When the last horse rode out of the historic Will Rogers Coliseum at the 2022 National Reined Cow Horse Association Snaffle Bit Futurity®, presented by Metallic Cat, it closed the door on a record-breaking year for NRCHA premier event entries and purses awarded, and did so in style. For the third straight year, the annual futurity saw a rise in entries, and in 2022 more than $1,000,000 was awarded in added money and prizes in Youth, Non Pro and Open classes during the show.
The final of the five annual premier NRCHA events produced by the nationwide organization brought the top 3-year-old horses to Fort Worth, Texas, to compete for the largest cow horse futurity purse to date, with the Open Futurity Champion Tornado Jonez, owned by Brandy Ragland and shown by Lee Deacon, being awarded $200,000, and the Non Pro Champion Debbie Crafton, taking home $40,000.
Paired with the Hackamore Classic, presented by Oswood Stallion Station, the 17-day show capped off a year that saw rising entry numbers in limited age events and horse show classes alike. Compared to 2021, when 95 Open Hackamore Classic entries vied for the title and purse, roan stallion Tee Boone, owned by J.T. III (Trey) and Sandra Neal and ridden by Jay McLaughlin, bested a field of 119 other entries to earn this year’s win.
It is a positive trend of increasing reined cow horse entries, and resulting increase in membership numbers.
“Cow horse has been on the rise for several years, and our premier events have seen exponential growth in entries and purses over the past two years thanks to incredible support from our sponsors and the NRCHA Board of Directors,” said Anna Morrison, NRCHA executive director. “We chalk the growth up to many factors, not the least of which is the amazing group of welcoming, down-to-earth members we have. While the sport is challenging, our members make it easy to throw your hat in the ring as a newcomer to the cow horse family.”
The excitement surrounding the cow horse, which requires an athletic and versatile horse to cut, rein and go down the fence working a cow, is catching the eye of riders in other areas of the industry. In August, cow horse competitors qualified to compete in a 16-rider 2022 Cow Horse Challenge produced at The Run For A Million. The two qualifying events—held at NRCHA’s Teton Ridge Stallion Stakes in March in Las Vegas, Nevada, and in June at the DT Horses Western Derby in Scottsdale, Arizona, brought out more than 90 bridle horses—the penultimate trained cow horse—trying to make it to the August event.
With a sell-out crowd watching the Cow Horse Challenge at The Run For A Million likened to the regularly sold-out crowd seen at the 2022 Hashtags and Western Bloodstock World’s Greatest Horseman event in Fort Worth, it was clear cow horse could draw spectators no matter the location. The World’s Greatest Horseman, held in February, also saw riders that have made their name in the National Cutting Horse Association and in Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association try their hand at the four-discipline special event, riders like Jesse Lennox and Dakota Kirkenschlager. In 2022, that event, like most of the premier events, saw the largest field ever drawn to compete for the prestigious title, which was first awarded in 1999.
And, in March 2023 when the top five NRCHA riders based on earnings from 2022 compete at the Teton Ridge-produced American Performance Horseman held at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas, the most versatile Western performance event will once again take center stage.
“We’ve all been eagerly watching the top open riders list to see who would earn a spot at The American Performance Horseman,” said Morrison. “We can’t wait to see our top cow horses and riders compete at Globe Life along with the top cutters and reiners in a brand new format and on a massive stage.”
Though the American Performance Horseman may be the biggest new event on the horizon for 2023, it won’t kick off the year for cow horse competitors. That is reserved for the Kalpowar Quarter Horses Celebration of Champions, which concludes the NRCHA 2022 show year by crowning World and National Champions in all cow horse classes, as well as host the Tres Osos Cow Horse Derby; the Western Bloodstock, BDB Breeders and Hashtags World’s Greatest Horseman; and the World’s Greatest Youth Horseman, presented by MARS Equestrian™. In short, the best of the best in reined cow horse are coming back to Texas in February.
“The Celebration of Champions is a great way to wrap up the 2022 show season and keep the momentum going for 2023,” said Emily Konkel, premier event manager. “In just one show, we crown 16 NRCHA World and National Champions and kick off the 2023 show year with a record-breaking check of $150,000 to the 2023 World’s Greatest Horseman. In 2022, we saw an increase in entries and payouts at nearly all our NRCHA premier events and can’t wait to see what the 2023 show year has in store for cow horse.”
From Texas, cow horses travel to the Teton Ridge Stallion Stakes in Las Vegas, Nevada, held March 24 through April 1; and on to the Western Derby in Scottsdale, Arizona, May 31 through June 10. The show year continues into the summer with the Dom Conicelli Memorial Eastern Derby, presented by MARS Equestrian™, before coming back to the cornerstone premier event, the Snaffle Bit Futurity®, in October.
Follow along with the events at nrcha.com, where you can not only view the show schedule but watch the events live, view draws, scores and results at NRCHA Scoring powered by The Animal, and read the association’s magazine, Reined Cow Horse News, online.
About the National Reined Cow Horse Association
Based in Pilot Point, Texas, the National Reined Cow Horse Association was formed in 1949 in California, with the goal of preserving and educating the public about the rich history of this traditional horsemanship. The NRCHA 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. These groups serve as the association’s backbone, holding many NRCHA-sanctioned competitions and events each year. For more information on these events and reined cow horse, visit nrcha.com.
National Reined Cow Horse Association
Media & Communications Manager