The Second Annual Wild Card Reining Challenge, Las Vegas

Provided by: BMG Events
Performance photos courtesy of Waltenberry Photography
Candid photos courtesy of BMG Events.

The 2017 Wild Card Reining Challenge and Tamarack Ranch 4 Year Old Futurity at the incredible South Point Arena, Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada marked a successful second year when it increased an overall 85%. That large jump wasn’t quite expected, but was a huge blessing and an indication that this new event is being welcomed with open arms by the reining community. The Wild Card Reining Challenge is a game changer for reining horses and their riders. The focus on the 4 year old Reiner with huge payouts, educational seminars and a fun, family friendly environment drew participants from all over the U.S., Canada and even spectators from England and the Netherlands.

The show started out with two slates of NRHA Affiliate Qualifiers under the Desert Reining Horse Association. Dunit In Wranglers with rider owner Melissa Wigen from Plain City Utah won both slates of the Novice Horse Level 2 Non Pro and ultimately the High Point Championship. Melissa’s accomplishments in the show pen are remarkable considering that not long ago she had a devastating horse accident which has resulted in multiple surgeries. Just eight weeks prior to the Wild Card event Melissa was in surgery once again. Not only has she had to recover physically, but regain her self-confidence. Her horse Dunit In Wranglers has given Melissa that confidence and she is so very grateful. “I have a nice horse and I am thankful everything came together,” states Wigen. “I absolutely love Brumley shows. The staff treats their exhibitors so nicely. They put so much work into the ground and you can tell that they care about their exhibitors. The prizes are also over the top. Brumley events are by far my favorite shows.”

Rookie competition was tough. “The Rookie and Green divisions are some of my favorites,” commented Amanda Brumley, producer of the Wild Card Reining Challenge. “I love to see new faces in our sport, as the grass roots of our industry are vital to its success.” Newcomer to the Reining world is Wendy Claus from Scottsdale, Arizona. Wendy spent 30 years riding cutting horses. The Wild Card was Wendy’s fifth reining competition. Wendy and her horse Drag N Tail swept the DRHA Rookie division winning the High Point Championship custom trophy buckle and Bob’s Custom Trophy Saddle. Wendy was also Reserve High Point Champion DRHA Green As Grass and Green Reiner. “We bred and raised my horse Drag N Tail (a.k.a. Batman)” states Claus. “In fact I showed his dam and grand-dam in cuttings as far back as 1984. It’s incredibly rewarding to have this line of horses in my own family for more than 30 years. The only saddle I own is a cutting saddle, so it definitely was a dream come true to win my very own Bob’s Custom Reining saddle in Vegas!”

Another highlight of BMG Events is the Non Pro Maturity, sponsored by SmartPak. The Maturity offers horses 7 years of age and older, Arabian 6 years of age and older, a place to shine. Kevin Rosenbaum from Scottsdale, Arizona and his steady-Eddie gelding Rolex N Chex claimed the Championships in the Level 4, 3, and 2 divisions winning a total of $1,384.44, three trophy buckles, custom trophies, ribbons, and lots of horse cookies. “We really appreciate that these events run so smoothly,” states Rosenbaum. “I’d like to thank BMG Events for being the first to create a special event for the 4 year olds, while also making the maturity an important part of all your shows. Thank you to Brumley Management and the amazing sponsors that make these prizes possible.”

Friday, May 26th started at 9:00AM with two million dollar NRHA Professional Jordan Larson’s Reining Seminar. The focus was on correcting the problem often seen with horses in the run down to the stop. Jordan worked with two horses, generously donated by Muehlstaetter Performance Horses for use in the seminar. Jordan presented in detail the ways he works with horses that do not “rate” down to the stop and his training routine to teach the horse to listen to his legs and hands. The seminar was free to all who attended and broadcast live over the internet via HorseShowGlobal.com, production by Classic Video.

Following the Jordan Larson Seminar the youth riders performed at their best impressing everyone with such young talent. Kaylee Naylor is a frequent face in the reining pen and a tough competitor winning both slates of Youth 14 – 18 and placing second and third on her other two horses. Kaylee’s success led to High Point Champion on Spookamatic, Reserve High Point on Spooks Dunit and third on Hezza Rowdy Whiz. Kaylee’s excitement was overflowing after her wins. “The show was amazing and I can’t wait for next year! My horses were amazing for me and I can’t wait for High Roller. I got the privilege to show both of my dad’s derby horses and they were so good (considering I was so nervous).” “Kaylee is an exceptional athlete and person,” states Amanda Brumley. “I have watched her grow up from a little girl to an extraordinary young woman. I am happy for her success.”

The excitement grew with the approach of the Tamarack Ranch 4 Year Old Non Pro Futurity and 4 Year Old Stakes. Two time NRHA Level 4 Non Pro Futurity Champion Tish Fappani, Scottsdale, Arizona, and her gelding Fun Sized, Tinker With Guns x Brennas Dream, by Magnum Chic Dream entered the show pen looking cool and collected. When the dust settled the pair marked a 214.5 to win the Level 4 and 3 Futurity and Stakes divisions winning a total paycheck of $20,755. Tish was shocked by the payout and thrilled with her little horse. “Miles, (Fun Sized), was not shown as a 3 year old due to an injury. He has always been small. My son Luca named him Fun Sized, which is so appropriate,” Tish laughs. “I didn’t get to come last year. Miles is so kind minded, but green. Coming into this show I didn’t enter the Stakes divisions thinking he could not be competitive. I’m glad I was talked into it.” Tish continued to state “I love this 4 year old concept. The Futurity eligibility is so good to level the playing field for horses just like Miles, while the Stakes is open to all 4 year olds giving them their own showcase event. It’s great for our industry and our horses.” Tish went on to thank Tamarack Ranch for their support of the concept and the show. “On top of the prize money, I won a Bob’s Custom Saddle, Custom Reiner Trophy, beautiful buckle, SmartPak horse cooler and lots of cookies for Miles. Down time was great too. We had time to spend hanging at the pool with the boys, go to dinner and even see a show. Great event!”

Tish Fappani wasn’t the only big winner. Janelle Flaherty from Scottsdale, Arizona entered her father-in-law’s home bred horse Walla Walla Lil Pep, Walla Walla Whiz x Juanita Chic Olena, and was reserve Level 4 and Level 3, champion Level 2 and Level 1 in the Futurity divisions winning $14,346.80. However, unlike Tish, Janelle didn’t cross enter into the Stakes, which if she had would have won approximately another $9,000. When asked about it Janelle simply stated, “I actually didn’t plan on showing him at all. Couple days prior to the competition, my husband Patrick and I were sitting in one of the bars here at South Point talking about it with my father in law Steve. We decided to go for it. I didn’t bring any of my show cloths so I borrowed hat, chaps, shirt from friends,” laughing. “I had a nice quiet ride which turned out to be quite the payday,” states Flaherty. She continues, “The 4 year old futurity option is so important for horses not ready as a 3 year old (to show) for whatever reason. This can only do good things for the industry.” The Prima Ballerina, Topsail Whiz x Dancer Nic, owned and ridden by Jennifer Gilliam from Pine Grove, California was reserve Champion in the Level 4 and 3 Stakes, and Champion Level 2. Jennifer and her mare added another $7,744.50 to their life time earnings.

Saturday morning the “Inside the Mind of An NRHA Judge” with Jody Brainard seminar on the South Point arena concourse had a standing room only crowd. Exhibitors got a chance to review video clips of runs, were presented with examples of how maneuvers are marked on the score sheet, and had the opportunity to ask lots of questions. “When I came up with the concept of this event I knew what my goals were. I wanted a showcase event for 4 year old reining horses, and learning opportunities for exhibitors. My plan is to have these seminars grow as the event grows. They are extremely valuable. I can’t thank Jordan and Jody enough for generously donating their time as presenters,” states Brumley.

Saturday afternoon’s showcase event, the Tamarack Ranch Open 4 Year Old Futurity and Open 4 Year Old Stakes was a reining and spectator experience to remember. The sizable number of entries and new faces to BMG events competed for tens of thousands of dollars in prize money. Forty Six horses were set to compete, but the atmosphere was calm, cool and collected. Draw 21, Gabe Hutchins riding the Tamarack Ranch, Joseph Oregon, entry Ladi With A Gun, Gunner x Easy Lil Lady, hoped to repeat their 2016 Level 4 Futurity win. Hutchins had faith in the mare and that she could also be competitive in the Stakes. His faith paid off. The duo marked a 219.5 to tie for the championship with Andrea Fappani riding Legends West, Custom Legend x Western Whizzy, owned and raised by Scott Loughridge. Both horses earned checks for $6,692.76. But it doesn’t end there. Hutchins’ cross entry in the Stakes put him third in the Level 4 Open division adding another $1,800.17 for a total of $8,492.93 in prize money for the pretty bay mare. Hutchins showed another mount, Spookmon, Smart Spook x Brennas Red Dunit, marking a 221 to reserve champion Level 4 Open Stakes and additional paycheck of $2,769.50.

Level 3 Open Tamarack Ranch 4 Year Old Futurity Champion, Hollywallawood, 2013 stallion, Walla Walla Whiz x Strike Like A Star, with rider Pierre-Luc Phaneuf from Whitesboro Texas for owner Guy Methot scored a 217 and a check for $4,923.40. As his friends affectionately call him ‘P-Luc’ was very pleased with his horse. “I couldn’t be happier with my run,” comments Phanueaf. “He was with me every step. I think the Wild Card Reining Challenge is a great concept for horses that weren’t ready their 3 year old year to have a chance to show their potential as 4 year olds. ‘Wally’ was a perfect candidate for this show. I am glad I was able to give him the chance to prove himself. He is a really nice horse. Definitely made my trip from Texas (to the event) worth every mile.” Benny Maddox rode Little Cannonball, Tinker With Guns x Chex Out The Cowgirl, bred and owned by Bill Coburn, Redding California, to win the Level 2 and 1 Open Futurity. Maddox’s wins earned him a check of $3,879.08. Patrick Flaherty brought Walla Walla Lil Pep back into the show pen after his wife’s big win the day prior to pick up another $5,675.59 which makes the Flaherty’s total win $20,022.39.

Andrea Fappani, Scottsdale Arizona, took the Level 4 Open Stakes Championship aboard Rancho Oso Rio’s entry Spooks Show Time, Spooks Gotta Whiz x Dolittle Lena, marking a 222.50 and earning $3,461.88. The Level 3 and 2 Open Stakes were dominated by assistant trainers of Martin Muehlstaetter, Muehlstaetter Performance Horses, Scottsdale Arizona. Lorinaldo Gomes, a native of Brazil, rode Gunners High Roller, Gunner x Yoplait Light, for owners Marc & Kathy Gordon to the Level 3 and 2 Championships receiving a check for $4,162.51. Marc and Kathy Gordon’s second entry piloted by Linde Von Koeding from Germany won both reserve titles and a check for $3,070.28. It was a great day in the Muehlstaetter barn!

Catching up with Four Million Dollar NRHA Professional Andrea Fappani after the event, he had this to say about the show. “Wild Card Reining Challenge is a great opportunity to showcase four year olds and build their confidence in the show pen. It’s a great facility and perfect time of year for young horses. The horse I Co-Championed on (Legends West) just wasn’t ready to take the pressure as a three year old. Waiting to show him proved to be the right decision. If I would have tried to show him too early I know it wouldn’t have been good for his confidence. Showing him at the Wild Card was the perfect start to his show career.”

Amanda Brumley, Event Producer, in summing things up said, “I want to thank our incredible sponsors who contribute to this event, South Point Arena, Tamarack Ranch, Markel, Lucas Oil, Silver Spurs Equine, Horse & Rider Magazine, SmartPak as well as the reining professionals and contestants for their continuous support BMG events. Most of all I want to thank my family for their endless support and faith in my sometimes scary ideas. Tracy and I have contributed over $80,000 in the past two years directly to this event. Why? We are not tremendously wealthy people, but we believe in this event and our industry enough to risk our own money. We love horses and this sport. We want positive growth, and to see the right things done for the industry’s participants. We are truly blessed to have this opportunity and with wonderful people in our lives.”

Requirement for eligibility to the Tamarack Ranch 4 Year Old Futurity at the Wild Card Reining Challenge is: A horse cannot have shown in any NRHA Category 2 three year old event. This is the only restriction for participation.

*Payouts are not confirmed until approved by the National Reining Horse Association