Fences and Freestyle Reining Saturday at the Congress
Saturday brought crowds and excitement to the Ohio Expo Center, both in the show pens and on the midway and trade show!
The fence classes began bright and early this morning, with the warm ups for working hunter starting at 6:00 am! Big numbers in the warm ups made for a bit of a long day, with the Novice Amateur Working Hunter class beginning around 3:00 pm. The class was filled with gorgeous trips, and transitioned into the Novice Youth Working Hunter. A big congratulations to Katelyn Schultz, riding The Perfect Gent to victory in Youth! The Celeste finished the fence classes with the Senior Working Hunter. Congrats to Alfred Hewitt and Deep Blue Skies, owned by April Speyer, for winning champion in the Senior!
A quick walk through the trade show in Congress Hall showed that increasingly growing crowds of people were out enjoying the shopping and sunshine, although today was a bit more humid than the previous days. Temperatures are supposed to stay warm, but a forecast of clouds and rain tomorrow could put a slight damper on the day.
The Coliseum boasted the final, and much anticipated, reining event of the Congress: the Open and Non Pro NRHA Freestyle Reining! A sold out stadium was abuzz with excitement, eagerly waiting an introduction by Stacy Westfall. Stacy came in ponying her very special two-year-old stallion, “Jac”. Jacs Electric Whiz (by Jacs Electric Spark) is the last foal out of Stacy’s famous Wizards Baby Doll or “Roxy”, her bareback and bridleless reining sensation in the freestyle a few years ago. Stacy will be showing her training of Jac in a feature series on Weaver Leather’s Facebook page. A choked up Stacy told the crowd she hasn’t reined since tragically losing both of her reiners, Roxy and Vaquero, last year. So Jac means all the more to Stacy, who feels she can never replace her horses, but hopes to help fill the void with Jac.
Stacy explained the reining rules with the help of Shawn Flarida and a few extras. The difference of this freestyle is that scoring also depends not only on official judges scores, but on an “Applause Meter” of the crowd’s cheers. Riders can make up any pattern they want, so long as they have four spins in each direction, three stops, and a lead change in both directions.
Non Pro rider Caroline Duke started the class off strong, her Indian costume mirroring her song choice from Disney’s Pocahontas. She scored an impressive 222, with the average score being a 210. From there, it was off and running. Songs and costumes ranged from Top Gun to two variations of Michael Jackson (“Thriller” included zombies!), with Little Mermaid having an impressive side saddle go, a “Kung Fu Fighting” ninja popped out of the back of a pick-up (yes, the truck), Brutus the Buckeye can apparently do a pretty good sliding stop, and the popular YouTube hit, “What Does Fox Say” got the crowd singing along and an Open score of 224.5.
A halftime show brought a reappearance of Shawn Flarida, who was joined by his ten year old son, Sam. Sam had been doing some winning of his own at the Congress, winning the Short Stirrup reining class. Shawn began by “leading” Sam around the pen, to a variation of the popular Rodney Atkin’s song “Been Watching You” (“I said son, where’d you learn, to turn like that?!”). This left the door open for Sam to lead Shawn around the pen, the two obviously both a great hand. Sam should grow up to rival his dad!
But it was ultimately Rocky Dare who stole the show, drawing the crowd’s attention with three adorable kids in a bed in the middle of a pen, with “mom” reading them a bed time story. Dare began to the song “A Dream Is A Wish (Your Heart Makes)”, and all of a sudden stopped in the middle to put on… pink sunglasses? The three kids burst out of bed and threw off their robes, just as the cult hit “Gangnam Style” came across the speakers. Dancing kids and a phenomenal moving bay horse brought the crowd into a frenzy, and Dare even got off to join the kids in a little “booty shaking”. In the last few moments of his pattern, the music changed back and the kids hopped back into bed. A Congress bronze was revealed by mom, the dream that all little horse loving kids wish for. The entire crowd of spectators was brought to their feet, and the judges listened, scoring Rocky a winning 231.
Caroline managed to keep her leading score, winning the Non Pro division. Her victory lap with the new Congress Champion rosettes drew even more cheers from the crowd, ending the event.
We were able to catch up with Suzanne Cooper, Non Pro Reserve Congress Champion, after the placings. This was Suzanne’s first year showing at the Congress, and she was all smiles. Her mare was loving the attention afterwards, clearly knowing she did well. “This is Dun It In Ruffles and she is just the best mare,” smiles Suzzane. “This whole experience has been a ten. I came down to show in two other classes, and just decided to throw in the Freestyle. So many nice people, it’s been a real chance of a lifetime. And this is such a nice mare who has taught me a lot, because I still have a lot to learn!” she laughs.
See more pictures of the class here: