It was the first year for the Markel Insurance Ice Cream Meet & Greet at the National Reining Horse Association Derby presented by Markel Insurance, and the event was a resounding success. Held in the Barn 6 Concourse, the Meet & Greet gave youth riders from both the NRHA and the Interscholastic Equestrian Association the opportunity to visit with Markel’s Director of Western Disciplines Frank Costantini as well as a few of the NRHA’s top riders.
NRHA Professionals Mirjam Stillo, Casey Deary, Cade McCutcheon, and Fernando Salgado as well as National Reining Horse Youth Association Officers, took time to visit, sign autographs, and take photos with attendees.
The National Reining Horse Association proudly hosts and sponsors the Interscholastic Equestrian Association Western National Finals on June 15 and 16 during the NRHA Derby presented by Markel Insurance in Oklahoma City.
On Saturday, riders in grades six through 12 competed for individual National Championships in Western Horsemanship and Reining. The IEA used a draw-based format for the competition, where riders randomly select the horses they will compete on just minutes before entering the show arena.
More than $9,000 in college scholarship awards will be presented to qualifying high school seniors.
Ellexxah Maxwell Wins IEA Leading Western Rider at NRHA Derby
The most prestigious of awards for the Interscholastic Equestrian Association National Western Finals is the IEA Leading Western Rider. For the third time in four years, Ohio’s Ellexxah Maxwell, took home the title.
The show pen dynamo is the American Quarter Horse Association’s all-time leading youth point earner, and just last week, her horse Zips Bossy Chip, became the AQHA’s all-time leading point earner in all divisions.
During Saturday’s classes, Maxwell claimed the title of both the Varsity Open Reining and the Varsity Open Horsemanship. “I won the reining on Magnums Lil Jewel, owned by Jim Dudley Quarter Horses. It was exactly what I wanted this morning. I was a little nervous because reining is not my normal class,” Maxwell explained.
The 18-year-old equestrian became involved in reining because a speaker, Katie Moorhead, came to one of the meetings. “I started out on her team, but unfortunately she was just too far away from me,” she said. “I started on Ollie and Debbie Griffith’s team, Autumn Rose Farm. I love reining and thanks to them I have been able to get in it.”
Maxwell now owns a reining horse and has shown him at AQHA events. “I would love to do more reining in the future. It’s a fun event and I don’t think people realize how versatile reiners are,” she said.
The 2019 National Reining Horse Association Derby presented by Markel Insurance kicked off on Saturday, June 15, with the Non Pro ancillary classes.
Shelby Clausen Wins Non Pro  and Int. Non Pro  on Smart Tinseltown
The big winner of the day was Shelby Clausen, who claimed the $2,000 added Non Pro  and the $1,000 added Int. Non Pro  on Smart Tinseltown. The duo topped the two classes with a score of 146.5.
Smart Tinseltown is a 9-year-old by Smart Spook out of Tinseltown Lil Step. “I showed him all of 2017, and then we sold him at the end of the year,” Clausen explained. “We got him back in December of 2018. We love him and are super excited to have him back.”
Shelby’s sister Anna has been showing the gelding, but because Anna is showing a horse in the Derby, Shelby got to take the reins. “Today was good. He’s been with my sister a lot, so it’s a little different. He’s more used to her, so it could have been better in a few areas, but he stopped and turned great for me. I couldn’t ask for much more,” the 17-year-old explained.
Next is the 7 & Up class on Wednesday. “I’ll also show him in the second slate of Non Pro classes. I feel like I should go school a little bit. I’m still confident, but I’m glad I showed him today to know what to work on and how to prepare for Wednesday,” she said.
Clausen added, “Thank you to my trainer Patrick Flaherty for all the work he does, and to my parents for allowing me to do this.”
McKinnon Larcombe and Designed With Shine Win Ltd. Non Pro 
McKinnon Larcombe and Designed With Shine have only been together for a few months, but the pair has already racked up numerous wins. The duo won the Ltd. Non Pro ) and tied for third of both the Non Pro  and Int. Non Pro  with a score of 145.
“She was really good. I was really happy with her. I haven’t had her that long and have just gone to a couple of shows,” McKinnon explained. “We probably had a few rider errors on my part, but she stopped, turned, and circled really well.”
Designed With Shine, nicknamed Daisy, is owned by McKinnon’s aunt Shauna Larcombe. “My aunt trained and showed her, and recently purchased her from Rosanne Sternberg. I’m lucky to have the opportunity to show her” she said of the mare, by Smart And Shiney out of Taris Designer Genes.
Larcombe has her eyes set on the 7 & Up class. “I’ll show in the Limited on Monday, and try to have the same run as today, and then show again on Wednesday,” she said.
Ron Thompson and Taris Dreamer Win Non Pro Prime Time 
Ron Thompson and Taris Dreamer took the win in the Non Pro Prime Time , and tied for third in the Non Pro  and Int. Non Pro  with a score of 145. Thompson and Taris Dreamer have amassed numerous wins together, including the NRHA Derby Non Pro Co-Championship and the NRBC Non Pro Championship. “He’s won quite a little,” Thompson noted.
Thompson was using the day’s classes as a schooling event for the 7 & Up. “He was pretty good, and kind of did everything I asked,” he said.
McKinnon Larcombe had actually leased Taris Dreamer a year ago. “She did a lot of schooling shows on him. He had some issued before she got him, but he’s better than he was. It was a good deal for us and a good deal for McKinnon,” Thompson said.
Thompson purchased Taris Dreamer, by Magnum Chic Dream out of Taris San Cutter, as a yearling. “I just always liked him,” he said.
The National Reining Horse Association Derby presented by Markel Insurance officially kicked off on Saturday, June 15. Earlier this year, the NRHA Board of Directors voted to increase the number of finalists for the event. Not only that but, as in previous years, every finalist in every level will receive a check.
That means that, at a minimum, 60 more checks will find their way into finalists’ hands. “More exhibitors will take home a paycheck this year, a 27 percent increase in total. That increase is the equivalent of adding two levels each with 30 placings,” noted NRHA Chief Financial Officer John Foy. “The NRHA Board approved these conditions and did so with the intention of putting more checks in the hands of exhibitors.”
The Level 4 for both the Open and Non Pro Finals already have the top 30 plus advancing to the finals, but now there will be 30 plus ties advancing to the finals of the Levels 3 – 1 as well. In addition, the top 20, plus ties, in both the Non Pro Prime Time and Non Pro Youth will also make the finals.
“We are excited for exhibitors to have the opportunity to compete for more money this year. By virtue of making their finals, they are guaranteed money,” noted Show Manager Cheryl Cody. “It’s an incredible change and a great opportunity for our contestants.”
Nominators for horses in the NRHA Derby also benefit, as five percent of the earnings go back to the original nominator.
The NRHA Derby is the association’s second largest event and features not only the Derby but also the Interscholastic Equestrian Association Reining Finals and a full slate of NRHA approved classes. For more information, visit www.NRHADerby.com.
ABOUT THE NRHA DERBY PRESENTED BY MARKEL INSURANCE
Running for one week each summer, the NRHA Derby presented by Markel Insurance showcases the world’s best 4-, 5-, and 6-year-old reining horses and their riders. Thousands of exhibitors, horses, and spectators travel to Oklahoma City each year to compete, watch, and shop to their hearts’ content. Learn more about the event at nrhaderby.com.