When the National Reined Cow Horse Association Stakes Non-Pro preliminary cow work wrapped up Thursday morning at the South Point Equestrian Center in Las Vegas, Nev., it also determined the Champion in the Stakes Amateur division.
Stuart Bozeman, Idalou, Texas, riding Merada In Style 09 (Cats Merada x Stylish In White x Docs Stylish Oak) was sure he had finished as the Amateur Reserve Champion behind Tyler Burkey, Milford, Neb., aboard Survive These Lips (CD Survivor x Lipschic x Smart Chic Olena). The initial scores had Burkey at a 638 on three events (213 herd/210 rein/215 cow) and Bozeman at a 636.5 (217 herd/214.5/205 cow). Bozeman was surprised to learn that judges Bob Avila, Doug Ingersoll and Tom Neel adjusted his cow work score up to a 208, enough for the Championship and another accolade in his brief but impressive cow horse show career.
The Stakes championship came with a check for $1,188, a Gist buckle and a C.R. Morrison trophy sponsored by the NRCHA. Bozeman also collected the $1,000 NRCHA Champion Sire Award, because he enrolled Cats Merada for the NRCHA Subscribed Sire Program. If Bozeman continues at this pace, he’ll have to expand his trophy case; in January, he and “Squiggy” swept the NRCHA Celebration of Champions Derby in San Angelo, Texas, winning five division championships.
“Since San Angelo, he’s gotten a little stronger and a little more solid in what he’s doing,” Bozeman said. “I had a good draw in the herd so I had a lot of options on cattle. I just got in there and cut shape, but I cut three cattle I knew.” The resulting 217 was the top herd score in the Amateur division.
As he prepared Squiggy for the rein work round, Bozeman discovered the gelding had more enthusiasm than usual.
“He made me a little nervous. He was pretty wound up. I hadn’t showed him since San Angelo, and being up here in this cool mountain air, and indoors – I’m outside in 85 degrees and the wind’s blowing 50 miles an hour every day where I live, so you can wear one down pretty quick. Up here, he felt good and he was running away from other horses warming up – not like he normally is. I just tried to relax on him and not over think what I was doing. After 45 minutes or so he got where I thought he would show pretty good,” Bozeman said.
Their 214.5 rein work topped the Amateur round, but in the cow work, a difficult bovine left Bozeman wondering what he should have done differently.
“We could have made that bad cow a little bit better,” he said. “I knew it wasn’t a very good cow, but I thought I had a horse that could mark more than that on a bad cow. But I don’t know how to handle cattle going down the fence yet.”
He had show experience in cutting and versatility competition, but Bozeman only started showing reined cow horses about a year ago. He purchased Merada In Style 09 from NRCHA Hall of Fame horseman Don Murphy and his daughter, Nelle, and trained the 2008 gelding with their guidance.
The show is far from over for Bozeman and Squiggy. They are set to compete in the Level 1 Limited Open Stakes, and they have qualified for the Non-Pro, Intermediate Non-Pro and Novice Non-Pro finals on Saturday.
Burkey, the Amateur Reserve Champion, collected a check for $891. He also earned a place in all three Stakes Non-Pro division finals on Saturday.
The NRCHA Stakes, one of the five NRCHA Premier Events, boasts a payout of nearly $300,000 each year. Part of the event’s success is its tie to the NRCHA Subscribed Stallion program. Subscribed stallion owners pay a fee every year, and their 4- and 5-year-old offspring are the only horses eligible to show at the Stakes.
Stakes entries are shown in a snaffle bit or hackamore, competing in herd work, reined work and cow work. The event attracts many top Snaffle Bit Futurity horses from the past two years, as well as those who might have missed the Futurity but are now ready to perform competitively. Besides paying lucrative checks to the Stakes winners, the NRCHA also presents a monetary award to the nominator of the Stakes Champion’s sire in each division.
The NRCHA Stakes continues through Saturday, March 30, and also features a full slate of NRCHA horse show classes, a Bridle Spectacular, and American Quarter Horse Association-approved classes. For detailed information about the NRCHA Stakes, visit www.NRCHA.com.