As Tish Wilhite was preparing her gelding, The Fresno Fox, for the 2010 National Reined Cow Horse Association Snaffle Bit Futurity Horse Show Non Pro Hackamore class, she saw friend and fellow Non Pro Patty Ralls walk by carrying hanks of turquoise hair.
“I asked her what she was carrying and she told me they were for Layla,” Wilhite said.
On Sunday, September 19, Layla Adams, the wife of 2006 World’s Greatest Horseman Andy Adams, died unexpectedly at the age of 37. Stunned and saddened, the reined cow horse community came together to raise money to help the family with expenses and develop a scholarship fund for daughter Casady.
In memory of Layla, many at the Snaffle Bit donned turquoise ribbons. Ralls had the idea to sell bits of turquoise-dyed hair that the exhibitors could tie into the manes and tails of their horses.
“I bought both and immediately put them in ‘Shorty’s’ mane and tail,” Wilhite said. “Layla had been a friend and I really hadn’t cried about it but as soon as I started putting that colored hair in, tears just started flowing.”
As Wilhite and Shorty, by Heart Of A Fox and out of Oaks Jewel Doll, entered the arena as draw 17 of 20, Heather Livingston and Soula Jule Girl were leading with a combined score of 289.5. Before heading in, Brandon Staebler, who has been helping Wilhite with her rein work, told her to be sure to run Shorty to his stops, get his nose in the turn-arounds and be smart.
“On his second stop, he kind of started to shorten his stride a little bit so I kicked him and clucked to him and the horse reacted a little more than I thought he would so he kind of shot out and I said ‘Whoa’ and my timing was off, so it wasn’t pretty but everything else I really liked. He ran his circles pretty and he came back real nice.”
Lance Johnston has been helping Wilhite with her cow work and had even taken on Shorty for the last month.
“I have always trained all of my own horses before and I was having some issues with cows with this horse. So I put him in training with Lance and we have actually come a really long way because we were having some pretty major issues that got us at the Derby. So since Lance had had him for a month, he came up to me before I went in. I’m waiting for all this advice and he said just watch your cow and use your head.”
The first cow into the pen made Wilhite a little nervous.
“It scared me,” she recalled. “I boxed it, and the horse was real good on the boxing. I felt I was right where I should be and the cow shut down.”
Fortunately, the judges saw it the same way as Wilhite and gave her a new cow.
“The second cow came out and didn’t have a lot of feel in the box,” she said. “It kind of hung in the corner, so I really had to holler at it to get it to go. Pretty soon it took off and away it went. Huge left turn, huge right turn, and he circled really, really nice. I couldn’t have asked for anything more in the cow work. It was way cool.”
As the buzzer sounded to mark the end of her run, Wilhite brought her hand to her lips, kissed her fingers and raised them to the heaven. The tears were running down her cheeks again.
“This run was for Layla,” Wilhite said.
But it was for herself as well.
Wilhite and her beloved gelding Hes A Smokin Indian had always been close to winning before at the Snaffle Bit Futurity Horse Show but had never quite done it.
“We would be in the lead and then end up getting beaten by a half-point,” she said.
So with a rein work score of 142 and cow work score of 148, Wilhite and Shorty were in the lead again. She wouldn’t let anyone congratulate her.
“There were still three more horses to go. I didn’t want to be jinxed.”
But the 290 composite held, giving Wilhite her first Snaffle Bit Futurity Horse Show win along with a check for $4,020, a C.R. Morrison trophy, Bob’s Custom Saddle sponsored by Cathy Corrigan Frank, a Gist Silversmiths buckle sponsored by Dick Hershman, a horse hair mecate from Krause Mecates, a monogrammed Cinch vest sponsored by Bob’s Custom Saddles, and Platinum Performance.
“I was always the bridesmaid but I’m finally the bride,” Wilhite said. “But for me, this win will always be for Layla.”
Heather Livingston and Soula Jule Girl took the Non Pro Hackamore Reserve Championship with a 289.5 total, having marked a 145.5 in the rein work and a 144 in the cow work. Livingston and the Soula Jule Star mare, out of Okies Hickory Girl, took home $3,216, a horse hair mecate sponsored by Krause Mecates, a monogrammed Cinch vest from Bob’s Custom Saddles, Platinum Performance, and a C.R. Morrison commemorative medallion.
The National Reined Cow Horse Association, the governing body of cow horse competition, is responsible for promoting the sport, insuring high standards of competition and educating members and the public about the history and tradition of the cow horse. Through the support of a Corporate Partner family that includes Adequan, Bob’s Custom Saddles, Cinch, Classic Equine, Gist Silversmiths, John Deere, Markel Insurance, MD Barns, Merial products ULCERGARD and EQUIOXX, Nutrena, Pfizer Animal Health, Platinum Performance, Quarter Horse News, Rios of Mercedes, Running W Designs, the Silver Legacy, and Wide World of Horses, the Association works to keep the vaquero tradition alive in today’s equine industry.
For information on the National Reined Cow Horse Association, call 580-759-4949 or visit the NRCHA Official website at www.nrcha.com.