Tammy Jo Hays is an accomplished non-pro cow horse competitor with numerous titles on her resume, including the 2010 National Reined Cow Horse Association Derby Non-Pro Championship and the 2012 NRCHA Futurity Intermediate Non-Pro Championship. But the NRCHA Stakes had not historically been kind to the Nocona, Texas, horsewoman; she had never qualified for the Non-Pro finals at this event.
Hays broke her Stakes curse with a vengeance in Las Vegas, Nev., when she rode her mare, Two Kitties (Smooth As A Cat x SR Jaguar) owned in partnership with her father, Walter Greeman, to the Stakes Non-Pro Championship with a total 646.5, earning $6,474. The title also came with a Bob’s Custom Saddle, Gist buckle and CR Morrison Trophy from the NRCHA; a pair of boots sponsored by Rios of Mercedes; and a $50 gift certificate and cooler bag sponsored by Santa Cruz Biotechnologies.
“I’m thrilled! I’m blessed beyond my wildest dreams,” Hays said. “I’m really proud of my horse.”
The NRCHA Champion Sire Award, a $1,000 check and CR Morrison Trophy, goes to the Manion Ranch, who owns Two Kitties’ sire, Smooth As A Cat, and enrolled him in the NRCHA Subscribed Stallion program.
Hays and Two Kitties won the Stakes Non-Pro preliminary round and continued to dominate in the finals. Though they drew last in the herd work, Two Kitties impressed the judges to the tune of a 220, the high score of the round. The stellar work helped steady Hays’ nerves, which she admitted were in overdrive as she prepared to compete.
“I was more nervous than I have been in a long time, because I’ve never made the Non-Pro finals at the Stakes and I was last in the set,” she said. “I thank God, my husband and my herd help – Chris Dawson, Robbie Boyce, Jake Gorrell and Jon Roeser. The herd work was the score that put me over the top today, and you cannot do this well without good herd help.”
Following her help’s advice paid off for Hays in the herd wrok. The cows she selected were ideal for her cowy, talented mare.
“There was nothing she didn’t do perfect. She was always in the right spot. If you get her in the right position in the herd, it’s easy to ride her,” Hays said.
In the rein work, Two Kitties spun and slid her way to a 213.5, again, the high score of the round. Hays said the stop is not the mare’s strongest maneuver, but she makes up for it in almost every other way.
“She turns around really big. I know that she’s so good in the herd and down the fence, that if I can just get along in the reining, and plus my turnarounds, it might save me. She worked really well for me today. She was honest and quiet,” Hays said.
The judges whistled Hays a second cow in the fence work, and she was pleased with how Two Kitties handled it.
“It was one I had picked in the herd, and I knew it was soft but would probably head. It did, to the left, and then we didn’t have the best right turn, which was my fault – I should have ridden by and committed to that turn a little more, but then she followed through on everything else and made a good run,” she said.
Hays bought the quirky mare, nicknamed “Whiskers” for her loathing of clippers, in a trade for another horse and a couple of yearlings. They won the NRCHA Futurity Intermediate Open Championship together last year, and next on their show schedule is a trip to the Hackamore Classic in Pueblo, Colo., in May.