Even as a yearling filly in a sale barn stall, Katie Starlight wore a mantle of promise. Whether it was her intelligent eye, her conformation, or her precocious grace, the chestnut daughter of Grays Starlight and Colonel Gunsmoke caught the eye of Sandy Collier’s assistant, Korie Baker, at the 1994 National Reined Cow Horse Association (NRCHA) Snaffle Bit Futurity Horse Sale.
“Her owners were Art and Sandy Haskins, and they had her there at the sale,” remembered Collier, who is an NRCHA Hall of Fame professional. “Korie Baker was working for me at the time, and she saw Katie in the sale barn. Korie immediately came over to me and said, ‘Oh, my God, Sandy, you have got to see this filly.’ So I went over. She was so keen and so put together and so intelligent looking. We thought she’d be a great horse for Paula [Hunsicker].”
David and Paula Hunsicker of Solvang, CA, were Collier’s clients. On her advice, the couple ended up purchasing the filly and putting her into training with Collier. It didn’t take long for the filly’s promise of greatness to bear out in the show pen.
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“I trained her as a two- and three-year-old and then showed her at the 1996 Snaffle Bit Futurity,” Collier said. “Her herd work and rein work were so good, and she was just so cowy.”
Turning Heads in the Arena
Collier and Katie finished in the top ten at the futurity, and the following year, they took fourth in the NRCHA Maturity and fifth in the Stallion Stakes.
“The thing that I remember vividly about Katie was that she always knew where every foot was,” Collier reflected. “She was never out of balance. And she was so easy to train because she was so self-aware and so coordinated. It’s not easy for a growing horse to have authority over their feet all the time, but she did. She was super smart and super cowy, and she had such a tremendous amount of athleticism. A lot of training her was about staying out of her way and letting her get the job done.”
A Change of Pace
Partway through the exceptional mare’s four-year-old year, NRCHA Hall of Fame horseman Ted Robinson took over for the Hunsickers and began partnering Katie in the show pen. Just like she did for Collier, the sweet-faced chestnut mare went to work for Robinson, and pretty soon, the pair were turning heads anywhere they went.
“She was a really good mare to ride all the time,” Robinson said. “She was pretty easy for me to be successful with. Her rein work, cow work, and fence work were all great.”
The mare began earning paychecks in the Open for Robinson and in Non-Pro classes for Paula Hunsicker. In Robinson’s capable hands, Katie progressed to showing in the hackamore, and the pair became the 1998 NRCHA Open Hackamore Champions. They progressed to showing in the bridle in 1999, which was the same year of the first-ever NRCHA World’s Greatest Horseman Championship, held at the Lazy E Arena in Guthrie, Oklahoma.
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“She was pretty green in the bridle by the time of the World’s Greatest,” Robinson said. “I was supposed to ride another horse, and that one got sore. So I had about thirty days to go until the show, and all my friends suggested I should ride Katie. I told them she wasn’t broke enough in the bridle yet. I hadn’t even roped on her. But they all said, ‘You can do it.’”
Robinson’s friends were right. Being green in the bridle and inexperienced with roping didn’t matter one bit to Katie – and neither did being one of the youngest entries as well as the only mare in the competition. The pair won handily with 865 points, becoming the first-ever winners of the World’s Greatest Horseman title.
In addition to making history with Robinson, Katie Starlight showed well in the Non-Pro for her owner, Paula Hunsicker, earning a number of paychecks and titles. Then in 1999, Hunsicker and Katie were the NRCHA Non-Pro Bridle Reserve National Champion and the Moody Ranch RCH Non-Pro Bridle Champions. In 2000, they were the Cow Palace Grand National Non-Pro Bridle Reserve Champions.
By 2001, Katie had already had two foals by embryo transfer, but she was carrying her first foal, Nu Circle of Light. That didn’t stop her from coming back to win the 2001 World’s Greatest again with Robinson and becoming the NRCHA Hackamore Classic Non-Pro Bridle Champion with Hunsicker.
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In all, Katie Starlight won $129,491 in lifetime earnings. She is also an NRCHA Supreme Reined Cow Horse. In 2017, Katie Starlight was inducted into the NRCHA Hall of Fame – a fitting tribute for a mare with such a tremendous show career as well as one of the leading broodmares of her discipline.
Carrying On a Legacy
To date, her offspring have collected $441,469 in earnings. Her top winners include This One Time, Nu Circle of Light, Smartly Starstruck, Lena Inthe Starlight, and Katies Kitty. Following in his dam’s footsteps, Nu Circle of Light, sired by Nu Circle N Cash, won the 2005 NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity Open Championship with Ted Robinson. This One Time, a 2009 stallion by One Time Pepto, was the 2012 NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity Open Reserve Champion and the 2014 NRCHA Stallion Stakes Open Champion with NRCHA Two Million Dollar Rider Todd Bergen in the saddle. Smartly Starstruck, a son of Very Smart Remedy, was a 2020 NRCHA World’s Greatest Horseman finalist and the 2021 NRCHA Stallion Stakes Bridle Spectacular Champion.