Twice Is Nice
Tammy Jo Hays advances two horses to 2014 Snaffle Bit Futurity Discount Tire Non Pro Finals, winning her second consecutive Championship with Miss Prize Maker and claiming third place aboard CR Wood B N Caicos.
Tammy Jo Hays, Nocona, Texas, arrived at the 2014 Snaffle Bit Futurity in Reno, Nev., as the No. 1 Non Pro on the National Reined Cow Horse Association Top Riders list, with nearly $62,000 earned in the last three show seasons. Hays further solidified her position at the top of the charts when she guided two horses to the Discount Tire Non Pro finals. She claimed her second consecutive Non Pro Championship with Miss Prize Maker (Topsails Rien Maker x Miss Colonels Prize x Smokums Prize), and placed third on CR Wood B N Caicos (Woody B Tuff x Dees Cats Meow x High Brow Cat).
Hays and Miss Prize Maker, a mare she owns in partnership with her father, Walt Greeman, earned a composite 643 score (210 herd/216 rein/218 cow), taking home $17,762. They also won an original C.R. Morrison Bronze trophy, sponsored by Brandon and Sophia Buttars; a Bob’s Custom Saddle sponsored by Holy Cow Performance Horses; a Gist buckle from Jon and Jody Semper; a cooler from Classic Equine; a Cinch jacket; a 100x hat from JW Brooks Custom Hats, and product from Back On Track, Platinum Performance and Santa Cruz Animal Health.
On CR Wood B N Caicos, Hays scored a 641 (213.5 herd/210.5 rein/217 cow), earning the third-place $11,102 check.
“I feel very blessed and I don’t know how a person can possibly get to this position without feeling like God put you here. I know I feel that way,” Hays said.
The road to the Futurity finals was a bumpy one for Miss Prize Maker; in fact, it was astonishing that she was able to compete in Reno at all. Over the summer, following a routine vaccination against rabies, the mare suffered a rare autoimmune reaction that caused her back muscles to tie up, and then waste away.
“The week before [the NRCHA Derby in June], her back muscles tied up super tight. You could have poured water on her back and it would have stood. That’s how swelled up her back was,” Hays said. Although lateral movement caused mild discomfort, Miss Prize Maker was, for the most part, pain-free, able to eat and walk around normally.
Hays and her husband, NRCHA professional trainer Shawn Hays, took Miss Prize Maker to ESMS On The Brazos for treatment. Her care was overseen by Reese Hand, DVM.
“He had never seen anything like it. He consulted with Dr. Stephanie Valberg in Minnesota, a specialist in muscle tie-ups. She knew exactly what was going on. She said it was probably an autoimmune reaction to the rabies vaccine. She said we were going to have to give her steroids, and said, ‘Just so you know, her muscles are going to literally melt right before your eyes,’” Hays said.
Tammy Jo and Shawn were already in Paso Robles, Calif., for the NRCHA Derby when Miss Prize Maker’s diagnosis and treatment began.
“[Dr. Hand] was relaying all this information to me and sending me pictures. It was horrible. They gave her steroids and 12 hours later, she looked like an old, swaybacked 30-year-old horse.”
Hays gave up her plan to show Miss Prize Maker at the Futurity, and instead focused on recovery and rehabilitation. She had a glimmer of hope from equine veterinarian and NRCHA board member Dr. Joe Carter, who said there was a chance the muscles could rebuild as quickly as they had disappeared. Dr. Hand and the ESMS On The Brazos team put Miss Prize Maker on a swimming therapy regimen, then sent her home in mid-July with the green light for a gentle return to riding. While the mare’s wasted back had never seemed painful, she was, not surprisingly, very weak at first.
“I wasn’t planning to show her – just take it easy and rehab her. When I started riding her, she could do everything she did before. She could stop, she could turn around, she could work a cow, but she felt really unstable – wobbly. She just got better super fast. You could almost see the muscles building as fast as they melted away. To look at her now, the only way you would know anything happened is a little scar where they did a muscle biopsy,” Hays said.
Miss Prize Maker delivered throughout the Non Pro finals, and proved that she is on the road to a complete physical recovery with her performance in the herd.
“When she hurt her back, she could still slide and hold the ground, but to be able to really push back and draw back – she lost quite a bit of that. For me, the herd work, even though it was the low score of the three events in the finals, was the big accomplishment of the day because it shows me she’s getting better and better. We worked three nice cows. I was really, really proud of that,” Hays said.
Miss Prize Maker consistently shines in the rein work, and turned in another above-average run for Hays when she needed it.
“She’s really easy to show. She gives you lots of confidence. I love having a horse that you can take the reining and stick it in your hip pocket and know you’re going to have a score, and she’s one of those horses,” Hays said. “When I started in for the fence work, I didn’t know what the scores were or who was sitting where. I watched some of the bridle runs. I knew people were having trouble. Shawn told me to be smart, don’t try to be a hero, and just use my head and work the cow. It had a lot of feel, my horse let me handle her, and it came together really good.”
With her Snaffle Bit Futurity earnings, Hays’ lifetime NRCHA money is nearly $220,000. She won the 2013 Snaffle Bit Futurity Non Pro Championship aboard SDP Got Fancy Genes (RC Fancy Step x SDP I Got Good Genes x Dual Rey). In 2014, Hays and Two Kitties (Smooth As A Cat x SR Jaguar x Doc O’Lena) were the NRCHA Stakes Non Pro Champions, and then Hays teamed up again with SDP Got Fancy Genes to win the 2014 NRCHA Derby Non Pro title.
Hays credited a team of professional horsemen for their role in her success.
“My husband – he really did most of the work on Miss Prize Maker. I couldn’t have done this without him. [Assistant trainer] Cody Patterson worked really hard, too, shifting horses back and forth. I have to thank [NRCHA Hall of Fame horseman] Don Murphy, who is always there consulting us. My herd help: Phillip Ralls, Ron Ralls, Chris Dawson and Jon Roeser. They’ve been my team for several years now. There is no way you can do well in the herd without a good team behind you, and they’re great. I always want to thank God. To me, it’s insane to think that anybody is talented enough or lucky enough or any of those things to have a couple of years like the last two years I have had,” she said.
Intermediate Non Pro Champion/Non Pro Reserve Champion
Big Piney, Wyo., cattle rancher and horseman Mike Miller returned to the National Reined Cow Horse Association Snaffle Bit Futurity after a two-year hiatus, winning the Discount Tire Futurity Intermediate Non Pro title and taking Reserve in the Non Pro aboard Firecat Flashenfever (Playboys Buck Fever x Firecat Cash x Miss N Cash), a gelding bred and owned by Miller and his wife, Tara.
Miller scored a combined 641.5 (213 herd/210.5 rein/ 218 cow), winning the cow work round, on his way to a $13,322 payday for the Non Pro Reserve Championship and another $8,731 check for the Intermediate title.
“I wish there were a few things I could have improved to win the Non Pro, but I’m very happy with what happened. Whenever you compete, you wish you could have changed a thing or two here or there, but my horse felt real good. He did everything I asked,” Miller said. “He’s a really nice colt. He’s so easy. Easiest one I think I’ve ever had. He never got excited. He’s sure been enjoyable to train.”
For the Non Pro Reserve placing, Miller also claimed a Gist buckle sponsored by Dom Conicelli; a jacket from Cinch; a 30x JW Brooks Custom Hat; and product from Santa Cruz Animal Health. His Intermediate Non Pro Champion prizes were a Bob’s Custom Saddle sponsored by Cable Creek Ranch/Cindy Warn; a CR Morrison Trophy sponsored by JT and Sandra Neal; a cooler from Classic Equine; another Cinch jacket; and product from Platinum Performance and Back On Track.
The Millers raised and showed Firecat Flashenfever’s sire, Playboys Buck Fever (Freckles Playboy x Tsarina Chexanic x Reminic), a NRCHA Supreme Reined Cow Horse and proven sire. Both Mike and Tara have achieved success with “Buck Fever” babies in multiple disciplines, but the demands of their Wyoming cattle operation have put showing on the back burner in recent years.
“We’re busier than we used to be with our ranch. I leased another ranch, and just haven’t had the time to really get my horses broke,” Miller said. I enjoy the ranch life and the ranch work, but I also enjoy [showing]. I think I’ll be an every-other-year [Snaffle Bit Futurity] man. It’s changed so much since I started. Used to be, you could bring a really nice ranch horse here and be able to compete, but it’s way beyond that point now.”
According to NRCHA records, Miller’s cow horse show career dates back to at least 1998. His Reno earnings in 2014 elevate his lifetime money beyond the $553,000 mark. The veteran competitor was able to laugh about a moment during the Futurity prelims when he came dangerously close to missing the fence work.
“That was terrible!” Miller said, smiling. “I was out there in the practice pen and I’m riding around. I asked a few people if we were still in the second set. About 30 seconds later, I hear them say, ‘Mike Miller – first call.’ You can kind of hear out there, not real good, but you hear your own name good, you know? So here I come. When I got to the top of the tunnel, it was third call.”
Miller borrowed a pair of chaps from fellow non pro Randy Gamble, who had just finished his fence run. He hastily unbraided his gelding’s tail, hustled into the arena, and made the high-scoring fence run of the Non Pro prelims, a 221.
“It worked out. Luckily, they let me go,” he said.
If it fits in with the schedule on the ranch, Miller plans to show Firecat Flashenfever as a 4- and 5-year-old.
“I’d like to go to either the Stakes or the Derby if I can, whichever one doesn’t show up in calving. There are times of the year we just can’t get away. I’d like to show him some more.”
The Intermediate Non Pro Reserve Champion was Molly Russell, Creston, Calif., who rode Sister Siera (Doc At Night x Sierras Lullabye x Had A Larrabee) to a composite 629 (203 herd/212 rein/214 cow), earning $6,548. Molly also took home a 30x JW Brooks Custom Hat, a jacket from Cinch, and product from Back On Track and Platinum Performance.
Novice Non Pro Champion
Karey Franz and her mare, LA Shinning (Shiners Lena Doc x Sweet Kwackin Trona x Little Trona) had not had much time to get to know each other before competing at the Snaffle Bit Futurity. Franz bought the mare in May from breeder David Pratt, Walnut Ridge, Ark. Asked about how she approached a new horse, a big show and a tight time frame, she replied with a smile and two words: “Don Murphy.”
With help from the iconic NRCHA Hall of Fame Horseman, Franz quickly developed LA Shinning into a futurity contender, qualifying for both the Intermediate and Novice Non Pro finals.
In the herd work, their strongest event, Franz and the sorrel mare scored a 213, but a little trouble in the rein work left them with a 200.5. A strong rebound down the fence, in the form of a 214.5, was enough to secure the Novice title and 3rd place in the Intermediate.
Franz took home combined paychecks of $8,167 and some great prizes: a Bob’s Custom Saddle sponsored by Mattie Neal; a Gist buckle sponsored by Robertson Ranches; a 30x JW Brooks Custom Hat; a CR Morrison Trophy, a cooler from Classic Equine, a jacket from Cinch, and product from Back On Track and Platinum Performance.
The Novice Non Pro Reserve Champion was Shannon McCarty, riding Chicaroo Kitty (Hick Chicaroo x Kat Five x High Brow Cat). They scored a total 624.5 (213 herd/205.5 rein/206 cow), earning $2,168. McCarty also claimed another $4,366 for 4th place in the Intermediate Non Pro. Her prizes included a Gist buckle, a 30x JW Brooks Custom Hat and product from Back On Track.
Spursuasion and Shadd Parkinson team up to win Snaffle Bit Futurity Open Bridle Championship
While the focus of the Snaffle Bit Futurity is the 3-year-olds, the event in Reno also offers a full slate of classes for hackamore, two rein and bridle horses. With more than $33,000 added to these divisions, the caliber of competition is always high. A show highlight and crowd favorite is the Open Bridle class, where veteran equine athletes and top trainers compete for the prestigious championship.
A field of 38 elite bridle horses showed in the preliminary round, and only the top 10 advanced to the finals, where it took a 431.5 score or better to qualify. The finalists represented a formidable group of NRCHA performers, including a past Snaffle Bit Futurity Champion, American Quarter Horse Association World Champions and NRCHA World’s Greatest Horseman finalists.
In the end, it was the oldest horse in the finals who reunited with his original trainer to win the championship. Scottsdale, Ariz., professional Shadd Parkinson and Spursuasion, a 2001 gelding Parkinson has known since he was foaled and shown for his entire career, scored an impressive 437.5 on two events (215.5 rein/222 cow) for the title.
Spursuasion (Ray Gay Quixote x Mist N Smoke x Doc Tom Tucker) brought home a $6,860 check for owner Lindsay Wadhams, Pueblo, Colo. He also won a Bob’s Custom Saddle, a Gist buckle sponsored by Debby Sanguinetti and Tish Wilhite; and product from Back On Track, Platinum Performance and Santa Cruz Animal Health.
“My parents [Dorn and Debra Parkinson] and I raised him. I showed him as a 3-year-old. I won a bunch on him at the reining futurity and in the cow horse derbies. Susie Johns owned him for four or five years, and then Lindsay bought him and she’s been showing him and winning everything in the Non Pro,” Parkinson said.
Wadhams initially did not plan for her gelding to make the trip to Reno. But when Wadhams’ best friend, Christa Hampton, also a client of Parkinson’s, entered the Non Pro Limited in Reno, Wadhams decided she would join the fun, to not only cheer on her college friend, but also her horse in the Open Bridle.
The gelding, known as “Booger” around the barn, made an unforgettable last hurrah in the show pen.
“In the rein work, he’s always good. It’s basically point and kick with him,” Parkinson said.
In the cow work, Parkinson made the unusual choice to go down the fence on the same side as the judges.
“The cow came out, and he was a little bravo in the boxing. On the far side [the judges’ side] he kept wanting to hit me harder and harder. I thought, okay, if you want to go down that side, I guess we can. I’m glad it all worked out.”
Parkinson said his enduring relationship with “Booger” made the win even more special.
“There’s nothing prouder than to have a horse who has been this good, this long. There have been a lot of horses come and gone that have been more talented in a short period of time, but I don’t know if there’s been one more consistent over the 10 years. We call him Booger for a reason. He’s into everything. Every time you show him, it’s like the first time he’s been out there. He likes to look, but all in a good way. He enjoys every experience like he’s never done it before. It makes it real refreshing and fun to be around.”
Parkinson thanked Wadhams for letting him show Spursuasion. “I also have to thank my wife, Mackenzie, my little girl, Gracie, all the people at the ranch who have helped me along the way, and everyone who has kept a horse in training with me.”
Limited Open Bridle
A Non Pro competitor stepped outside her division to win the Limited Open Bridle Championship. Westcliffe, Colo., horsewoman Kassi Ryff piloted her gelding, Chico Flo (Chic Please x Scarlet Flo x Mr Peponita Flo) to a 431 (213 rein/218 cow) to win the title.
The Limited Open Bridle Championship paid $1,275 and came with a Gist buckle, sponsored by Estelle Roitblat in memory of Harold Farren, as well as product from Back On Track and Platinum Performance.