Reigning Champions

In an electrifying demonstration of skill, artistry, and sheer passion, reiners gave their all tonight in the $20,000-added Invitational Freestyle presented by the Oklahoma City Convention and Visitors Bureau. The National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) is thrilled to announce Its All About Ruf and Taylor Zimmerman were crowned champions for the second year in a row, taking home $5,422.

“I’m just blessed to get to be here and blessed to get to show a horse like this and call him mine,” said Zimmerman, who rode her 8-year-old stallion to “A Sky Full of Stars” by Coldplay.

The atmosphere was charged with excitement as the riders and their talented horses took center stage, captivating the Oklahoma City audience with unforgettable performances. Each competitor brought their unique flair and dedication, transforming the arena into a theater of heart-stopping athleticism and horsemanship.

Its All About Ruf (Not Ruf At All x Dun Pretty Nifty) was a birthday gift Zimmerman received from her grandfather last year.

“That was incredible. Lots of tears were shed during that,” Zimmerman said. “I’ve always been told I don’t get to keep them all forever, but I begged for this horse to not be sold.”

Zimmerman’s performance was a tribute to the relationship she shares with Its All About Ruf, whom she said she spends lots of time trail riding outside the show pen. She is also considering adding ranch riding to their repertoire.

“We raised him, so he’s been with us for eight years now,” Zimmerman said. “We’ve won a lot together, and we have a special bond. I truly believe you get to bond with your horse, and he proves it.”

Zimmerman’s love for “T.J.” was clear when she wrapped her arms around his neck as they left the arena with an electric 232 score. The team bested the 16-horse field by 1.5 points.

“I did ‘A Sky Full of Stars’ because he’s like my shining star,” Zimmerman said. “We spend a lot of time together, and I know him like the back of my hand.”

People’s Choice

For the first time in NRHA Derby history, every spectator in OKC had the chance to participate in the excitement by choosing their own winner. Reining fans picked NRHA Professional Sebastian Petroll and Xtra Miss Wimpy as their No. 1 team, highlighting the duo’s finesse and connection.

Petroll, who also earned the reserve championship in the Invitational Freestyle, won the People’s Choice Award while paying tribute to the late Toby Keith, and with added flair that included a motocross performance as part of his act. Petrol wanted to honor the proud Oklahoman, knowing how special the state was to Keith, as well as the reining community.

“In these [freestyle competitions] there are a few more factors to it so when it works out, it is great, said Petroll. “That horse has been with us since early in her 3-year-old year. She is maybe the one horse that when I look back on, I never did justice to her and always had bad luck. She had a great derby career with the owner, Ellen Cummins, and I still felt like I owed her. Any time I get a chance like this, I will go and do it with her. She is so great-minded, and she truly is part of the family.”

Petroll is also showing Xtra Miss Wimpy’s daughter at the event, which makes the connection even more special.

“It doesn’t happen very often, and it definitely deepens the connection we have to that family,” Petroll said.

He thanked the OKC Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) for sponsoring the event and the owners for allowing this special evening to occur.

“It’s incredible,” said Zac Craig, president of the Oklahoma City CVB. “This event has been in Oklahoma City for decades. To have the Derby back each and every year is an essential marquee event here. I couldn’t be prouder for Billy [Smith], the staff of NRHA and the economic impact for Oklahoma City.

“I think it is only going to grow in time as we open this brand new OG&E Coliseum,” Craig continued. “I think people are going to be intrigued by this new facility, I think maybe they will get reattached and elevate their love for reining right here in Oklahoma City. I am excited about this year and can’t wait for the future, as well.”

The NRHA is proud to honor these Invitational Freestyle champions and other participants, whose performances drew residents from across the metroplex to celebrate the sport of reining. The world’s hottest reining, filled with unforgettable displays of grace and grit, continues tomorrow with the Non Pro Derby finals and more ancillary competition. For more information and to watch the show live, tune in to