When Sonya DiStefano wrapped up her preliminary runs, scoring a 632.5 at the 2016 NRCHA Derby, she not only qualified for the Novice Non Pro finals – she also earned the Amateur Championship!
DiStefano, a 17-year-old from Calgary, Alberta, Canada, is showing in her first NRCHA Premier Limited Age Event on her first derby horse, who she has only been riding for a couple of months – but she didn’t let the pressure keep her from shining in the show pen.
“I was intimidated and nervous to come here for the first time, because I haven’t showed in a big derby, just our local ones. I just showed my horse like I did at home, and he was good,” the polite, soft-spoken teen said.
Riding her new horse, Reys Stylish Bell (Dual Rey x Blues Stylish Bell x Doc’s Stylish Oak), DiStefano earned $1,268 when she scored a 632.5 composite (217 herd/215 rein/200 cow). The Amateur Championship also came with a Gist buckle and gift certificates from Platinum Performance and San Juan Ranch/Santa Cruz Animal Health.
“My horse was really good in the rein work and really good in the herd work. We had a little tough luck down the fence, but we had enough of a lead from our first two events that we were able to hold our spot in the Amateur,” DiStefano said.
She has been riding with Canadian professional Cody McArthur for the past three years. DiStefano started her NRCHA career showing a bridle horse, and when she was ready to shop for a derby horse, McArthur thought Reys Stylish Bell, who belonged to his wife, Farrah, might be a good match. The deal was made, and DiStefano took her new horse’s reins in April, after the NRCHA Stakes in Las Vegas, Nevada.
“I love him. I couldn’t be happier. He’s so sweet and easy to ride, and he does his job. You don’t have to train hard on him. He’s calm and relaxed and talented,” she said, describing the horse known as “Trouble” around the barn. “I’m hoping to do the Idaho Reined Cow Horse Association Derby [in October], and I’m hoping to get him qualified in the hackamore to go to the NRCHA World Show. Then he’ll be a bridle horse and I want to do spectaculars and everything with him, so I”m very excited for the future with him.”
DiStefano thanked her support group, both in the barn and at home, for helping her achieve her dreams.
“My mom and dad are so supportive of what I do, and the horses and the training and traveling. They’re so great. My coach, Cody, is amazing. I love him – he’s taught me so much, and Farrah has been a huge support.”