Para Reiners Take Center Stage

The incredible connection between horse and rider was on full display tonight in the National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) Para-Reining Championship presented by Dechra and NRHA Corporate Partner Hart Trailers. With $3,500 added to the competition for the first time ever, Gabriella Panten and Smart Roos Olena clinched top honors.

“My favorite part was our slide,” Panten said. “I believe we did really amazing and had a good slide, and really long. I’m very happy, and I can’t wait to go home and show everybody in our barn family our big win. I like para-reining because there is always something new to practice.

“We get along in our own unique way, and we have our own unique bond,” Panten added of how exciting it was to show her gelding at the 6666 NRHA Derby presented by Markel.

Panten’s mom, Jennifer Dowdy-Panten, added that Smart Roos Olena takes care of her daughter and has since she began riding him six years ago.

“My mom planted the seed for me when she started reining again,” Panten said. “I spent a whole year just shadowing her and watching her and helping her get ready. I finally comprehended what she was doing, so I walked up to my mom and her trainer and said, ‘Can I try reining?’”

When reflecting on her introduction to the sport, Panten says her mom’s reining career spurred her interest, along with support from 2023 NRHA Becky Hanson Professional Horsewoman of the Year Josiane Gauthier and NRHA Professional Coral Johnston.

Panten, whose whole goal when she made plans to show in OKC was to win a saddle, joked that she would keep her trophy in bed tonight.

“We’re just really grateful and thankful for all of our farm family; and Josiane and Coral, who have come all the way out here just for her,” Dowdy-Panten said. “They’ve come in here and supported us and allowed her to grow with this sport and be confident. We’ve seen the amazement with what the para-reining has done for her with building confidence. People will not ever understand how much we, as parents, appreciate the opportunity to come out here and do this and share this with her.”

Panten thanked both of her trainers, her barn family, and Hart Trailers for donating the saddle that encouraged her to compete, as well as others who have made an impact on her life.

The Para-Reining Championship was a heartwarming and inspiring conclusion to the day with exceptional performances from the competitors. These athletes demonstrated unwavering determination, skill, and the true spirit of sportsmanship. Their participation and achievements have not only elevated the event, but also highlighted the importance of inclusivity and accessibility in equestrian sports.