A chance to be the first champion of The Run For A Million Fence Work Challenge, presented by Teton Ridge, brought some of the National Reined Cow Horse Association’s best bridle horses to make a run in Las Vegas, Nevada, on August 20 with the top Open NRCHA earning riders in the saddle. When the last cow was circled, Zane Davis and Rubys Radar (One Time Pepto x Ruby Bagonia x Peppy San Badger) topped the 15-horse field to earn $60,000 and the title.
The second The Run For A Million event held August 18 through 20 at the South Point Hotel and Casino once again brought out sold-out crowds to the Arena and Equestrian Center for the Fence Work Challenge on Friday and the Run For A Million on Saturday night. Open riders were invited to the first Fence Work Challenge based on their sum of three-year NRCHA earnings. Riders had the opportunity to compete on any bridle horse they selected.
“When Taylor Sheridan included reined cow horse in The Run For A Million we were thrilled for the opportunity to share the spotlight at this groundbreaking event,” said Anna Morrison, NRCHA executive director. “Our riders and horses did their part to share the thrill of our sport with the audience They gave it their all in the arena, and we couldn’t be prouder of them. I think it’s fair to say there are more than a few new cow horse fans today!”
Aboard “Radar,” owned by Billie Filippini’s C Ranches Inc of Battle Mountain, Nevada, Davis received plusses from the judges on crisp reining maneuvers to score a 224.5 before the pair made the high-scoring cow horse run of the event with a massive 229.
Davis, from Blackfoot, Idaho, is an NRCHA Million Dollar Rider and past NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity® Champion. The NRCHA reining pattern 4 is one Davis approaches with determination, and that paid off.
“This pattern is a very difficult pattern,” said Davis. “You come in run and spin, and do hard fast running first, then you have to lope off in a small, slow circle and then change to a small, slow circle after running a large fast one. I am familiar with this pattern [because] it is the first pattern I’ve ever run and I destroyed it. When they said we were going to run it, I knew I needed to practice every little element of it. He and I practiced bits and pieces of it every day for a month.”
As draw seven, Davis watched what he deemed as “slower cattle” work, and knew his needed to be fast with an aggressive work to mark high on the cards of NRCHA judges Todd Crawford, Russell Dilday, Wade Reaney, Brady Weaver and Cayley Wilson. The event utilized the NRCHA’s five judge system, where the high and low scores are removed so the middle three count toward the score.
“The left turn [first] for him is a better turn. I’d watched some others go with pretty slow cows. It turned out that red cow, by its first move, I thought we had more cow than some others I had seen. I knew this horse could handle about any cow so I was excited,” Davis said.
“I grew up in rodeo so I am used to the crowd, and I am always concerned with how my horse handles the crowd. This horse, I think he performs better when the crowd is screaming. Though, I am glad I wasn’t first—there was intensity in the air!”
When Erin Taormino and Im So Stunning, the final draw of the night, wrapped up, the crowd rewarded the entire event with raucous cheers. The reined cow horse Fence Work Challenge made a positive and lasting impression on attendees and those watching through the livestream and pay-per-view options.
The Fence Work Challenge paid 12 holes, and Reserve Champion Sarah Dawson rode Travelin Miss Jonez (Travelin Jonez x Playin With Rubies x Lectric Playboy) to a 223.5 in the rein work and a 226.5 in the cow work for a composite 450, earning $22,500. With a composite 446, CSR Lay Down Sally (Dual Spark x Look At Her Glo x CD O Cody), owned by Meredith Graber, and Chris Dawson tied for third with Clayton Edsall and Metallic Train (Metallic Cat x Sparking Train x Shining Spark), owned by Beverly Servi. Both earned $16,500. Rounding out the top five was Corey Cushing aboard
TheCrowdLovesMe (Smart Chic Olena x Shine Smartly x Shining Spark), owned by Lindsay Wadhams, marking a 441 to earn $12,000.
Davis said it is a game changer for the sport to be included in the event, a sentiment echoed by others involved in the Fence Work Challenge.
“For us, it was super exciting to be a part of it because it introduces our sport to a whole new audience that we don’t get to be in front of,” said Sarah Dawson. “The cow horse has a ton to offer as far as entertainment value and getting it out there, it was fun to take part. Everybody brought their best horse, so from a spectator aspect, you saw the best of the best. It was another venue for us to showcase these bridle horses that are, in my opinion, still underappreciated but most loved by the crowds.”
As a Category 2 sanctioned NRCHA event the money earned will count toward rider and horse lifetime earnings. The event was sanctioned in late July when the rein work was added to the Fence Work Challenge. The change in format affected Davis, who had originally planned to bring NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity Champion Reymanator (Dual Rey x Savannah Hickory x Docs Hickory) back to the show pen to compete. With the inclusion of reining, he had to make a horse change to Radar, which worked out in his favor.
“It was a rush job on him because he’d been at the breeding farm, out of shape and really fat a month ago,” explained Davis. “We had about a month [to get him in shape] and he just got in what looked like show shape five days ago. He was performing well and he’s a happy show horse. He performed well tonight.”
The top bridle horses in NRCHA competition always draw a crowd whether competing at an NRCHA premier event’s Open Bridle class or at the annual World’s Greatest Horseman event. That draw helped The Run For A Million producer Taylor Sheridan decided to add the Fence Work Challenge.
For more information on the 2021The Run For A Million Fence Work Challenge, presented by Teton Ridge, visit trfam.com. The National Reined Cow Horse Association is responsible for promoting the sport and ensuring high standards of competition and continuing to work to keep the Vaquero tradition alive in today’s equine industry. The NRCHA also supports numerous affiliate clubs across the United States, Europe and abroad. For more information on events or membership, visit nrcha.com.
National Reined Cow Horse Association