Kentucky Reining Cup 2015 Breaking Records in the Blue Grass

The 5th annual Kentucky Reining Cup held in conjunction with the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event was one for the record books.

April 27, 2015–The 5th annual Kentucky Reining Cup held in conjunction with the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event was one for the record books. Attendance at the event increased by a whopping 50% over the previous (a World Equestrian Games qualifying year), while the online broadcasts via and were seen by over 50,000 viewers from all 50 states and 39 countries around the world. The top 10 countries by viewership were the United States, Canada, Brazil, Australia, United Kingdom, Germany, Sweden, Italy, Mexico and New Zealand. But the moment that took the equestrian social media by storm was Laura Sumrall’s World Championship Freestyle winning performance to Disney’s mega-hit Frozen. The Facebook video sensation went viral generating over 3 million views within the first 24 hours. 

2015 Freestyle World Champion Laura Sumrall & Wimpys Top Model | Photo ©Waltenberry

The sold out Markel Insurance VIP Suites provided a birds eye view of the competition for local luminaries including Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear and First Lady Jane Beshear, attending the event in support of Horses and Hope, the official charity of the Kentucky Reining Cup. “I appreciate the fact that this night has honored Horses and Hope which is about education and awareness of breast cancer. We provide low cost mammograms for people in the horse industry who can’t afford it. Its horse people helping horse people.” said Mrs. Beshear

“We are thrilled to partner with such and outstanding organization and very happy that Horses and Hope might benefit from the donation given tonight in partnership with our friends at Paul Miller Ford”, said Brad Ettleman, President of HorsePower, Inc. producer of the Kentucky Reining Cup.

The one of a kind Kentucky Reining Cup event features seldom-seen competitions that include the Kentucky Reining Cup Concours de Reining International CRI 3*, the Team Challenge, Celebrity Reining including Eventing riders David O’Connor Chef d’Equipe of the US Eventing Team, Sinead Halpin and Hanna Sue Burnett, the Nutrena Para-Reining Class and the Freestyle World Championship. In addition, the 2015 Kentucky Reining Cup also played host to the inaugural $10,000 Added Spooks Gotta Whiz Open & $5,000 Added Baby Spooks Non Pro NRHA classes generously sponsored by Michell Anne Kimball.

Rick Clark, President of the NRHA, Kentucky Reining Cup sponsor and life-long resident of the Commonwealth of Kentucky shared his unique perspective on the event, which he competed in for the first time “The Kentucky Reining Cup is really important to me. As a local business owner when things are happening at the Kentucky Horse Park it helps me, so it makes sense to sponsor. From the standpoint of the event, it’s a prestigious show supported by the industry’s top riders including (NRHA’s first and only $5 million rider) Shawn Flarida. I’ve been a sponsor since the start, Markel Insurance has been here from the start, and to have a sponsor like Michell Anne Kimball and Spooks Gotta Whiz come in with some of the biggest prize money you’ll find in those classes, it adds that extra element of the NRHA. The NRHA is a sponsor of this event, and as the President, I feel it’s important to sponsor this event. The AQHA is also a sponsor, and it’s great that they support it as well”.

The two-day competition kicked off on Friday night with the Kentucky Reining Cup Concours de Reining International CRI 3*, the $10,000 Added Spooks Gotta Whiz Open & $5,000 Added Baby Spooks Non Pro and the Kentucky Reining Cup Team Challenge.

Dana Cohen from Denver, Colorado took top honors in the Kentucky Reining Cup Concours de Reining International CRI 3*. The road to Kentucky was a long one in more ways than one for Dana and Magnum Refund (Magnum Chic Dream x Alaythia). Through a chain of events, the 2003 gelding remained unshown until the age of 10 “He won his first NRHA money when he was 10. We were challenged to find events to take an older horse to that really paid well. We talked to Brad (Ettleman) about it and he said you should get that horse an FEI passport. I though I’m just a non pro from Denver…. it was not on my radar, but we took a chance. We brought him here when he was 10 and got in the money in the Team Challenge. It was really exciting to show here, and now this show has put him over $25,000 in earnings, all after the age of 10. He’s really and FEI story. There is life for older Reining Horses. You don’t have to push every horse to be a 3-year old Futurity horse, and there is opportunity thanks to USA Reining and the FEI for horses like this ”.

The $10,000 Added Spooks Gotta Whiz Open and the Kentucky Reining Cup Team Challenge had one name in common and it was NRHA’s $5 million man Shawn Flarida on Magnum Chic Dunit (Magnum Chic Dream x Sheets Red Dunit) who led the victory gallop in both events.

“That little mare is one that I made the (NRHA Futurity) Finals on last year. She’s just 4-years old and only been shown a few times. She’s so pretty when she does her circles, and that was a huge point getter for her. Her stops got better and better, and that’s pretty cool for a mare to get stronger as they go show like that. 

She always nickers when she’s done, I don’t know why she does that. It’s kind of cool. I’d love to know what she’s thinking right there. She’s young and has her whole career ahead of her.

Flarida, a veteran of numerous World Equestrian Games, is no stranger to the team concept “This is the only horse show where we actually have a team competition, and it’s really cool. Rick Clark and Steve Borgia got to pushing each other, seeing where the points are, where the scores are…. it makes it a lot of fun”.

With all of the events he has to choose from why does Shawn support the Kentucky Reining Cup? “It’s important for the Reining Horse industry. It’s a way for us to promote our Reining Horses during the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event. So many of those people come over to watch and get exposed to Reining. It’s a great opportunity for us to take advantage of that as an industry. It’s an honor when anyone from another profession comes and watches your sport, just like I go and watch their sport. I’m in awe of their talents and hopefully they are of ours”.

Michell Anne Kimball shares her thoughts on her sponsorship of the Kentucky Reining Cup “This is the most professional horse show that I get to experience in Reining. This is the elite example of what we do. We added the NRHA classes here as a way to get people more involved at this FEI level and with USA Reining. My horse (Spooks Gotta Whiz) is an international horse at this point. For me to be able to interact with Dressage riders and Eventers and introduce them to Reining is really rewarding”.

2015 marked the second year for Nutrena Para-Reining competition at the Kentucky Reining Cup, and Holly Jacobson of Ipswich, Massachusetts on Time Made Me A Radical provided by Midway College marked the highest score for the win.

“Para-Reining gives a great opportunity for people with disabilities who want to compete. It’s a little bit easier than Para-Dressage as the Quarter Horse as so good-minded and has a shorter stride. Para-Reining is a really exciting division with classes in shows across the country supported by AQHA, NRHA and USA Reining. We’re still trying to attract people to Para-Reining, but once you do it one time, you kind of hooked. This was a very welcome ride for me”.

The final event of the two-day competition featured the crowd favorite Kentucky Reining Cup Freestyle World Championship. All of the exhibitors brought their A game to the show pen, as the bar had been raised by in 2014 Dan James’ winning performance on of his Lone Ranger routine on Smart Little Elan. Sidelined by an injury it appeared that James would not be able to defend his title, but to the near-capacity crow’s pleasure James entered the pen with a bandaged leg and supported by one crutch to perform a soul-bearing My Story routine, riding IRA Top Gunner (Playgun x Little Peppys Vet) bareback and bridleless.

“I had pretty much written off being able to compete. When I left the hospital I thought I would be lucky to walk again, let alone do anything with the horses in the next couple of months…about two weeks ago I thought maybe I could take that stud horse out there, tip my hat and be grateful to be walking. Then I thought if I could do that much, maybe I could get on….That was my fourth ride back”.

When the spotlights went out it was James who garnered the people’s hearts and the People’s Choice Award, while 22-year old scholarship athlete and senior captain of the Women’s National Equestrian Team at Texas A & M University, Laura Sumrall clinched the 2015 World Championship Freestyle title with her Frozen inspired performance on Wimpys Top Model (Wimpys Little Step x Sailin Bueno).

Laura Sumrall’s World Championship performance to ‘Let it Go’ gave the audience both in the Alltech Arena and online chills “This was the first time I had done this routine. We came up with it pretty quickly after we got the invitation to compete at the Kentucky Reining Cup. Frozen came together pretty quickly. I’m at school at Texas A & M so I wasn’t in the same place as my horse, so practicing was a little challenging. I set out a pattern and ran it on a couple of different horses. It was really fun to put together…. definitely a group effort my mom came up with the concept and did all the handiwork on my costume”.

Brad Ettleman of HorsePower, Inc. producers of the show could not have been more pleased with the 2015 event “Each year this event grows in popularity, and we could not be happier with this year’s amazing outcome. I can hardly wait for next year; I have no doubt that the best is yet to come for the Kentucky Reining Cup, thanks to the support of our exhibitors, trainers, owners, and sponsors. Without them this event would not be possible, and we are honored to count them among our supporters” Ettleman stated.

This year’s Kentucky Reining Cup was proudly sponsored by AQHA, Boot Barn, Clark’s Pump-N-Ship, Classic Equine Equipment, Dechra Veterinary Products Fayette Heating and Air, Hagyard Pharmacy, HorsePower,Inc. iEquine, Keeneland Foundation, Markel Insurance, NRHA, Nutrena, Paul Miller Ford, Ride TV, Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital & Pharmacy, Shorty’s Caboy Hattery, Spooks Gotta Whiz, Tito’s Vodka, USA Reining, USA Reining, USEF and

Further information on the 2015 Kentucky Reining Cup is available at

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