For Immediate Release – June 13, 2019 – Oklahoma City, Oklahoma – The National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) and Toyon Ranch have partnered to support the grassroots of reining through the Rookie of the Year program. Sponsored by Toyon Ranch, the Rookie of the Year title is a goal that many beginning reiners strive for. Here, past contenders share their Rookie of the Year stories, advice for running at the title, and what it meant to them.
Their Time to Shine
The Rookie of the Year title is awarded during the Adequan® North American Affiliate Regional Championships (NAAC) held in Oklahoma City during the NRHA Futurity. It’s a chance for grassroots reiners to compete in close proximity to their reining idols—many of whom could be credited for inspiring people to get involved with reining—at one of the association’s major events.
Holly Valerio, 2015 NRHA Rookie of the Year, describes the competition as the Super Bowl of Reining. “As a beginner reiner, I had the opportunity to compete at the same shows as the celebrities of reining,” she said. “Rookie of the Year is the title wanted by any beginning reiner. It’s our place to play as beginners. Plus, the prizes were outstanding. It was something I worked hard for all year long. It was a dream come true on a high level. It was a huge accomplishment to me.”
Canadian reiner Magalie Boulanger, 2017 Reserve Rookie of the Year, said, “It was the most prestigious title to win as a rookie! I’ve always dreamed of showing in the United States, and it was such a great opportunity.” Boulanger is from Quebec, Canada.
Contenders for the Rookie of the Year must compete in qualifying shows held by their local affiliates. The top 15 riders in each region at the end of the season qualify for the Affiliate Regional Championships (ARCs). From each ARC, the top 10 horse-and-rider combinations, plus ties, earn the opportunity to travel to Oklahoma City to compete for the Toyon Ranch NRHA Rookie of the Year title, saddle, trophy, buckle, and other awards during the NRHA Futurity and Adequan® NAAC.
Insider Tip: Check with your local affiliate to find the closest qualifying events and learn more about qualifying for an ARC. Refer to the NRHA Adequan® NAAC Conditions for complete details.
2015 Reserve Rookie of the Year Kathy Loudamy, from Whitesboro, Texas, advised anyone going out for any title to “set their goals, knows the rules, work hard, mentally prepare, be a good sport, trust their horse, and have fun. I lived and breathed all those rules from the start. I researched all the avenues. All the affiliates. I set small goals for myself to get to each step. I decided SWRHA was the affiliate I would designate as mine and mapped out all their shows needed to qualify for the South Central ARC in August. When I qualified for the finals in Tulsa, I never lost sight of the Adequan® NAAC Affiliate Finals. But it was a much harder competition than I thought as there were so many good riders and horses. It’s people from all over, not just your next-door neighbors.”
“Going in with the big dogs was scary but awesome at the same time,” said Sandra Cochran, 2014 Reserve Rookie of the Year. “As a rookie, you have so much to overcome—learning how to deal with the pressure of the high-point competition and my own pressure was challenging. My trainer was able to keep me focused on the pattern one step/maneuver at a time.”
Memories That Last a Lifetime
“Giving an opportunity to the rookies to work hard and set goals for a prestigious title is such a great idea,” Loudany added. “It takes a lot of hard work and dedication. If you have something to work toward like this, it makes it even better. I’ll never forget the Adequan® NAAC. It was that important to me. It’s the accomplishment, the confidence it gave me, and knowing that I did it.”
Cochran, the Colorado native that now lives in Sandy Valley, Nevada echoed that sentiment.
“The feeling of that ride, with all of the people from Colorado cheering for me, is so hard to explain,” she recalled. “It was like I won the biggest event there is; the screaming and yelling was so loud. Everyone was so supportive, even those who I competed against were amazing and there cheering everyone on. I can’t believe all of the prizes. It was just amazing.”
Helping educate reiners as they start their journeys with the sport is crucial to setting them up to succeed and understand the organization’s systems. “Aiming toward Rookie of the Year helped me understand the process of levels and accumulating scores (learning how the NRHA judging system works),” Cochran said.
Valerio advised starting with the basics at the green reiner level until they get the most out of it. “It’s a learning environment. Know your levels, and work them to their max. Work your way out of and up through the divisions one by one, because once you are out of that division, you’re out. Go to judges’ educational meetings and seminars. It’s amazing what you’ll learn. The more educated you are, the more successful you’ll be.”
Supporting Every Aspect of the Industry
Toyon Ranch of Pilot Point, Texas, focuses on breeding and bringing to market high-quality reining prospects by pairing a diverse and proven band of mares with the world’s leading stallions. Their dedication to the sport of reining encompasses all levels of riders and competition, from green to pro. They also sponsor the Affiliate Ambassador program, which brings together a diverse community of reiners and aims to connect the global reining community on multiple levels. Toyon Ranch also generously presents Slider’s Night Out, a fundraising event for the Reining Horse Foundation held during the NRHA Futurity. Sliders’ Night Out recognizes members of the NRHA Hall of Fame and raises funds for the nonprofit charitable foundation. In addition to their Presenting Donor role for the charity event, which will be held again December 4, 2019, Toyon Ranch underwrites an NRHA program to recognize and involve NRHA member volunteers at the grassroots level during Sliders’ Night Out.