Denver loves a horse show. That was true in 1907 when the fledgling “Western Livestock Show” had its first horse show and it is just as true 107 years later when the National Western Stock Show held the $15,000 RAM Invitational Freestyle Reining.
Reining is one of the most popular horse events and one of the newest equestrian events to be added to Olympic competition. Reining incorporates a set pattern of speed variations, directional changes, spins, stops, and rollbacks. Freestyle Reining uses the same moves and patterns but allows the rider to present them in any order and incorporate props, costumes, music and special lighting effects to their presentations.
The powerful stops and beautiful spins combined with the music, costumes and lighting have made the $15,000 RAM Invitational Freestyle Reining one of the hottest tickets at the National Western Stock Show. The knowledgeable and enthusiastic crowd roars their appreciation for the athletic moves of the horses and the creative presentations from riders and owners. It is a celebration of horsemanship and just plain fun to watch.
It is just as much fun for the competitors. Whizzy Harper from Longmont, Colo., said, “It’s the most fun you can have at Stock Show as a Reiner. This is the second year that we have done it. Last year we did ‘Red Solo Cup’ on a different horse. This year we did Little Red Riding Hood. It’s fun to dress up your horse and play the music, do something exciting, and show everyone what your horse can do. It’s nice — no, it’s wonderful to get the invitation to come and do it.”
Harper’s horse for the 2013 Freestyle Reining is a 6-year-old Quarter Horse mare named Gangsters Chic or Twiggy as she is known around the barn. Twiggy was ridden and trained by Mark Guynn, owner of the Guynn Training Center in Berthoud, Colo. Mark has 32 years of training experience and has been working with Twiggy for only a year. His work is paying off as Twiggy is qualified for the AQHA Worlds in both amateur and senior reining. “I really love this mare,” said Guynn. “She has a lot of stop a lot of heart. She will run down there and stop hard, and tries to turn really hard. Just a good mare to get along with.”
Some of the presentations are lighthearted and fun, while others try to pay tribute to an event or cause that has a significant meaning to the rider. The husband and wife team of Randy and Jessica Dooley from Elbert, Colo., did both. Randy Dooley in his second RAM Invitational, did a whimsical presentation based on the movie character Shrek. Randy rode Spot who is better known as Monkey Dun It and owned by Brent Cohen. Randy and Jessica Dooley train reining horses on their SixK Ranch in Elbert, Colo.
Jessica’s presentation was more serious. Jessica wanted to pass along a heartfelt ‘thank you’ to all of the firefighters that helped Colorado through one of its worst fire seasons. “We had a ton of wildfires in the state, but we also had one fairly close to our ranch while we were gone at a show,” said Dooley. “Knowing all of the horses that we had at home and also our home. It was a really terrifying experience. So I was so thankful and totally impressed when I went back and looked at what the firefighters had done, and how they had contained the fire and so thankful. I just wanted to do something for them and thank them. I know that they have to be gone with the wildfires for extended periods of time away from their family. I just wanted to send out a big thank you to them.”
Jessica Dooley rode Magnum Refund, a big, powerful Quarter Horse gelding owned by Gail Clappers. Magnum Refund had some powerful sliding stops and spins that earned Fifth Place in the $15,000 RAM Invitational Freestyle Reining.
The fans at the National Western Stock Show are very knowledgeable and they cheer just as loudly for subtle Lead Changes as they do for the crowd-pleasing Sliding Stops. The $15,000 RAM Invitational Freestyle Reining showcases the outstanding athletic ability of the reining horse and it is all set to music and performed under theatrical lighting. Do not miss this sold out event at the 108th National Western Stock Show. ❖