Great horses and riders were shining under the Friday-night lights of the Jim Norick Coliseum at State Fair Park in Oklahoma City. The National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) CINCH Non Pro Futurity featured the top horses and riders from the preliminary round, and the Level (L)1 champion was decided in an exciting runoff.
To add to the CINCH Non Pro Finals pageantry, NRHA Million Dollar milestones were recognized by an in-arena ceremony prior to the start of the CINCH Non Pro Finals. NRHA’s newest Million Dollar Riders Cade McCutcheon, Matt Mills, Martin Muehlstaetter were presented with a special lapel pin courtesy of NRHA Corporate Partner MS Diamonds TX.
Mandy McCutcheon Wins NRHA CINCH Non Pro Championship
“Team” is a word you hear spoken a lot by showmen at the NRHA Futurity. For Mandy McCutcheon, who emerged with a winning score of 221.5 to top the CINCH Non Pro Finals, she attributes her incredible career in large part to her family and the team that stands behind her. The NRHA Two Million Dollar Rider from Aubrey, Texas, began showing reiners at age 12. She won her first NRHA Futurity in 1993 on Hollywoods Striker. The 2020 NRHA CINCH Non Pro Futurity marks at least her 10th NRHA Futurity crown.
McCutcheon rode her home-raised and trained gelding Shining At Nite, by Gunners Special Nite, unofficially the newest NRHA Four Million Dollar Sire, and out of A Shining Sidekick, to earn the coveted CINCH Non Pro payday of $60,000. Thanks to Futurity Challenge Donors this is the first year the Non Pro Futurity Champion has won a $60,000 paycheck. Bred by Tom McCutcheon and owned by Tom and Mandy McCutcheon, Shining At Nite was nominated by Mandy McCutcheon.
“We bred him and raised him,” McCutcheon said. “We had his mother off and on. I wish I still had his mother, but Green Valley Ranch has her now and she’s in very good hands.”
McCutcheon says Shining At Nite was bred to be a winner and shares the heart and propensity to win that his siblings have displayed.
“This has just been an exceptional family of horses for us. [Shining At Nite] has a full brother that Carlee made the Level 4 Futurity Finals on when she was 12, and she took her brother’s record of being the youngest Level 4 finalist,” McCutcheon said. “There’s another one that Kathy Thompson used to show that’s just been a phenomenal show horse. The full siblings and now Shining At Nite have just been great, great horses.”
According to McCutcheon, Shining At Nite doesn’t resemble his siblings physically as much as he does mentally.
“This one doesn’t look like any of the other ones, the other two are sorrel with white faces,” she said. “What they resemble is just having great brains. They’re great show horses. They just go in there and try every time to be a good show horse. He’s shown well every time I’ve shown him. One time he broke gait slowing down showing him, but he was just trying to be too good.”
She had high praise for Shining At Nite’s performance this evening.
“Every maneuver I asked him to do he just stayed hooked up,” McCutcheon said. “He was very good. Once he ran through the gate he just said, ‘Okay, whatever you want me to do.’”
And naturally, McCutcheon has a large and talented team of people behind her to thank for being a part of Shining At Nite’s journey to the winner’s circle.
“Debbie Brown trained him some as a 2-year-old, Trent Harvey trained him some, Cade trained him some, Tom trained him some. Everybody played a part in getting me where I am and that’s really been my whole career and I’m just really lucky to have such a great team around me all the time. My parents have been so supportive for my entire career,” she said.
The CINCH Non Pro Champion has the option to receive a one year lease for a gooseneck trailer, or a $10,000 credit toward a new trailer build, courtesy of Kyle Zanetti Trailers, the Official Trailer of NRHA.
The CINCH Non Pro Champion receives a Bob’s Custom Saddle, a custom Montana Silversmith’s trophy buckle, Anderson Bean boots, Classic Equine product, a Platinum Performance gift certificate, Bluebonnet Feeds gift certificate, a SmartPak gift card, a Shorty’s Caboy Hattery certificate, a Cold Saltwater Spa Treatment from Dr. Carter and Oklahoma Equine Hospital.
Tish Fappani and Joes Genes Win CINCH Non Pro Level 3 Championship
It was a gratifying night for Tish Fappani, who posted a crowd-pleasing 221 aboard Joes Genes to earn the CINCH Non Pro L3 championship and tie for reserve honors in the Non Pro. In all, Fappani earned $53,606 aboard the mare she owns with her husband, Andrea, an NRHA Six Million Dollar Rider. Joes Genes, by Lil Joe Cash and out of Electric Genes, has royal bloodlines. Her win helped unofficially push Lil Joe Cash above the NRHA Million Dollar Sire threshold, adding to the significance of the win.
The Fappanis raised and trained Joes Genes at their Scottsdale, Arizona, training facility. Tish nominated Joes Genes to the Futurity program.
“She’s a special mare. We bred and raised her, and Andrea showed both her mom and dad,” Fappani said. “I climbed on her in April of her 2-year-old year. She’s just a cool mare. She’s got a huge stop. You would think the way she’s bred, knowing her mom, you would think she has some zing, and she does, but she is not a hot mare at all. She’s a blast.”
Fappani was proud to overcome her own nerves in the preliminary round to qualify for the finals where her mare’s full potential shone through.
“She was great in the prelims but I was really nervous,” she said. “Just knowing I had one that I could be up there with, I was a little nervous, but she just showed great for me.”
Fappani credits Joes Genes for making a rock-solid run in the Finals. “Tonight, I sent her in too fast and that hurt me, but other than that she was right there with me,” she said.
The Fappanis hope to continue with Joes Genes’ genetics and plan to begin doing embryo transfer work so her derby schedule can go on uninterrupted.
With Joes Genes’ win making it possible for her sire to gain NRHA Million Dollar Sire status, Tish was proud to have a part in Lil Joe Cash’s milestone. “It’s awesome to be a part of that. Lil Joe Cash has been a special horse – including when Andrea got him back for Run for a Million,” she said.
Expressing thanks for her family and the team behind her, Fappani says the win is even sweeter with her son Luca riding in the same Finals.
“I’m missing my son Jeremy who is in Arizona racing, but of course I thank Andrea and the whole gang. I’m thankful for Luca and for everyone, including Dr. John Newcomb and our amazing farriers,” she said.
Fappani was grateful not only to win a title at the NRHA Futurity but also happy that the event was able to happen.
“To show here is huge. It was huge we could hit fall futurities. Since the horse shows started rolling it’s been great. We try to follow rules, and it’s a different futurity feeling, but everyone is really happy to be showing.”
The CINCH Non Pro L3 Champion was awarded a Bob’s Custom Saddle, a custom Montana Silversmith’s trophy buckle, Anderson Bean boots, Classic Equine product, a Platinum Performance gift certificate, Bluebonnet Feeds gift certificate, a SmartPak gift card, a Shorty’s Caboy Hattery certificate, a Cold Saltwater Spa Treatment from Dr. Carter and Oklahoma Equine Hospital.
Jacob Zimmerman Wins CINCH Non Pro Level 2 Championship on Rufin Up The Chics
Jacob Zimmerman, of Springfield Missouri, teamed up with his horse Rufin Up The Chics for a 215.5 and the L2 Non Pro Championship worth $25,741.
Rufin Up The Chics is by Not Ruf At All out of Ms Playalotta Chic, and was nominated by his dad, Justin Zimmerman.
Zimmeran, who celebrated his 16th birthday a week prior to the NRHA Futurity, thanked Arno Honstetter for selling Rufin Up The Chics, a horse he calls “Elon,” to the Zimmerman family.
“I just got him two and a half weeks ago from Arno Honstetter,” Zimmerman said. “My grandpa Vaughn Zimmerman, and my father, Justin Zimmerman, own him. Arno didn’t know if he was ready to show in the Open, so I got him. The situation worked out great for me.”
Zimmerman had never shown Rufin Up The Chics prior to the NRHA Futurity.
“I just rode him as comfortably as I could and hoped for the best,” he said. “I think we’re going to keep him, and if we do, I’m planning to show him next year and the year after that. We will just have to see.”
Zimmerman was proud of how the horse stepped up in a high-pressure situation in the Finals.
“Today I marked a 215.5. He was really good. I couldn’t have asked him to be much better,” he said. “He listened to me and did everything I asked. He could have turned a little bigger, but overall he was very good.”
Zimmerman thanked his trainer, Bobby Avila, Jr., as well as his family and Arno Honstetter for having the horse well trained. “I thank my family the most, my dad Justin, my grandfather Vaughn, and my mom Leah. They helped me get here,” he said.
The CINCH Non Pro L2 Champion was awarded a Bob’s Custom Saddle, a custom Montana Silversmith’s trophy buckle, Anderson Bean boots, Classic Equine product, a Platinum Performance gift certificate, Bluebonnet Feeds gift certificate, a SmartPak gift card, a Shorty’s Caboy Hattery certificate, a Cold Saltwater Spa Treatment from Dr. Carter and Oklahoma Equine Hospital.
Hannah Mitchell and Stars And Stripes Win CINCH Non Pro L1 Futurity Championship
Hannah Mitchell had never competed in a run-off before, but that all changed on Friday night when, at the end of the CINCH Non Pro Futurity Finals, she found herself part of a three-way tie for the L1 Championship. She and her horse, Stars And Stripes, entered the Jim Norick Coliseum one last time to battle it out for the title.
“I wasn’t too nervous about it. It was nice to go last because I knew what score we had to have, but it was harder because she (Stars And Stripes) was expecting a lot more. She wasn’t as good in the run-off as her first run, but she still tried her heart out,” Mitchell shared.
In the end, it was enough, as the pair were victorious. Not only did Mitchell and Stars And Stripes win the L1 Championship, they tied for third in the L2, tied for fifth in L3, and tied for 12th in L4 for earnings of $27,832. “I am so, so thrilled and so happy because about two months ago we didn’t think we would get to bring this mare here because she had an injury. I am just thankful to be here,” she said.
In addition to the big paycheck, Mitchell was also presented with a Bob’s Custom Saddle, a Montana Silversmiths buckle, Anderson Bean boots, product from Classic Equine, gift certificates from Platinum Performance and Bluebonnet Feed, a stomach scope from Dr. Joe Carter and Oklahoma Equine Hospital, a garment bag from Brandt Blanket, and a Shorty’s Caboy Hattery gift certificate.
Mitchell and Stars And Stripes marked a 217.5 in the preliminary round. “It was shocking to me, honestly. I thought she had done pretty well but then they announced that score. It was amazing,” she said. By Star Spangled Whiz out of Chick N Squirt, Stars And Stripes was nominated by Hannah’s father Stephen Mitchell, who purchased the filly from Hannah’s aunt and uncle, Shawn and Shelley Gann.
“We bought her as a yearling. We sent her to Bobby Avila and he did two or three months with her as a two-year-old, and then my dad and I took her from there. That’s what makes her so special, because we did all the training on her ourselves,” she said.
For Mitchell, just being able to compete at the NRHA Futurity was an accomplishment. In addition to her horse’s injury, the pandemic put the entire show year in jeopardy. “I didn’t think we’d have much of a year. I think it’s great that NRHA still put this show on. Whatever we had to do to have a show, we were happy to do it, and it’s great to be here,” she said.
Mitchell, who recently graduated from Oklahoma State University, was quick to thank the people closest to her. “I thank God for allowing me and my family to be here and for keeping everyone safe here at the show. I thank my parents for allowing me to show this mare and pay for all the things to get here, and my little brother for all his support. I thank my aunt and uncle, Gabriel Borges, who helps us a lot, and Bobby Avila for starting her,” she said.
Mike Weber Wins CINCH Non Pro Futurity Prime Time on Mifchievious
It’s been a dream for Mike Weber, who’s been showing reining horses since the 1970s, to win at the Futurity. “I even remember watching it in Ohio when I was a kid,” he shared. On Friday night, Weber took home the Prime Time Futurity Championship on his horse Mifchievious.
In addition to the Prime Time title, Weber and Mifchievious also earned fifth in the Non Pro L1, winning more than $4,200. They also won a Bob’s Custom Saddle, a Montana Silversmiths buckle, Anderson Bean boots, product from Classic Equine, gift certificates from Platinum Performance and Bluebonnet Feed, a stomach scope from Dr. Joe Carter and Oklahoma Equine Hospital, a garment bag from Brandt Blanket, and a Shorty’s Caboy Hattery gift certificate.
The pair had some tough luck in the preliminary round. Although they qualified for the Prime Time Finals, it took a good finish in the Consolation round to earn a spot in Friday’s finals. “We made it back for the Level 1. That second chance was best for me. This mare is just now coming on, and since we do the training mostly ourselves, it’s sometimes better to show more when it’s a longer event,” he shared.
Weber purchased Mifchievious, by ARC Gunnabeabigstar out of Mifilady, from his friend Kenneth Krebs, who nominated the mare. “Kenny owns her dam, and this is the fourth one we’ve had out of that mare. We’ve always thought she was special,” he said. “Joe Schmidt had her for a while and helped me with her, and my friend Cutter Cook trained her and took time with her as a baby.”
Hailing from Kentucky, Weber admitted he was a bit reluctant to travel to Oklahoma City for the Futurity. “However, we are such supporters of reining. My wife is the president of the Kentucky Reining Horse Association, and we knew that if we didn’t step up and support this event, and it didn’t make it, it would be because people didn’t make the effort,” he said. “So we’ve had our mask on, practiced social distancing, washed our hands, and stayed away from anyone who was sick. I think this year is even more special because we will always remember what a challenge it was not only to get here, but to stay here.”
Weber added, “I thank my wife Nez, as well as Kenny, Cutter, and everyone who has helped us. It’s a group effort. No one wins here by themselves.”
Lane Colston and Lil Ruf Whizkey Wins the CINCH Non Pro Youth Futurity
Seventeen-year-old Ronny “Lane” Colston, of Frankfort, Kentucky, rode Lil Ruf Whizkey to the top of the CINCH Non Pro Youth Futurity thanks to an impressive 221, the second highest score of the day. It was a great day for Colston who also split reserve honors in the CINCH Level 4 Non Pro for total earnings of $34,651.
Lil Ruf Whizkey is by NRHA Million Dollar Sire Whizkey N Diamonds and out of Lil Ruf Startime. The 2017 gelding was nominated by Terry Leffew and is owned by Kevin Colston.
“We bought him in July, I actually didn’t try him out before we bought him,” Colston said. “Cade [McCutcheon] tried him for us. He said, ‘You have to have this horse, you need this horse, you can do great on him.’”
The Colston’s decision to purchase began paying off almost immediately.
“I didn’t ride him until about a week before the first time I showed him,” Colston said. “I rode him for a whole week, and we got along great. Then I showed him the first time and I was a 218. I showed him again before the Futurity and I was a 220.5. In the go round in the Futurity I almost had a big bobble, but I saved myself and I was a 216. I would like to have had a better run, but it was enough to make the Finals.”
Colston says Lil Ruff Whizkey didn’t warm up perfectly, but that didn’t upend their confidence as a team in the showpen.
“I just told myself, ‘Alright, let’s rethink it, and let’s go.’ I went in the pen and he stopped so big for me. He just locked in with me. He’s a show horse. As soon as we went in there, he was ready and that says a lot about a horse. He’s a great horse,” Colston said, adding that it was his nerves that almost got the better of him in the preliminaries. “In the first go I was really nervous and I think that’s why I almost made a big mistake because I knew how good of a horse he was. I decided when I was warming up, let’s go do our best, we’re already here, let’s just go for it.”
Colston enjoys owning and showing the outstanding young reining horse and hopes to continue their winning journey.
“I ride with Tom and Mandy McCutcheon and they all help me—Tom, Cade, Tim. Mainly Cade rides him [Lil Ruff Whizkey], but I was having a little trouble starting my turns and that’s Tim’s specialty, so he was riding him for a little while. They all know so much about horses. I learn from all of them, they know which way to point me. Everyone at the ranch is so helpful all the time so we enjoy being with that team.”
Colston says Lil Ruff Whizkey will get a much-deserved break and then he plans to show at the NRBC next year, if not sooner.
“I appreciate the McCutcheon’s so much,” Colston said. “I want to thank my horse. He’s such a good horse, he’s amazing, I enjoy every minute of riding him. He’s so easy. We just click really well. Most of all I’d like to thank my parents, Amy and Kevin Colston. They support me. I love doing this and they are just so excited, maybe even more than I am, both of them are here and it’s so much fun.”
The Non Pro Youth Champion was awarded a Bob’s Custom Saddle, a custom Montana Silversmith’s trophy buckle, Anderson Bean boots, Classic Equine product, a Platinum Performance gift certificate, Bluebonnet Feeds gift certificate, a SmartPak gift card, a Shorty’s Caboy Hattery certificate, a Cold Saltwater Spa Treatment from Dr. Carter and Oklahoma Equine Hospital.
The NRHA greatly appreciates all NRHA Corporate Partners and Event Sponsors that make it possible to award the first-class prizes presented at the NRHA Futurity.