Tammy Jo Hays has won the Non-Pro Championship at every National Reined Cow Horse Association Premier Event except one: the Snaffle Bit Futurity. That all changed Friday, Oct. 4 when Hays claimed the Futurity Non-Pro title on SDP Got Fancy Genes (RC Fancy Step x SDP I Got Good Genes x Dual Rey), a mare she owns with her father, Walter Greeman.
“I can remember watching the Snaffle Bit Futurity and thinking it was too big a dream, much less make the finals, or win it. It’s indescribable. It’s the biggest blessing. I feel beyond blessed,” Hays said, through tears.
Though the mare is well-endowed with talent, Hays said SDP Got Fancy Genes did not perform to her ability in preliminary fence work. The finals were a different story. Hays’ fence work ignited the crowd at the Reno-Sparks Livestock Events Center as the sorrel mare glued herself to the cow, finishing the run with a dramatic open-field turn and aggressive circles which unseated her petite rider.
“I nearly fell off circling! All week we’d had trouble with her in the fence work. She wasn’t good for me in the prelims. She wasn’t good for my husband in the prelims [NRCHA professional Shawn Hays, who showed the mare in the Futurity Open]. We went and schooled her. I thought I had the problem fixed, but I didn’t know I had it fixed that well,” Hays said. “She’s the very best she’s ever been today. I’m speechless. All I can say is, it had to be God. It doesn’t happen that perfectly without Him.”
Hays and SDP Got Fancy Genes also racked up another $8,400 for winning the Non-Pro Sale Incentive. Hays won the same award last year with her Futurity Intermediate Non-Pro Champion and Non-Pro Reserve Champion horse, Two Kitties (Smooth As A Cat X SR Jaguar X Doc O’Lena).
“It’s kind of a nice thing,” Hays said. “We bought [SDP Got Fancy Genes] because I wanted another sale incentive horse. I bought another one here [at the NRCHA Futurity Sales]. I think there’s a few people on to my racket – a few other non-pros bought some sale incentive horses too!”
Hays arrived in Reno with $155,767 in NRCHA earnings. Her performances at Reno augmented that number by more than $25,000, putting her total career NRCHA record right at the $181,000 mark.
She thanked her husband; her family; her veterinarians; herd helpers Phillip Ralls, Chris Dawson, Jon Roeser and Robbie Boyce; and NRCHA Hall of Fame horseman Don Murphy.
The Futurity Non-Pro Reserve Champion was Laurie Ward, Kingsburg, Calif. She rode Lites Out (Smart Little Pepinic x Justa Hot Chic x Just Plain Colonel) to a 650.5 composite (216 herd/215 rein/219.5 cow), earning $11,488.
Intermediate Non-Pro Champion
JJ Fisher, Arroyo Grande, Calif., guided Keg Of Jules (Soula Jule Star x Shes A Hickory Girl x Doc’s Hickory), a gelding he owns with his wife, Teresa, to the Intermediate Non-Pro Championship with a 637 total score (215 herd/204.5 rein/217.5 cow).
“It feels great. It’s awesome. It’s been a great year. Probably the best year I’ve ever had doing this,” Fisher said.
The Intermediate Non-Pro Championship paid $7,958 and came with a Bob’s Custom Saddle sponsored by Jerry Kimmel; a custom saddle rack sponsored by Sunmoon Ranch; a Gist buckle sponsored by the Vangelos family/Polymer Logistics; a CR Morrison Bronze sponsored by the NRCHA; a polar fleece cooler from Classic Equine; a Cinch jacket from Bob’s Custom Saddles/The New West; a 30x hat from JW Brooks Custom Hats; Platinum Equine from Platinum Performance; and Back On Track product from Back On Track.
Fisher also placed 4th in the Futurity Non-Pro, adding another $7,658 to his earnings.
“He probably struggles the most in the rein work. The first two futurities I showed him at, he drug a lead from left to right, and here, in the rein work, he drug a lead from left to right. It was my fault. The herd work is my personal weakest event. I spent a lot of time with [NRCHA professional] Phillip Ralls this past year.
He purchased “Barney” from the Level 1 Limited Open Futurity Champion, Russell Probert, last summer.
“He was his personal horse. I went to look at some other horses but I fell in love with him,” Fisher said.
Fisher’s 15-year-old son, Wyatt, and wife, Teresa, also show cow horses, and Fisher looks forward to upcoming NRCHA shows as a family affair.
“My wife is going to show my other 3-year-old, and I’m going to show this one. We’ll go to the [NRCHA Celebration of Champions] Derby in Fort Worth. My son qualified [for the NRCHA World Show] on his hackamore horse so I plan to take him down there.”
Fisher’s dual Futurity paychecks totaled $15,616 and elevated his career NRCHA earnings to nearly $90,000.
The Intermediate Non-Pro Reserve Champion was Bubba Petty, Roseburg, Ore., riding Pepinics Lil Outlaw (Smart Little Pepinic x Pand Delight x Grays Starlight). Petty scored a 637 on three events (211.5 herd/211 rein/214.5 cow), the same total score as Fisher, but the fence score tiebreaker went in Fisher’s favor. Petty earned $6,367 for the placing, and took home some prizes: a Gist buckle sponsored by Eagle Valley ABM; a Cinch jacket from Bob’s Custom Saddles/The New West; a 30x hat from JW Brooks Custom Hats; Back On Track product from Back On Track; and Platinum Equine from Platinum Performance.
Novice Non-Pro Champion
The Futurity Novice Non-Pro Champion was Betty Lou Valdez, La Junta, Colo., riding A Shooting Spark (Cinnabars Lil Lena x Gees A Shining Star x Shining Spark). They scored a 637 (208 herd/ 213 rein/219 cow) earning $1,852.
The Championship also came with a Bob’s Custom Saddle from NRCHA; a custom saddle rack sponsored by Sunmoon Ranch; a Gist buckle sponsored by Robertson Ranches; a CR Morrison Bronze sponsored by the NRCHA; a polar fleece cooler from Classic Equine; a Cinch Jacket from Bob’s Custom Saddles/The New West; a 30x hat from JW Brooks Custom Hats; Platinum Equine from Platinum Performance; and Back On track product sponsored by Back On Track.
“It’s nice to have success, and real rewarding when you find a nice colt and can ride it yourself. It’s a good feeling to know you can take a colt out there and be competitive on some level,” Valdez said.
She retired last year from her 25-year career as a special education teacher, and her new status provides more time to ride her young horses.
“I don’t have an indoor arena. part of the year, I had to dash home from school and try to ride two horses or three, or whatever I could get ridden, and a lot of times, it’s really cold. I was just very limited on the amount of time I could ride. When it looked like I was going to retire, we went ahead and bought a couple of colts I could take to the Futurity,” Valdez said.
She and her husband, Robert, also a horseman, were interested in A Shooting Spark before he was even born. They purchased him from his breeders, Justin and Leslie Hill, Peyton, Colo., who own his sire, Cinnabars Lil Lena.
Valdez rides her own horses with occasional help and coaching from NRCHA professional and Hall of Fame horseman Don Murphy. Her husband also went the extra mile to help her prepare for the competition at Reno.
“In May, the colts weren’t as far along on cattle as they needed to be. Every single morning before work, my husband would help me with those horses out of the herd or on the fence. Robert, he bought in, and helped me every day. It made a lot of difference,” she said.
Her other futurity horse, High Shining Nic (Shining Lil Nic x High Brow Meow x High Brow Cat) didn’t make the finals, but he still has a job in the Valdez family. Betty Lou’s daughter, Kelly, a champion cow horse competitor and high school rodeo competitor, will put him to work as a rope horse.
“They don’t all make show horses, but around here, we are able to give them another job,” she said.
When Tara Sagniere, Canyon, Texas, brought her home-bred mare and first futurity horse, Spark A Sunrise (Lena Spark x Kona Sunrise x SMF Lenas Award) to the NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity, she never dreamed she would bring home the Amateur Championship.
“Iti’s been amazing. I thought we’d just skirt through and get this first one out of the way. I had no idea this would be a possibility,” Sagniere said, smiling from ear to ear. “We knew she was good. We knew she had it in her. Being my first futurity, and it’s such a big event, I just wanted to get my feet wet and get through it.”
Sagniere guided “Jenny,” who is owned by the Sagniere Quarter Horse Partners, to scores of 202 in the herd work, 211.5 in the rein work and 211.5 in the cow work. The 625 composite score was tied with the Reserve Champion, Grant Lindaman II and Truckin Miraclena, but Sagniere had the higher fence score and won the tie breaker.
“She’s a natural fence horse. That part’s been easy for her. The dry work was her weakness and she really stepped it up with a 211.5 there. She got us a go-round check there. It’s all just a little overwhelming. Way more than I expected,” Sagniere said.
The Championship paid $4,225 and came with numerous prizes: a Bob’s Custom Saddle sponsored by Larry & Ellen Bell; a custom saddle rack donated by Sunmoon Ranch; a Gist Custom Buckle sponsored by Missy Capone; a CR Morrison Trophy from the NRCHA; a Classic Equine Polar Fleece Cooler from Classic Equine; a monogrammed Cinch jacket from Bob’s Custom Saddles/ The New West; Platinum Performance Equine sponsored by Platinum Performance; Back On Track products from Back On Track; a custom framed Western print from John Arnoldussen of In Cahoots Gallery; and a 30x Hat from JW Brooks Custom Hats.
Sagniere trained Spark A Sunrise with help from Zeb Corvin, who stayed home from Reno awaiting the birth of his child. While competing at the Futurity, Sagniere relied on help from her childhood cow horse trainer, Lyn Anderson, who coached Sagniere from age 12 through 21. Sagniere also reconnected with some old friends; top NRCHA non-pro Tish Wilhite and her mother, Jo, who guided Sagniere’s earliest riding career.
“Tish and Jo Wilhite taught me to ride when I was five, and got me into cow horse with Lyn. It’s been a special event,” she said. “I want to thank my family and friends for being so supportive, and Zeb for all of his help.”
The Amateur Reserve Champions, Lindaman and Truckin Miraclena (NMSU Truckin Chex x Little Miraclena x Smart Retsina), scored a 207 in the herd work, 214 in the rein work and 204 in the cow work. They took home $3,380, a Gist Custom Buckle sponsored by Crawford Performance Horses/Todd & Pam Crawford; a monogrammed Cinch jacket from Bob’s Custom Saddles/ The New West; Platinum Performance Equine sponsored by Platinum Performance; Back On Track products from Back On Track; and a 30x hat from JW Brooks Custom Hats.
Non-Pro Limited Champion
The Non-Pro Limited Futurity, a herd work/rein work/boxing division for competitors who are not ready or able to compete in the ultimate challenge of the fence work, made its debut in Reno this year. The first ever NRCHA Non-Pro Limited Futurity Champion is Nicole Petty, Roseburg, Ore., who returned to cow horse competition after a five-year hiatus.
Petty rode Tangy Chexinic (Tangys Classy Peppy x Bueno Double Oakie x Bueno Chexinic), a gelding she owns with her husband, Bubba, to scores of 207 in the herd work, 214.5 in the rein work and 210 in the boxing. The combined 631.5 score paid $1,280.
“I have a lot of health problems, and going down the fence was not an option for me any more. In order for me to show in the NRCHA, I had to get my Non-Pro Limited card back. I was very excited that the NRCHA added this 3-year-old event. You still feel included even though you can’t go down the fence any more,” Petty said.
The Pettys bought Tangy Chexinic at the 2011 NRCHA Classic Yearling & Broodmare sale. He was a narrow, homely, big-headed colt, but there was something about him Nicole liked. The Pettys bought him for $1,400. He developed into a solid performer, and quiet-natured enough that the Pettys’ 3-year-old son rides him daily.
“He was a rough 2-year-old but Bubba got him really broke for me. Bubba was going to show him initially, but he found a different one, so I ended up with him back. He wanted to be amazing in the herd. I was super scared, and totally screwed up my first cut, but once I got settled back down he was great. He’s really good on a cow. In the rein work, he was as good as I could have asked. In the boxing, our cow didn’t want to move. It never even looked at us, but he stayed good and honest.”
Petty thanked her family and friends for their support as she returned to the competitive arena.
“There is a huge group of people who made tis possible. My husband, who got my horse so broke for me, and Lance Johnston – he’s been our dear friend and trainer for a lot of years, and my mother-in-law. If it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be able to ride, since I have three kids [ages 7 years to 20 months]. She comes and takes care of the kids every day so I can ride my horse.”
The Non-Pro Limited Championship came with a Bob’s Custom Saddle sponsored by Wilson & Susan Lyle; a custom saddle rack donated by Sunmoon Ranch; a Gist buckle sponsored by Chandler Ranch/Linda Wood & Polly Potocar; a CR Morrison Trophy from the NRCHA; a Classic Equine Polar Fleece Cooler from Classic Equine; a onogrammed Cinch jacket from Bob’s Custom Saddles/ The New West; Platinum Equine sponsored by Platinum Performance; Back On Track products from Back On Track; and a 30x hat from JW Brooks Custom Hats.
The Non-Pro Limited Futurity Reserve Champion was Katie Wilson, riding High To You (Mr Boonsmal To You x MK Cats Little Kitty x High Brow Cat). They scored a 627 composite (205 herd/211 rein/211 cow). The Reserve Championship paid $960 and came with a Gist custom buckle from the NRCHA; a monogrammed Cinch jacket from Bob’s Custom Saddles/ The New West; Platinum Equine from Platinum Performance; Back On Track products from Back On Track; and a 30x Hat from JW Brooks Custom Hats.