Great horse-rider stories fill the first day of competition at the 2017 NRHA Derby
Dunit In Wranglers steers Melissa Wigen to the NRHA $2,000-Added Non Pro win
Opening the day at the 2017 NRHA (National Reining Horse Association) Derby was the $2,000-added Non Pro Show 1 class run concurrently with the $1,000-added Intermediate Non Pro, the $500-added Limited Non Pro, and the $500-added Prime Time Non Pro.
Melissa Wigen of Ogden, Utah, rode her 2007 gelding, Dunit In Wranglers (Starlights Wrangler x A Bueno Poco Dunit), to a 143.5 score as well as the $2,000-added Non Pro title.
“[My run] was pretty good,” Wigen said. “He ran in and stopped well for me, turned good, circled good, and I knew if I could nail my stops, I’d probably be in a good position to win.”
Melissa’s accomplishments in the show pen are remarkable considering that not long ago she had a devastating horse accident, which resulted in multiple surgeries. Only three months ago, Melissa was in surgery once again. Not only has she had to recover physically, but she has had to regain her self-confidence. Her horse, Dunit In Wranglers, has given Melissa that confidence, and she is so very grateful. “I have a nice horse, and I am thankful everything came together,” states Wigen, who is married to NRHA Professional Travis Wigen.
The $2,000-added Non Pro reserve championship went to Adam Donahue on Thata Shiner (Smart Spook x SLJ Smartlikewhinny) with a score of 141.5. The duo also took home top honors in the $1,000-added Intermediate Non Pro class.
“I haven’t shown for 16 years,” Donahue said. “I had some time this year, so I decided to go back to the show pen. I purchased my mare from (NRHA Million Dollar Rider) Jose Vazquez a few years ago and, after a three-year-period in the pasture living the broodmare life, I started riding her in January. Plans are to show her through the rest of the year and then breed her to Not Ruf At All.”
Donahue trains his own horses and rides at Zimmerman Performance Horses Rogersville, Missouri. Donahue’s 2009 sorrel mare was supposed to be a broodmare until Donahue decided to bring her back into the show pen.
With Smart Dundee (Conquistador Whiz x Smart Oaklyn) between the reins, Cathy Brant won the $500-added Limited Non Pro with a 140, while Paul Queen scored a 138.5 to take reserve honors aboard Outta Dough, owned by Dorothy Queen. “My horse is incredible,” Brant said about her 7-year-old gelding. “My husband, (NRHA Professional) Brandon Brant, showed him in the 2010 NRHA Futurity. Following an injury, my horse wasn’t shown for two years, after which I picked up the reins. We tied to win the NRHA 7&Up Level 4 and Level 2 Non Pro class offered at the Buckeye Reiners Easter Slide, and now here we are!”
Ann Admonius and her own Gunners Genes (Gunner x Taris Designer Genes) paid another trip to the winner’s circle in the Prime Time Non Pro with a score of 139.
“I had so much fun today,” Admonius exclaimed. “This is a new horse for me, so we’re still getting acquainted with each other. I just had a ball!”
A string of unfortunate events delayed Admonius and the 2012 gelding’s progress toward the show ring, and this class was only the pair’s second time showing.
“I ride with (NRHA Professional) Ruben Van Dorp, who found the horse for me last October,” Admonius said. “The first time I went to show him, I fell and fractured my wrist. The second time I went, Ruben was headed to the barn and got hit by a drunk driver. The third time I went to show him, [National Reining Breeders Classic] the horse came up sick. I went to Redbud, so really this is the second time I’ve shown him.”
Admonius is now focused on enjoying her horse as they progress as a team.
“[My plans are] to get better,” said Admonius, who also took the reserve championship in the NRHA Intermediate Non Pro. “I love him! He’s just the sweetest horse.”
Xtra Dun Right and Nathan Piper claim the NRHA Novice Horse Open Level 1 and Level 2
NRHA Professional Nathan Piper of Nathan Piper Performance Horses Aubrey, Texas, rode Xtra Dun Right (Wimpys Little Step x SLJ Dun Juice) to the head both the $1,000-added NRHA Novice Horse Open Level 2 – counting 24 entries – and the $1,000-added Novice Horse Open Level 1 (counting 17 entries) with a score of 146.
“He went in and turned for me both ways, and after I felt him take a big deep breath, I knew he was focused,” Piper said of the winning performance. “He circled right with me and had some pretty stops. I didn’t want to over-show him; I wanted to go out there and half every maneuver and see what he’d do for me.”
Piper has a history with Shannon and Hershel Reid’s 2013 sorrel stallion bred by NRHA Million Dollar Owner Smart Like Juice Inc.
“I had him when he was younger, then sold him, and recently got him back. I brought him here to see what he was like, and hopefully I’ll be able to get him ready for Tulsa,” Piper said. “I knew he was a neat and talented horse, but since I’ve had him back, I’m surprised at how physical he is in his stops. I think he’s matured both physically and mentally since his early days in training.”
NRHA Professional Patrice St-Onge of Gainesville, Texas, earned the reserve championship in both classes with a score of 145 riding Smart Cowboy Whiz (Who Whiz It x Little Smart), owned by Cowboy Partners.
Closing the day was the CRI Jog counting 25 horse-rider combinations. All were accepted. Riders representing nine countries (Argentina, Austria, Australia, Brazil, France, Germany, Italy, Uruguay, USA) will be moving on to Sunday’s USA Open CRI3* competition.