a two- or four-year institution, trade, or technical school. A previous recipient of an RHF Scholarship may reapply if she or he meets all other criteria and can earn two total awards.

The RHF is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and the charitable arm of NRHA. It supports NRHyA, including youth leadership development woven throughout youth programming. Donors are invited to support NRHyA in numerous ways, including individual donations, memorials/honorariums, and fundraisers. To learn more, visit reiningfoundation.com.

$5,000 Scholarship Recipients

Szonja Pankotai

Szonja Pankotai of Hungary has been an active member of the NRHyA, significantly contributing to the Hungarian affiliate organization, competing in European Affiliate championships, and representing her country in the 2023 World Youth Reining Cup.

When she is not riding, Szonja volunteers at the Hungarian Tibetan Mastiff breed rescue club and started a monthly garbage collection campaign. Szonja plays handball as well as volleyball for her school and serves as a class representative and class secretary

Szonja is an enthusiastic member of the reining community and hopes that reining in Hungary will reach the popularity it has in the U.S. She shares her story and how reining has impacted her life on several internet platforms and has even appeared on a radio show to report on her time competing in the World Youth Reining Cup. Her goal is to become a physiotherapist.

Lillian Bains

Lillian Bains, a two-time winner of the RHF Scholarship, currently attends Mississippi Gulf Coast College and is pursuing a degree in Mechanical Engineering. In high school, Lillian participated in Key Club, Beta Club, Yearbook Club/Staff, and the National Honor Society. Since starting college, Lillian has been involved in Phi Theta Kappa, Reflections Team, and OAK Club and is in the Honors College.

Along with being a member of the NRHA, Lillian states that receiving the RHF Scholarship in 2023 was her greatest academic achievement to date and that it has opened up many doors in her education. Lillian recently submitted a video presentation about the sport of reining. This project helped her win the Southern District Representative position for the Mississippi-Louisiana Region of Phi Theta Kappa.

Adrianna Runzo

Adrianna Runzo is another two-time winner of the RHF Scholarship. Currently attending California State University, Fresno as an equestrian student-athlete, Adrianna is studying chemistry with plans to become a physician’s assistant.

Adrianna has served in many roles with the NRHyA, including regional delegate, NRHyA treasurer, NRHyA vice president, and NRHyA president. She also served as a director with the Northern Ohio Quarter Horse Youth Association and was a member of her local 4-H club.

In high school, Adrianna served as captain of the track and ultimate frisbee teams, Ohio Model UN Council President, and Lake High School Model UN Cabinet Member. She was a four-year academic letter winner. In her first year of college, Adrianna volunteered as a Student-Athlete for Fresno State’s National Girls and Women in Sports Day clinic and cleaned up Fresno State’s campus for equestrian civil engagement.

$2,500 Scholarship Recipients

Graci Reeder

Graci Reeder of Mason, Michigan, has been a member of the NRHyA and the Michigan Reining Horse Youth Association (MRHyA) since 2015. She has succeeded in her region by serving as the NRHyA Delegate of the East Central Region. Graci helped found the MRHyA Board through that position, where she served as president. Graci has benefited her region by working as a scribe, working the gate, and fundraising. As a result of her hard work, Graci has been nominated as an NRHyA Liaison in Michigan.

Graci looks forward to studying business at her future university and has already gotten a head start by opening her own small business, Simply Grace. Graci has spent the last four years setting up as a vendor at reining and livestock shows to sell her homemade jewelry.

Cooper Leather

Cooper Leather hails from Wahoo, Nebraska, and is also a recipient of an NRHyA Affiliate Regional Scholarship. Along with being an NRHyA North Central Region Delegate for three years, Cooper served as the Nebraska Quarter Horse Youth Association treasurer, president, and vice president. Cooper served as the president of the Yutan Shamrocks 4-H club, was an active participant in his FFA Chapter, and was a three-year varsity golf letter earner.

Cooper hopes to put his experience in the equine and agriculture fields to good use by pursuing a major in Agribusiness and Animal Science.

Landon Hasenkamp

Landon Hasenkamp from Beemer, Nebraska, looks to use his RHF Scholarship to pursue a career in equine management. Landon has always been successful in the equine and agricultural fields. In his six years as an NRHyA member, Landon has served as the Central Plains Reining Horse Association Affiliate Delegate for two years, where he led youth meetings, organized fundraisers and awards, and hosted breakfasts at shows. Landon has also been active in AQHA, serving as the 2023 Nebraska Quarter Horse Youth Association (NQHyA) treasurer. He served as the West Point FFA Chapter treasurer and local county 4-H officer.

Landon found success in high school as a letterwinner in football and golf, a National Honor Society member, and on the High Distinction Honor Roll for four years.

$2,000 Scholarship Recipients

Gracie Stingle

Gracie Stingle of Mt. Sterling, Ohio, has been active in all aspects of her life, especially equine-related activities. Gracie has over 20 hours of service to her local affiliate, Central Ohio Reining Horse Association, and served as an NRHA Affiliate Delegate, helping to grow the NRHyA program in her area. She also served as the Krazy 4 Clovers 4-H Club secretary and president. Gracie is a two-time winner of the FFA Scholar Award while competing on the FFA Equine Judging Team.

Gracie attends Madison Plains High School, where she is a member of the varsity soccer team, Key Club, French Club, and the National Honor Society. She will attend the University of South Carolina to compete on their NCEA equestrian team. She plans to study business and pursue a career in finance.

Madison Wigen

Madison Wigen of Joseph, Oregon, has been involved with NRHyA and the many opportunities it offers throughout her life. Starting in 2019 as a Regional Delegate, Madison has served in many roles with the NRHyA officer team, including NRHyA treasurer, secretary, and vice president. She was a member of the FFA and National Honor Society, a Little Buddies program mentor, and played varsity basketball, volleyball, and track and field for three years.

While being a student-athlete in high school, Madison made the Dean’s list and Honor Roll, was awarded the Scholar-Athlete Award three times, and was elected senior class vice president.

This is Madison’s second time receiving an RHF Scholarship. She is a student at Eastern Oregon University pursuing a Bachelor of Science in psychology.

Emma Schmitt

Eden, New York native Emma Schmitt competes at NRHA reinings and has also worked in the show office, manned the gate, scribed, and helped conduct fundraisers. Emma is the president of her 4-H club, an Interscholastic Equestrian Association (IEA) member, an FFA member, Student Council president, and a member of the National Honor Society.

In her own words, Emma says that reining is more than just a sport; it has given her a sense of belonging. She plans to study animal science and become a veterinarian.

Madison Wieferich

$1,500 John McQuay Memorial Scholarship Recipient

Madison Wieferich of Shepherd, Michigan, has an impressive resume of high school activities. She was a member of the science club, marching band, jazz band, concert band, basketball team, track and field team, National Honor Society, and Student Council. She excelled at many activities, winning Excellence in Algebra and Physical Science and serving as drum major for marching band and section leader in concert band.

Madison has helped with fundraisers for the NRHyA, sold raffle tickets, and volunteered as a gate judge. She has been taking concurrent enrollment college classes at Mid-Michigan Community College and intends to major in interior design.