Mike Major and Smart Whiskey Doc win second Ranch Versatility World Title | TheFencePost.com
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Mike Major and Smart Whiskey Doc win second Ranch Versatility World Title

Tony Bruguiere Fort Collins, Colo.
Tony BruguiereMike Major and Smart Whiskey Doc complete a sliding stop during the AQHA World Champion Ranch Horse Versatility event at the National Western Stock Show.

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It was a clean sweep for Mike Major of Fowler, Colo., at the Ranch Horse Versatility events at the National Western Stock Show. Not only did Major win his second consecutive AQHA World Championship riding Smart Whiskey Doc, but he also won the first event of the 2010 season on his mare Black Hope Stick, a daughter of Smart Whiskey Doc.

“We are going to retire Smart Whiskey Doc,” Major said. “We’ve got a daughter of his coming up that won the National Western Versatility on Monday. We are tickled to death with her performance, so hopefully his heritage will just carry on.”

Smart Whiskey Doc, a 1999 Bay stallion by Paddys Irish Whiskey and out of Smart Little Carol, has been a proven performer for Major. In the inaugural event in 2008, Smart Whiskey Doc was the reserve champion behind Sixes Pick from the historic 6666 ranch ridden by Chance O’Neal. Mike Major brought Smart Whiskey Doc back to the NWSS in 2009 to win the AQHA Worlds Champion trophy. In 2010 Smart Whiskey Doc and Mike Major set the standard for future competitors by winning back to back AQHA Versatility Ranch Horse World Championships.

“He’s just been a phenomenal horse,” said Major. “Actually, in my opinion, he’s the perfect versatility horse. He’s got the looks, he moves really good, and he is just an all around good horse.”

The AQHA versatility Ranch Horse World Championship is a two-day, five-class event that is a real test for both horse and rider. Chance O’Neal, 2008 world champion, describes the event as “The overall event was designed to bring back the ranch cut horse and to promote these ranch horses. These events are similar to what you would do on a ranch, compared to just a normal performance show horse.”

The athletic ability and versatility of the horse are demonstrated in five classes – ranch riding, ranch trail, ranch cutting, working ranch horse and ranch conformation. The world championship competition at the Stock Show is split into two parts with ranch riding, ranch trail and ranch conformation together in one event and ranch cutting and working ranch horse presented as an evening event.

Ranch riding shows the horse’s ability to move at a working speed with a rider and ranch rail contains a course with a minimum of six obstacles and is designed to show a horse’s ability and willingness to perform several tasks that might be asked of him during the course of a normal day’s ranch work.

Working ranch combines the ability of the working ranch horse to rein, handle cattle and put its rider in the position to rope and stop a cow. Once a reining pattern that includes at least one circle in both directions, a change of leads in each direction, at least one 360-degree turn in each direction, a rollback in each direction, stop and back is completed, the rider calls for his cow. The rider must hold the cow in the end of the arena for a reasonable amount of time, then take the cow down the arena wall and turn it back in each direction. The rider must then rope and stop the cow. The rider is allowed two loops and must dally his rope. A competitor is allowed six minutes to complete this class.

In the ranch cutting class, a numbered cow is cut from the herd and the horse must demonstrate its ability to work the cow. The horse and rider must then move the cow to the other end of the arena and pen it. There is a two-minute time limit on this class.

“The ranch horse versatility is relatively new,” said Charlie Hemphill, AQHA senior director of shows. “The competitions started in 2002 and we have been all over the country. We didn’t start the World Show competition level until three years ago, and it has all been held here at the National Western Stock Show.”

Part of the low numbers of participants is that it takes a very special horse to compete in this event. Chance O’Neal describes the ranch versatility horse, “Not only do you have to have a physical horse for the cow events, and that horse has to be gentle for the trail events, but that same horse has to be over all structurally correct.”

But Laura Richards, NWSS horse show manager, says the event is very popular in this area. “This is one of the more popular events at the National Western, so we are seeing more people getting involved at the entry level. We are starting to see events in the summertime, and the Rocky Mountain Quarter Horse Association does a great job of putting on clinics to teach people how to do it and what they need to train their horses to do.”

If ranch horse versatility is something you would like to get involved in, Mike Major teaches clinics and can be reached at (719) 263-5540. As far as teachers go, you can’t get much better than the two-time AQHA Versatility Ranch Horse world champion.


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