||Clinician Brian Sumrall warms up his horse. (Credit: Mary Katherine Morris Photography)
Stock horse enthusiasts of all ages gather at the American Stock Horse Association Show.
by Jade Currid
I wish it was the Will James Days when all little boys wanted to be cowboys when they grew up. And I wish it was the days when all you needed was a handshake for a cowboy’s word."
Poignant lyrics from "Will James Days," sung by prominent Western singer/songwriter Adrian Brannan, also known as Adrian Buckaroogirl, and selected as one of the Best 13 Western Songs of All Times by Western Horseman, captures the ambience experienced at the 2014 American Stock Horse Association Regional II Championship Show and accompanying clinics and activities hosted by the Southeast Stock Horse Association at Southern Cross Ranch in Headland December 4-7.
Horsemen and women of all ages and experience levels, a number donning magnificent wild rags and chinks along with other elements of traditional buckaroo gear; young buckaroo queens sporting a dash of bling; and children and dogs comprised a family-friendly atmosphere in which everyone was quick to lend a helping hand or a word of encouragement.
|While on horseback, clinician Chance O’Neal visits with stock horse enthusiasts Cheryl Emery, left, and Rhonda Griffin at the American Stock Horse Association Region II Championship Show on December 6, 2014. (Credit: Mary Katherine Morris Photography)
"These are people who love what they do. They love their horses; they love that they’ve worked hard and they get a chance to come and see everybody and have a good time. It’s really fun to watch people succeed. I love seeing that, you know, like the kid who won first in the reining today. His face lit up. It was so cute," gushed Adrian Brannan, one of the premier musicians featured at the venue’s concert.
Today, I see kids who have a work ethic, kids who aren’t afraid to get dirty, kids who understand that there is value to raising America’s beef, kids who understand that there is value in agriculture and there is value in a lifestyle that gives you just a little bit more than a cubicle in a nine to five job will ever give you, she said of the youth present at the event.
"I want to raise my kids in the way I was raised learning from my daddy in the banding pen," she passionately related. "I want to be passing on traditions and family values down through the generations. I want to give them a future that they can’t buy."
Equestrians from across the Southeast demonstrated the versatility of their stock horses in four events – reining, working cow horse, trail and ranch pleasure – and showcased the fruit of a year’s worth of magnanimous efforts in enhancing the partnership between themselves and their horses at the 2014 American Stock Horse Regional II Championship Show.
||Stephen Freeman of Old South Equine walks his horse across a platform during a trail class. (Credit: Mary Katherine Morris Photography)
Launched in 2008, the American Stock Horse Association fosters well-rounded riders and horses that are able to complete various tasks, whether in a working ranch environment or on a pleasure ride. It also provides affordable education for members to improve their horsemanship in addition to promoting the standard for the measure of a good ranch or stock horse.
Stock horse enthusiasts in Alabama are active in American Stock Horse Association affiliates including not only the Southeast Stock Horse Association but also the Alabama Stock Horse Association, Stock Horse of Dixie in Unadilla, Ga., the Tennessee Stock Horse Association in Murfreesboro, Tenn., and the Stock Horse of Texas Association.
A typical American Stock Horse Association event includes a clinic and a show, with the clinic being held before the show.
Stephen Freeman owns and operates Old South Equine, is a former director of the Alabama Stock Horse Association, serves as a judge committee member and clinician for the American Stock Horse Association, and as the coach for the Auburn University Stock Horse Club. He relayed the importance of holding clinics in conjunction with the shows.
"The clinics introduce people who haven’t shown before to what the events are all about and help those who have shown before improve," he explained.
The clinics held before the Championship featured top clinicians in the horse industry including the first American Quarter Horse Association Ranch Versatility World Champion Chance O’ Neal; the winningest National Reining Cow Horse Association rider of all time Ted Robinson; Brian Sumrall of SHS Cattle Company in Texas, an American Stock Horse Association and Stock Horse of Texas clinician and judge, former president of Stock Horse of Texas, an American Stock Horse Association executive board member, and winner of many American Stock Horse Association, Louisiana Stock Horse Association and Stock Horse of Texas titles; and National Reined Cow Horse Association World Champion and AA Rated Judge Richard Winters.
|Freelance writer Jade Currid, left, and Western singer-songwriter Adrian Brannan, also known as Adrian Buckaroogirl, visit before the event’s concert on Saturday night. (Credit: Mary Katherine Morris Photography)
The accessibility to the instruction of these four great horsemen all in one setting was a golden opportunity for clinic participants.
Sumrall instructed clinic participants on how to efficiently complete a trail course.
In a trail class, competitors and their horses are expected to maneuver a series of obstacles with ease.
This type of event presents challenges that horse and rider may face in an everyday situation or out on the trail.
Sumrall and the participants focused on body control of the horse and how that translates into how the horse would negotiate the obstacles.
The better a horse negotiates those obstacles, the easier it is to have a more comfortable and enjoyable ride and get a job done, he said.
The trail class for the Championship staged circumstances encountered during the cowboy task of branding.
During a daunting portion of the trail course, participants dismounted and ground tied their horses near a roaring fire.
Next, they picked up a branding iron and proceeded to mimic branding a fake bovine before remounting their horses and completing the rest of the course.
"You notice in our trail here one of the things we require is to simulate that working environment by dragging a log or dragging an object – similar to maybe dragging a baby calf or having to rope a yearling or something like that," Sumrall added.
Being able to ground tie a horse is another aspect he worked on with participants.
"I’m kind of a working cowboy," he quipped. "When I drop those reins to go doctor, I need him to kind of stay there."
Well-known equine and Western lifestyle photographer Emily Peak participated in the clinics and scribed for the show.
Peak showed in American Stock Horse Association events for 2 years before competing in the American Quarter Horse Association circuit.
She qualified for the AQHA world show her rookie year and placed an impressive 15th out of 79 riders.
In 2014, she qualified for the AQHA world show in more than one event, but did not compete. However, she did work with the video team at the monumental show.
On the second day of the Championship, she did not ride as she was obligated to take pictures for Troxtel Helmets.
She asked Richard Winters if he could ride her horse that day, and he did.
"That was really cool because at the end of the day, he didn’t have spurs on and I always ride with spurs," she related. "I asked, ‘How was it?’ He replied, ‘He took care of me.’"
If anything, get your spins a little less "sticky," Winters told her.
Fourteen-year-old Madeline Earnest rode her 3-year-old mustang Mighty Mouse in the youth division for all four stock horse events at the Championship.
Madeline won the 2010 Extreme Mustang Makeover Youth and Yearlings Competition in Clemson, S.C., with Mighty Mouse when he was a yearling.
Her mom Tracie McVay of McVay Farms in Pine Mountain, Ga., has competed in a couple of Mustang Makeover competitions and inspired her to work with Mighty Mouse.
They had only had Mighty Mouse for 60 days and gentled him from being a completely wild mustang before the competition.
Madeline picked up Mighty Mouse in Unadilla, Ga.
"He was a wild child, but the first time I saw him in the holding pens he actually ate hay out of my hands, and once me and him finally clicked – I couldn’t get rid of him," she explained.
In addition, McVay rode Mighty Mouse in the first Miss Southeast Stock Horse Pageant that culminated with the 2014 American Stock Horse Championship Show and clinics.
Contestants were evaluated based on their horsemanship, poise and personality, introduction, appearance and knowledge of basic horse information and stock horse association rules.
McVay revealed that competing in stock horse events proved to be an excellent niche for Mighty Mouse.
She related that she prefers riding mustangs because of their intelligence.
In addition to competing in stock horse shows, McVay has ridden in disciplines including Western Pleasure, English, eventing, barrel racing and competitive trail riding.
Other accomplishments McVay has earned while riding Mighty Mouse include winning a saddle for the high point 12 and under division and high point 2-year-old Western Pleasure division at local open shows, qualifying for the AOHA state show in Montgomery, winning the youth division of the trail competition at the 2014 Alabama Horse Council Fair, emerging as the Stock Horse of Dixie Jr. Youth Reserve All Around Champion, the Alabama Stock Horse Association Jr. Youth All Around Champion, and the Southeast Stock Horse Association Jr. Youth Reserve All Around Champion, as well as winning the trail class at the regional show.
She plans on teaching Mighty Mouse to jump in the fall.
Attractions held in conjunction with the Championship included a Frisbee toss, a chili cook-off, a cowboy Santa and a concert featuring Kyle Wilson in addition to Adrian Buckaroogirl.
Joy Brigham coordinated the Championship, clinics, concert and related endeavors.
There were over 250 show entries and around 80 clinic participants.
"There are no words. Joy is fabulous, and she does an amazing job. She brings people together and makes sure everyone has a good time," said Kristen Freeman of Old South Equine.
Brigham has advocated and raised funds for the American Cancer Society through equine events.
She and Sumrall have collaborated on a number of events in the region, and their current focus is planning the 2015 Heritage Days Classic in Liberty, Texas.
Jade Currid is a freelance writer from Auburn.