The Start of Something New

By Nichole Chirico | June 15, 2016

As I finish up my first couple of weeks with Horse&Rider, it's finally sinking in how lucky I am to be given the opportunity to work for such a well-respected publication. Growing up, I remember looking at different equine magazines, only hoping that one day I could combine my love of horses with my love for photography and writing.
My horse, Star of Impulse, and I at the 2011 Congress 

Where it all Began

Being from the suburbs of Chicago most people don't understand my fascination with horses. But the truth is, I have been around them my entire life. After years of riding whatever horse I could catch in my Grandpa’s pasture, my parents decided it was time for me to have a horse of my own.

By the time I started high school I decided that in order to reach my dream of being a competitive rider, I had to homeschool. While most kids were focused on football games and prom, I was focused on competing at events like the AQHA World Show and Congress. This landed me an athletic scholarship with Oklahoma State University on their NCAA Equestrian team. It was at OSU where I began to realize how much I enjoyed my writing and photography classes. 

Riding and Writing

I never dreamt I would be working for the magazine that used to inspire me to become a better rider. One of the things I love about H&R is their ability to connect with readers and help them with their riding goals. Thanks to a few friends that mentioned this opportunity, I now have the chance to continue writing and photographing the one thing that truly defines me. 

Seeing What You're Made Of

A long time ago someone told me, "sometimes all that stands between you and the ride of a lifetime is simply getting in the saddle and seeing what you're made of." Until recently, I've always associated this quote with my riding and showing career, but I finally realized that it was about taking chances in life and going for it. 

So this is me, getting in the saddle and seeing what I am made of. I look forward to the opportunity to continue working and growing within the horse industry! 

Wild Card Winner: Gabe Hutchins

By Jennifer Paulson | June 01, 2016

Marking a 219 in the first-ever Wild Card Reining Challenge futurity for unshown 4-year-olds, Gabe Hutchins and his mare Wallawallawhizgun took home the win for owners Tamarack Ranch. We caught up with Gabe after the show. Here's what he has to say about the win, the event, and how it'll help the future of reining.

Horse&Rider: Tell us about your mare. WCRC Facebook Page
Credit: WCRC Facebook Page
Trainer Gabe Hutchins and his mare, Wallawhizagun celebrate after marking a 219 to win the Wild Card Reining Challenge.

Gabe Hutchins: She came to me a year ago, and I really liked her. She had all the pieces to be a great reiner. But I didn't think she was far enough along to push her for the NRHA Futurity. She was very talented last year, but she wasn't physically or mentally ready for that kind of pressure. I planned to show her two-handed at a futurity in the fall, but then we heard about the Wild Card, and we decided to hold off and save her for this event. Then I'd be able to do the job right and build her confidence. It was the perfect opportunity for her. Next she'll show in the 4-year-old class at the High Roller Reining Classic this fall.


H&R: What are your thoughts about the 4-year-old futurity concept?

GH: This is a really great concept. And the addition of the 4-year-old stakes class next year will be great, too. It's so hard for a 4-year-old to be competitive against 5- and 6-year-olds. It's important to let them compete against other 4-year-olds, because very few have what it takes to go compete against the older horses in the derbies.

H&R: What did you think about the educational seminars at this event?

GH: That's what made this one of the best shows out there. As trainers, we've heard a lot of what was covered (judging, training, and veterinary practices). But it's always good to get a refresher and keep those ideas top of mind. For nonpros of all levels, they were very educational, too. 

H&R: How will this help with longevity of reining horses?

GH: With the addition of the 4-year-old stakes class next year, my 4-year-olds will have ample opportunities to find success. I can hold one back for the futurity here, and show my other 4-year-olds here. And then all of them can go show at the High Roller in the fall. that'll be the extent of my 4-year-olds' show schedules for that year, which will save them for the derbies as 5- and 6-year-olds. 

Wild Card Reining: A Winning Event

By Jennifer Paulson | June 01, 2016

The inaugural Wild Card Reining Challenge, featuring the futurity for unshown 4-year-old reining horses, wrapped up on Sunday. With a full slate of NRHA classes, educational seminars, and National Arabian Reining Horse Association prefuturity, the event left participants and spectators excited for next year's show.

Here's a Q&A with event producer Amanda Brumley. Were her expectations met? Will the show be back next year? Find out below. C/O Amanda Brumley
Credit: C/O Amanda Brumley
Amanda Bromley is the producer of the inaugural Wild Card Reining Challenge, as well as other high-profile reining events.

Horse&Rider: What one word would you use to describe the first Wild Card Reining Challenge?

Amanda Brumley: Beginning. It's hard to describe it in one word, but this was the beginning of changing the thought process in regard to young reining horses. The turnout wasn't huge; but I didn't expect it to be. The payouts were impressive for all of the classes, regardless. I think a lot of people will be disappointed that they missed out on the first year of this show. We made a big statement this year, and the show will be even bigger next year. In three years, it'll really take off.

H&R: What's the plan for next year?

AB: To continue with what we offered this year in terms of the classes and seminars, and to add to them. Next year I plan to add a 4-year-old stakes class for horses that were shown as 3-year-olds. It'll run concurrent with the Wild Card futurity, but those horses won't be under the same restrictions of not having been shown as 3-year-olds. And the Wild Card horses can cross-enter into that class, too. It's really hard for 4-year-olds to compete against 5- and 6-year-olds in the derbies. This will give them another place to show and be competitive. 

H&R: What are your thoughts on the seminars you presented during the show?

AB: The seminars were fantastic. We had a better turnout than expected and had to get more chairs for everyone who attended. They had such a great response, that we'll be selling those videos of the seminars in the future. We plan to keep that educational component in place. The way the seminars were scheduled, because there weren't any conflicts with classes in the arena, people could attend without worry of missing something. Each of the presenters touched on important subjects and offered eye-opening information.

H&R: Any thoughts for next year's event?

AB: We'll keep it over Memorial Day weekend, because the venue has dates I can grow into as the show gets bigger. I think it'll turn into an event where emerging trainers have a chance to get the spotlight with horses that'll last into their later years because the horses were allowed to mature and be ready to compete at the right time.

Wild Card Reining: Jody Brainard

By Jennifer Paulson | May 18, 2016

We're catching up with people involved with this month's Wild Card Reining Challenge, to be held May 25-29 in Las Vegas, Nevada, at the South Point Arena. The focus of the show is the 4-year-old "red-shirt" futurity (learn the requirements here), but the event also includes an Arabian/Half-Arabian Futurity, demos/clinics by industry leaders, and a full slate of NRHA classes.

This post's Q&A is with Jody Brainard, chair of NRHA's judges' committee, show official, and horse trainer.

Horse&Rider: Why do you think the 4-year-old futurity concept is positive for the horses and the reining industry? Courtesy of the Wild Card Reining Challenge
Credit: Courtesy of the Wild Card Reining Challenge
NRHA Judges' Committee chairman Jody Brainard will discuss the scoring system during a seminar at the Wild Card Reining Challenge.

Jody Brainard: I think the benefits are obvious. First of all, it will lengthen our horses' careers. Many of the 3-year-olds pointed at the futurity can't handle that pressure. So we lose a large number of horses that could've been excellent non-pro horses if they'd been trained at the level their comfortable. Ask anyone who's tried to buy a decent non-pro horse recently, and they'll tell you that they're hard to find and go for a premium. 

In addition to that, I see the 4-year-olds that are held back having a better chance in the derbies when they compete as 5- and 6-year-olds. 

H&R: Tell us about your seminar presentation during the show.

JB: It'll be based on what I present at riders' meetings before shows. The depth of the information will depend on who's in attendance. If it's an entry-level audience, I don't want to overwhelm them with too much technical information. I'd like to see what kind of questions they have and what they want to learn. But I do plan to cover penalty application, especially the 2-point penalties that now can be reviewed at the major events. I'll also discuss pattern placement, which is a hot topic right now. Guiding is also an important area to cover; that is, using your direct rein when the horse should be neck-reining. And finally, degree of difficulty. People need to understand that just because it's fast doesn't mean it'll earn big points. 

Look for future posts with other Wild Card Reining Challenge competitors and clinic presenters as the show approaches. 


Wild Card Reining: Amanda Brumley

By Jennifer Paulson | May 12, 2016

We're catching up with people involved with this month's Wild Card Reining Challenge, to be held May 25-29 in Las Vegas, Nevada, at the South Point Arena. The focus of the show is the 4-year-old "red-shirt" futurity (learn the requirements here), but the event also includes an Arabian/Half-Arabian Futurity, demos/clinics by industry leaders, and a full slate of NRHA classes.

This post's Q&A is with event producer Amanda Brumley.

Horse&Rider: Why did you choose to produce a show featuring a 4-year-old futurity? Why do you support this movement:

Amanda Brumley: The topic has been floating around for a while, and I’ve been talking about it for a long time. The big thing I’ve noticed in 20+ years with reining horses is that so few of the 3-year-olds can compete at such a high level at that age. As the industry has grown, there’s a greater push to get the horses ready as 3-year-olds. A lot of horses just can’t handle it. They’re good horses; they're just not ready. The percentage of horses that are born, raised, stay sound, go through training, and show at the NRHA Futurity is remarkably small. My biggest concern is that attrition rate. You see these really good horses just dropping off the grid. As an owner, rider, and breeder, I can say that it’s not good for the industry. There’s going to be an elite group of horses that make it to that level. But when you look at the industry as  a whole, we need to strive for longevity. To pinpoint one event misses the big picture. Courtesy of Amanda Brumley
Credit: Courtesy of Amanda Brumley
Amanda Brumley produces the Wild Card Reining Challenge.

My goal was to create a program for horses that aren’t in that very small elite group. This allows trainers and owners to take their horses at their own pace. I think that instead of seeing them show until they're 5 to 7 years old, they’ll still be showing into their teens. They’ll go from being open horses to non-pro horses to being ridden by youths.

From a breeder’s standpoint, you’re producing these very well-bred offspring; you want to see them succeed to increase the value of your future horses. If all these great horses that are being bred don’t even make it to the show pen, that doesn't help the breeder.

As an owner, if you start paying training on a horse and have great expectations, but that horse can’t compete at the big show, it’s disheartening. With the 4-year-old futurity option, the trainer can say, “He's not ready at 3, but he’ll be ready to show in the 4-year-old futurity 9 months later.” That helps the trainer keep a nice horse in training to achieve the owner's goal. Then the breeder sees their horses succeed. Industry sees these horses competitive well into their later years of life.

I see this being a big thing for mares. They tend to be more fragile. But they’re a big portion of the offspring and what they become. I don’t see a down side to the concept anywhere. It’s something I’ve felt passionate about because I’ve seen the disappointment when the horse can’t compete as 3-year-olds.

H&R: Where did the education component of the show come from? Why the seminars?

AB: The educational piece is new to my shows, but it's something I've always wanted to offer. But with many shows, the schedule is so tight that it's just not feasible. But with this show, there's time when people aren't showing or spectators aren't watching that they can come learn. And it’s FREE. I want people to come, ask questions, learn. The sessions will also be broadcast on internet.

I’ve found, especially with the judging, that things have become so technical and athletically oriented, that the judging has had to get tighter. When people go show they don't always understand the scores they receive. It's not just non-pros who don't understand, but trainers, too. That’s what this judging seminar with Jody Brainard is about--what the judges are really looking for. It’s not how to judge a pattern. This is about the gray areas. Jody, being the chair of the judges committee, is able to explain those grey areas where you can earn credit in a pattern. 

In Andrea Fappani's seminar, I asked him to pick one maneuver that he sees people make the most mistakes. He said that’s in speed control and lead changes. That’s all he’s talking about. He feels like it’s a real weakness when he watches people show.

The veterinary session will be presented by Dr. Kris Crowe. She has many years of experience treating equine athletes, from Arabians to Quarter Horses, as well as with her breeding operation. She's incredibly experienced and will discuss caring for your horse in advance of going to a show. That’ll help a lot of people. They need to know all that goes into caring for these horses.

These are three areas of reining that are the most important to address. I’d like to expand on it in the future. I have a venue I can grow with. I think it’ll be a lot of fun.

H&R: Tell us about your interest in Arabian and Half-Arabian reining horses.

AB: The Arabian industry has been dying for a working Western Arabian reining program for a long time. I’ve been surprised to see how many Arabian owners have reached out to me to learn more. It’s a big area of the industry that’s been widely overlooked, but they’re very passionate. They love the sport. I’m taking Arabian reining to the next level. We’ve developed the National Arabian Reining Horse Association. It’ll give people goals to work toward. They can compete and have fun at all levels. 

H&R: Finally, tell us about the para-reining classes for disabled riders.

AB: Lisa Coulter reached out to me to talk about it. Her organization is quite new. She’s providing horses, equipment, lessons for para-reiners. She’s gone above and beyond for this program and these riders. It’s amazing. It’s such a great cause. It’s a fantastic program.

Look for future posts with other Wild Card Reining Challenge competitors and clinic presenters as the show approaches.

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