Our Condolences: Becky Hanson

Wife, mother, daughter, sister, coach, trainer, friend, fighter: these all describe Becky Hanson who passed away on May 25, 2020, after a seven-year battle with glioblastoma multiforme. Along with the entire reining community, the National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) mourns the loss of this NRHA Professional who leaves behind a legacy of philanthropy and tenacity, plus a vibrant zeal for life, horses, and family.

Born on September 1, 1971, in Mountain View, California, Becky essentially grew up in Eagle, Idaho. And that’s where she graduated high school. Life after that was a roller coaster, in the best way.

Long before the chemotherapy and radiation, Becky graduated from Eastern Oregon University in 1993 with an English literature degree and a minor in secondary education. She intended to teach high school students. Instead, she became a horse trainer.

Married in July 1994, Becky and her husband, David, moved to Italy the very next year. It was clear educating high school students wasn’t an option when Becky was training horses for Eleuterio Arcese and family. Becky’s love for horses stemmed from her foundation in cow horses, cutting, and college rodeo as a breakaway roper.

David said Becky loved teaching, and that made her a perfect match for working with young horses. She redirected her love for teaching into giving lessons and had an uncanny knack for pairing horses and riders that complimented each other.

Becky and David spent five years training reining horses in Italy before coming back to California. Becky made the NRHA Derby finals and earned several North American Affiliate Championship placings. She also won the rookie pro title in 2006 as well as major event awards across the globe, all while coaching countless non pros to victory.

In 2000, Becky and David made their home in Clements, California, where the pair raised and trained reining horses together as Hanson Performance Horses. They were blessed with two children: Caden, now 18, and Lauren, now 16.

Representing the West Coast, Becky served on the NRHA Board on a recommendation from Rick Clark and was on the Eligibility and Affiliate Committees. During that time, Becky became close with several members, but one, in particular, was Joao Marcos, NRHA Board member. This led Joao to invite Becky and David to serve as instructors at his facility, along with NRHA Professional Ruben Van Dorp, for the first Reining Horse Foundation Rookie Day in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in 2016.

After 20 years’ training reiners with her husband, Becky’s life was turned upside down with a diagnosis in March 2013. She never let cancer become the story of her life; it simply became a platform. Becky dubbed her dance with glioblastoma multiforme as “My Little Tumor Adventure.” Get Becky’s take on it, here.

In December 2019, the NRHA Professional Horsewoman of the Year Award was renamed to honor Becky. In naming this award, the Professional’s Committee hopes her legacy will serve as a continuous reminder about what it means to be named Horsewoman of the Year. Becky was honored, proud, and truly humbled by it. Her emotions bubbled to the surface every time it came up.

Becky is known for her incredible photos of the Western lifestyle. The hobby quickly evolved into a business after returning stateside when Becky went digital and started selling her photos. Perhaps she is best known for her image of a large oak tree that sits in the front yard of the Hanson’s family home. It helped shape her successful photography business. Get Becky’s view of “The Tree,” here.

Behind a lens, Becky was legendary. On a horse, she was iconic. But as a friend, she was irreplaceable. Upon her diagnosis, Becky felt the love of her horse community from near and far. It was the continuous display of humanity that hit harder than cancer ever could. It’s what helped Becky fight the good fight. Here is just a small example of the love and support from the reining community.

David said whenever Becky couldn’t ride, she would return to writing about her situation and taking photos. This allowed her to connect to a whole new group of people. It shouldn’t be surprising to all who knew her that Becky donated her body to science in hopes that she can help save at least one life.

Becky is survived by her parents, Rich and Diane, and is the eldest of three brothers: Scott and twins Kevin and Keith Anderson. The family will announce celebration of life information later this year. As more information is available, NRHA will provide it here.

The family requests that in lieu of flowers, gifts in Becky’s memory be made to the Reining Horse Foundation’s Crisis Fund. Donations can be made online at reiningfoundation.com or mailed to RHF, 3021 W Reno Ave, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, 73107.

Our Condolences: Jerry Kimmel

The Reining Horse Foundation and NRHA mourn the passing of Jerry Kimmel on April 3, 2020. Jerry was honored with the Dale Wilkinson Lifetime Achievement Award in 2014, a fitting tribute to his passion for and commitment to the reining community.

Success does not define a person. However, success seemed to follow Jerry Kimmel wherever he went. From the CEO chair to the saddle, Jerry’s hard work, perseverance, and welcoming demeanor allowed for an adventure that lasted a lifetime.

​Jerry Kimmel passed away Friday, April 3, 2020, at the age of 82.

​Gerald Kimmel was born June 23, 1937, to Gerald and Edna Kimmel in Marshall, Michigan. He was a loving sibling to his younger brother, Jim, and his half-brother, Rick. He was an avid sports player and the class president at Marshall High School, graduating with the class of 1955. He married his wife, Carmen, on March 29, 1958. Together they have two daughters, Christine and Amy, and one son, Gregory.

​In Marshall, Jerry began his business, Kevco Inc. with his partner and longtime friend Bill Everett in 1964. Over three decades, Jerry, Bill, and hundreds of their employees expanded the business across the country and moved its headquarters to Fort Worth, Texas. In becoming one of the nation’s leading distributors of plumbing and building materials to the manufactured housing and recreational vehicle industries, Jerry and Kevco were awarded Entrepreneur of the Year for the Southwest region from the Dallas Business Journal in 1995. Jerry’s success continued when he took the company public in the 1990s. At one point he had more than 30 branches across the country and 16 manufacturing plants. Jerry thrived in the corporate world, but after decades of hard work, dedication, and passion, he retired and settled down with his wife on a 225-acre ranch in Granbury, Texas.

​Even in retirement, Jerry found success. What began as a harmless hobby turned into Jerry’s second calling. Carmen had always been a horse enthusiast and their daughters also enjoyed horses. Not long after his retirement years began, Jerry immersed himself into the horse world of western pleasure, with much thanks to friend and horseman Cleve Wells. Jerry started from scratch and was proud to admit that he was learning new things every day, even into his seventies. He brought this positive attitude into the arena and treated his time as a horseman less as a business than as a sense of pure enjoyment. He once stated, “I retired totally from business. For me, horses are just fun.” Anyone who ever saw Jerry in the saddle could easily witness the man’s love for horses. After making his mark in the western pleasure pen, Jerry poured his heart, soul, and wallet into the reining world.

What started with one reining horse, Indy Star Dun It, soon turned Jerry and Kimmel Reining Horses into a household name. Jerry’s biggest dream for reining was to have full stands and engaged fans. Jerry’s home base, J Bar C Ranch, worked in tandem with McQuay Stables in Tioga, Texas, to produce some of the world’s top reining horses. Jerry’s own granddaughter, Lindsey Raymond, oversaw much of the breeding and fitting operations in Granbury. Kimmel Reining Horses is still in operation thanks to Jerry’s eldest daughter, Chris, who relocated the business and its horses to her ranch in Weatherford, Texas, in 2018. Gone but not forgotten, Jerry left an indelible mark on the horse world. In 2014, Jerry was awarded the NRHA Dale Wilkinson Lifetime Achievement Award.

​One of the most remarkable things about Jerry was his inability to know a stranger. That smile and those big, blue eyes welcomed anyone in. Whether it be at the grocery store, a horse show, or Trinity Terrace—where he and Carmen moved in 2018—Jerry locked eyes with and waved to everyone that passed by. He lived by the motto: “keep your friends and make new ones every day.” He radiated warmth and a good laugh. He seemed to always have a lighthearted joke in his back pocket. Jerry leaves behind his wife Carmen, his three children, Christine and David Pearce, Amy and David Mueller, and Gregory and Jennifer Kimmel, 10 grandchildren, six great-grandchildren, and his beloved dog, Charlie. He will be greatly missed.

The family requests that in lieu of flowers, gifts in Jerry’s memory be made to the NRHyA—Youth Unrestricted fund of the Reining Horse Foundation to benefit youth reiners. Donations can be made online at reiningfoundation.com or mailed to RHF, 3021 W Reno Ave, Oklahoma City, OK, 73107

With permission: Written by Courtney Kimmel and Meredith Kimmel

NRHA Three-Million Dollar Sire Nu Chex To Cash Passes

For Immediate Release – March 30, 2020 – Oklahoma City, Oklahoma –National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) Three Million Dollar Sire Nu Chex To Cash (NU Cash x Amarilla Chex) passed away on March 14, 2020. At 30 years old, Nu Chex To Cash’s contributions to the reining industry can’t be denied.

Before entering the breeding shed, “Chex” built himself a reputation as a big stopper in the show pen. Born in April 1990, Chex’s show career spanned from 1993 to 2002, first being shown by NRHA Professional Charlie Hutton and then by NRHA non pro Jessicah Keller. Showing his versatility and athletic ability, Chex was the first horse to nab the AQHA High Point awards in both the reining and working cow horse in the same year with Hutton.

With Keller at the reins, the pair won NRHA World Championships in the Intermediate and Limited Open divisions as well as the reserve titles in the Non Pro and Intermediate Non Pro, all in the same year. They were also the reserve champions in the freestyle reining at the 2002 All American Quarter Horse Congress. He’s earned more than $57,000 in NRHA Lifetime earnings (LTEs).

Inducted into the NRHA Hall of Fame in 2010, Chex spent the last 25 years of his life in Hilldale Farms’ breeding barn. Chex is best known for siring NRHA Eleven Million Dollar Sire Wimpys Little Step (out of Leolita Step). “Wimpy” went on to be the 2002 NRHA Futurity Open Level (L) 4 Champion as well as the All American Quarter Horse Congress Open Futurity Champion. Both titles were achieved with NRHA Six Million Dollar Rider Shawn Flarida.

The iconic palomino set the standard for throwing offspring with ideal conformation, athleticism, and a mind comparable to few others. Chex found his perfect match in NRHA Million Dollar Dam and Hall of Famer Snip O Gun, also owned by Hilldale Farm. The two produced some of the greats, including Hot Smokin Chex, Chexmaster, and Big Chex To Cash. He also sired household name Lil Joe Cash (out of RS Lilly Starlight) who was the 2011 NRHA Futurity Open L4 Champion with NRHA Five Million Dollar Rider Andrea Fappani aboard.

Top NRHA earning offspring:

  • Lil Joe Cash (out of RS Lilly Starlight): $279,268
  • Hot Smokin Chex (out of Snip O Gun): $186,598
  • Wimpys Little Step (out of Leolita Step): $185,756
  • Nu Chexomatic (out of Tejons Texie Lena): $182,230
  • Heavy Duty Chex (out of Rondas Tio): $143,799
  • Chexmaster (out of Snip O Gun): $103,911
  • Nu Pops (out of Sugar Pop Gun): $90,159

NRHA Welcomes Newest Affiliate: South Africa

For Immediate Release – February 25, 2020 – Oklahoma City, Oklahoma – The National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) welcomed South Africa as the newest international affiliate this fall. Greg and Lizelle Garland, NRHA members from South Africa, toyed with the idea of starting an affiliate for about three years before diving in headfirst.

Officially recognized in July 2019, the South African affiliate hosted three shows in a span of just two months: the first in August and two more in October.

“Within three months of inception, we’ve had three shows; it’s been amazing,” Greg said. “We’re still small, with a limited number of members, but it’s definitely something that everyone is excited about, and we’re looking forward to growing.”

Historically, to begin the process of starting a new affiliate, 25 NRHA members had to support the undertaking—a daunting task for a country where reining-ready horses are extremely hard to come by.

“When some of the staff from NRHA came to visit us, we found out about a new rule that said we only needed 10 NRHA members to get started since we are a developing country,” Greg said.

That’s all Greg and Lizelle needed to kickstart the process. The Garlands carry the torch for reining in South Africa as they bring in clinicians and horses to generate interest in the sport.

“With the creation of the developing affiliate level, we were able to introduce reining at the grassroots level to countries that may not have been able to jump in with 25 members,” said Samantha Oldfield, director of competition & education and European liaison at NRHA. “This level gives them a chance to introduce the sport to potential members and to grow and build a strong base they can expand upon to their other affiliate levels.”

NRHA currently recognizes more than 90 associations representing 16 different affiliates around the globe. Competing in an affiliate is truly reining at the grassroots level. To find an affiliate in your region and to learn more about the program, visit nrha.com/affiliate.

Rosanne Sternberg: NRHA Two Million Dollar Owner

For Immediate Release – February 19, 2020 – Oklahoma City, Oklahoma – Congratulations to National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) Hall of Fame inductee Rosanne Sternberg for becoming the second-ever NRHA Two Million Dollar Owner. After reaching the NRHA Million Dollar Owner milestone in 2010 and being inducted into the NRHA Hall of Fame in 2017, she’s remained dedicated to producing quality reining horses while consistently striving for the next level of achievement.

During the 2019 show season, Sternberg’s horses earned more than $77,000 in combined NRHA Lifetime Earnings (LTE), culminating at the NRHA Futurity. The success of Shines Like Spook (Smart Spook x Ebony Shines) at the NRHA Futurity, ridden by NRHA Professional Martin Larcombe, pushed Sternberg past the $2 million mark. Larcombe topped the Prime Time Open Futurity finals, finished third in Level(L) 3 Open, and placed 10th in L4, earning more than $42,600 toward Sternberg’s milestone.

“I knew Rosanne when I lived in Europe and worked with reiners,” Larcombe shared. “I continued that relationship when I came to the U.S., and she’s had horses with me for the past few years. She understands the game because she’s been in it that much. She knows how it can be—the highs and the lows. She’s been a great support, and she trusts me with her horses.”

Sternberg splits her time between Sterling Ranch in Aubrey, Texas, and her home in Great Britain. Her European-based mare—Ebony Spook (Smart Spook x Ebony Whiz)—was the 2014 NRHA Open World Champion under the guidance of NRHA Professional Ann Fonck.

“I am thrilled that after 34 years of owning, riding, breeding, and enjoying reining horses I’ve passed the milestone of becoming the second NRHA Two Million Dollar Owner,” Sternberg said. “I’ve been lucky enough to own many exciting and talented horses and have enjoyed seeing not only family show and enjoy my horses, but also have had the privilege of working with some of the world’s top trainers based in both the U.S. and Europe.”

With over $86,000 in personal NRHA LTE, Sternberg has competed as a non pro rider at the highest levels, both in the U.S. and abroad.

Sternberg anticipates continuing her tradition of excellence of owning, breeding, and showing reining horses as she pursues her next milestone: becoming an NRHA Three Million Dollar Owner.

Standout horses throughout Sternberg’s career include:

  • Nijomi Sonny Reb (Sonny Brownburn x Marina Del Reb): over $63,700 LTE; her mount as part of the British team at the 2002 FEI World Equestrian Games in Jerez, Spain
  • Smart Spook (Smart Chic Olena x Sugarplum Spook): over $403,100 LTE; NRHA Hall of Fame inductee and NRHA Six Million Dollar Sire; winner of the 2004 NRHA L4 Open Futurity and 2005 NRHA L4 Open Derby championships
  • Tinsel Nic (Bueno Chexinic x Holly Tinseltown): over $165,600 LTE and over $381,000 offspring LTE)
  • Ebony Shines (Shining Spark x Ebony Whiz): NRHA Hall of Fame inductee and first-ever NRHA Million Dollar Dam