By: Alden Corrigan
The third week in September marked the return of The International to Denver, Colorado after a six-year hiatus. This innovative Reining event offered opportunities for all levels of horses and riders to compete for significant prize money and incredible awards in the Mile High City.
Thanks to the generosity of the numerous sponsors, which included Visit Denver, EQSportsNet, iEquine, Dechra, Nutrena, Markel, Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Horseware Ireland and Charleigh’s Cookies, exhibitors were laden down with awards after a successful run. In six showcase classes, winners also took home amazing custom trophy saddles from Continental Saddlery, Equine Oasis and Pard’s Western Shop.
The top scoring Paint horses in select divisions were awarded gorgeous APHA High Point Paint Horse buckles by Gist Silversmiths, and last but certainly not least, 15 champions were draped in incredible Horseware Ireland coolers custom made in Ireland exclusively for The International.
Reining enthusiasts who were unable to attend The International had not one, but two live broadcast platforms to choose from courtesy of EQSportsNet and iEquine, while The International’s official television partner, Ride TV aired sponsor promotional pieces to over 5 million viewers via DISH during the week of the event.
Live broadcast numbers indicate that The International was seen by over 110,000 viewers in all 50 United States and 40 countries worldwide. The top 3 countries by viewership were USA, Canada and France while the top 3 states were California, Colorado and Texas. In addition EQSportsNet reports that in the week of The International alone 75,000 video views were generated, and that number continues to increase on a daily basis.
One of the most innovative tools employed by The International was the eProgram designed by iEquine. The flipbook program was sent to over 90,000 equestrian enthusiasts. Each sponsor logo was directly linked to their websites driving traffic with simple hover over their logo technology and was a format that was easy to share and pass on.
Brad Ettleman, President of HorsePower, Inc. could not have been more pleased with the 2015 event “The entire production team is incredibly pleased with the 2015 edition of The International. It was an outstanding re-launch, and we can see great things ahead for this progressive and fun Reining event.”
“From the quality of horses across the board, and especially in the international classes, to the broad representation of amateur competitors from across the country in the Loot for Grassroots, to the exciting display of talent in the National Championship Youth Freestyle, we could not have asked for a better event.”
“It is easy to remember at events like this why we do what we do. These horses are so worthy of our respect, and the people who love them are heroes to us all. It’s a privilege to offer an event like The International for this respect to be showcased in a very special way.”
Kalyn Sanders, Director of Business Development of the American Paint Horse Association expressed her enthusiasm for the inaugural APHA High Point Paint Horse Gist Silversmiths buckle recognition program at The International. “On behalf of APHA, it was a true pleasure to partner with The International this year. We appreciate all of the support and positive feedback we have received from its exhibitors as well and look forward to helping the show grow for years to come! “
Guy Vernon, President of the Eastern Plains Reining Horse Association (EPRHA) stressed the importance of having the Affiliate Regional Championships at The International. “We have a great facility here at the National Western Events Center in Denver which allows us to put on a great horse show. The Affiliate Finals year surpassed our expectations. From the Green riders to the FEI horses, the depth of quality was amazing. You could not afford to make a mistake and be successful here.”
“To have this event broadcast on two platforms was instrumental in showing the quality of the horses we have in this part of the country. It also highlights the quality of the horse show and the dedication we have for this sport. The live broadcast showed that this group of trainers in this region are every bit as talented as anywhere in the world. If you’re successful here in Colorado, you can be successful any place.”
The International was the perfect backdrop for the NRHA Mountain Affiliate Regional Championships, according to NRHA and Rocky Mountain Reining Horse Association (RMRHA) Board Member Shane Brown. “These affiliate finals are very important as they give the backbone of our membership that wants to come and show horses, especially the Non Pros and the owners that have horses other than Futurity and Derby horses, a venue to compete in. Having these affiliate finals gives these members a way to get to Oklahoma City and compete there.”
Highlights from The International
Eight horse and rider combinations performed inspirational, personal and often touching routines while incorporating required maneuvers into their routines in the US National Championship Youth Freestyle competition on Saturday evening before the FEI Concours de Reining. Riders chose to celebrate everything from family members, to that once in a lifetime horse, but at the end of the evening it was 17-year-old Emily Clark of Castle Rock, Colorado on the 19-year-old Duncans Dun it (aka Mudslide) who stole the hearts of the crowd and the judges.
“We went to one of my favorite songs, ‘You Raise Me Up’ by Josh Grobin. But coming up with a pattern that fits into the arena is very difficult. My trainer Guy Vernon and I measured out the size of this arena in his big arena and practiced at home. When we came to practice, it didn’t really fit, so my sister and I sat down and watched the videos she took of me and we came up with a new pattern 24 hours before the class.”
The routine proved to be a winner, as Emily and Mudslide marked a 229. But the best was yet to come. Thanks to Tim Bauer of Equine Oasis, Emily was awarded a beautiful trophy saddle, which she immediately gave to her sister. The two had been sharing one saddle for almost a year as Emily’s sister’s saddle had been stolen. Although a crowd funding initiative was in place, the amount needed to replace the stolen saddle proved unattainable………until now.
Ashley Weaver of Morgan, Utah and her mare Starlight Per Se had a great day in the show pen marking a 217 to share the Co-Champion title with Jessica Sternberg and Shiners Chic in the NRHA Non Pro and the Loot For Grassroots Gold Level and winning the Loot For Grassroots Silver & Bronze Level as well as the NRHA Intermediate Non Pro. Ashley was awarded three trophy saddles (one from each of the three divisions) from Continental Saddlery, Equine Oasis, and Pard’s Western Shop. Ashley and Jessica agreed to a coin toss, and Ashley gave one of the trophy saddles to her Co-Champion in the NRHA Non Pro Jessica Sternberg. In addition to the saddles, Ashley’s haul included 3 Horseware Ireland coolers, a Lawson bronze, a Gist Silversmiths buckle, Back on Track No Bow Wraps, and a night at the Four Seasons Denver.
“I’ve had a really good year on this little mare and saw that the money was up. It’s been a goal of mine to hit this show all year, so we made it a plan and here we are. I was a little bit nervous coming into this big pen, as my mare tends to be better in a smaller one. I really liked my run in, stop back, and my turns, but my favorite thing to do on her is to circle. She makes me feel like I have wings because we’re flying.”
How did Ashley like her first International? “I love that it’s a big pen and that there’s a big paycheck and cool prizes. I’ve won a couple saddles in my day, but never more than one in one day! My goal was just to draw a check; just get a piece of it. For my score to hold out all day…..I kept thinking, ‘Someone pinch me this can’t be happening!’ Then, at the awards ceremony, they kept bringing out more and more awards and I thought ‘Holy cow I love this!’ I got tears in my eyes as we were putting it all in the truck. My mare has been really special to me and this was a lot of firsts for both of us.”
Co-Champion NRHA Non Pro and the Loot For Grassroots Gold Level Jessica Sternberg of London, England has quite the commute. “My mom has a ranch in Aubrey, Texas and she keeps Shiner (Shiners Chic) there. I normally fly out twice or three times a year to show, arriving about two weeks before the event. I might get a European horse next year and show there, but I’m not sure yet.”
Jessica was equally as complimentary about the re-launch of The International. “I showed at The International in 2008 and was 3rd in the Loot For Grassroots and that was the best I had ever done. It was a really fun show. I loved it. When Brad (Ettleman) told me he was putting it back on this year, I had to come. He always puts on really fun horse shows. The FEI class was also an attraction as there is quite a lot of money in that class and its good for me to get a CRI under my belt.”
One of the more inspirational stories to come out of The International is that of Marc Wagman of Talala, Oklahoma and Taking A Rest who marked a 216.0 to claim the NRHA Prime Time Non Pro title. “My horse, Taking A Rest, foundered in June of his 3-year-old year and almost died. They sent him to Oakridge Veterinary Clinic in Edmond, Oklahoma where Dr. Mike Major spent a month saving his life. We never knew if he’d be able to be ridden again. When I got him home, he could barely walk.”
“Every five weeks, I would take him back to the clinic to x-ray his feet and reshape them. By the fall of his 3-year old year he started to be able to walk a little bit. They were even contemplating putting this horse down, but I wanted to do everything I could to save him. Early into his 5-year old year he was running around his pen like Secretariat, and I’m thinking, ‘Holy Cow, he looks so sound!” I started legging him up and riding him and he never took a bad step. I took him to the Derby that year where he made the Non Pro finals. Duane Latimer then took him to the NRBC where he made the Level 4 Open Finals. After that, he took him to the NRHA Derby where he won the Level 3 Open Finals.”
“This horse, that was never going to do much more than be a pasture ornament, ended up winning over $50,000 in two horse shows. I was so excited about his resurrection that I brought him to Denver to show before Duane takes him to the AQHA World Show. I was so excited that I won a gorgeous Continental Saddlery saddle. I am so appreciative of their sponsorship and support. I can’t wait to ride in it. I’m going to show in it so everyone can see it!”
Rylee Justus of Larkspur, Colorado was the winner of the Mile High Derby Non Pro Level 1 and Level 4 and the Limited Non Pro marking a 217.5 on her mare Gunners Blonde Chic (aka Gunnerella). This is Rylee’s first big Derby win on Gunners Blonde Chic and one Rylee won’t soon forget. “I’ve only had her about a year, and she’s awesome. When I go in the pen with her, I try not to worry about my run. I always enter with high expectations and go on from there.” Those expectations paid off in a big way as Rylee needed help carting home her Lawson and Morrison trophies, a Gist Silversmiths buckle Horseware Ireland cooler, Charleigh’s Cookies, and Back On Track No Bow Wraps.
Bub Poplin of Grand Junction, Colorado is going to have to add an extension to his trophy room after the week he had at The International. Bub and the 7-year old Smoking Custom Crome won the Open Level 4, Open Affiliate Finals Level 4 and the AQHA Senior Reining marking a 222.5.
“I love pattern 10. You get an extra stop and he’s a big stopper so that was pretty fun. I was actually second in the Open on Great King Pine.”
In the Mile High Derby Open Level 4, Bub and the 5-year old mare Smoke N Starlite found themselves in the Classic Equine Equipment Winner’s Circle. “This is her first Derby year. She was a Cow Horse and this is her fourth Derby. She’s won every Derby she’s been in, so that’s pretty cool.”
What brought Bub to The International? “All of our affiliate people wanted to come to try to qualify and compete in the Loot For Grassroots. As a matter of fact, my daughter-in-law won the Loot For Grassroots. Having all of these opportunities to show in these classes is very important. If we didn’t have the FEI classes, we wouldn’t have pulled the riders we pulled, and then they turned around and entered our Maturity. That just helps the whole industry to have these kind of events.”
Bub also reigned supreme in the Nutrena 3 Year Old and 4 Year Old Futurities. He was Co-Champion with The Trash Man ridden by Cody Stark the Nutrena 3 Year Old Futurity Open Level 4 on Mr Roostar and won the Nutrena 4 Year Old Futurity Open Level 4 on The Little Red Coop. Bub shares his insights on the addition of the Nutrena 4 Year Old Futurity. “I think that’s amazing. I think the sophomore year for these horses is the hardest year for them. I think the 4-year-Old program is going to really take off. You really train them hard as 3-year-olds and they work really hard as babies. It levels the playing field a lot for those 4-year-olds not to be up against the 5 and 6-year olds. I used to not haul many 4-year olds because I knew there weren’t going to be competitive against the older horses. We didn’t have to run so hard today. He was a 216.5, he was clean, we didn’t blow anything up, where in the Derby you’re going to have to step up and be a 19 or 20. I think it’s awesome.”
The International FEI Concours de Reining CRI 3* boasted a field of 13 riders from USA, France, Great Britain and Morocco. Included in the roster were WEG veterans Matt Mills (2006 WEG Aachen Team gold medalist) Tom McCutcheon (2010 WEG Kentucky double gold medalist) and Khalid EL Khoumsi (2014 WEG Normandy).
Moroccan rider Khalid El Khoumsi traveled from his home in France to represent Morocco on Mr Awesome Affaire in the FEI Concours de Reining CRI 3* competition.
Sharing his thoughts on the importance of his participation in this event Khalid said, “It’s a dream come true to show here in Denver. It’s worth every ounce of hard work to be here. I want to thank Brad Ettleman for inviting me to compete. I was in the middle of a meeting with the Equestrian Federation President and my phone kept ringing, so I reached down and turned the phone down because I wasn’t supposed to have the phone on. I kept getting messages one after the other. I was embarrassed and the Prince said if they are insisting, it must be important, and I said, ‘No your Highness, I shouldn’t.’ I saw that it was a message in English that I didn’t understand, so the Prince took my phone and read Brad’s invitation to compete at The International to me in French and told me I was going.” Khalid added that his federation and of course himself are impatient to redo this experience for the next show on US soil and that he would like to thank Laporte Performance Horses for the opportunity to train with them in the United States and for the use of Mr Awesome Affaire.
Casey Hinton from Whitesboro, Texas and 10-year-old stallion Top Gun Tonite marked a 222.5 to head straight to the top of the leaderboard in the FEI Concours de Reining CRI 3*, the USEF Open Qualifying Class, the USA Reining Open and the Mile High Maturity 7 & Over.
Casey can’t say enough about his equine partner on their second time around together. “I had him a couple of years ago. He wasn’t right. He had some injuries from when he was younger, so the owners took him home and rehabbed him for a couple of years. I’ve had him back all of this year, and I’ve only shown him a couple of times this year because I was trying to target events for this fall, including the FEI event at The International so he could get some exposure. It’s hard to find a horse for FEI events. When they get to that age, to keep them honest, competitive and sound enough to score well, it is a challenge to find horses for the FEI events. Its’ rare to find one as special and honest as he is.”
Casey went on to explain the importance of FEI events. “The international exposure leading up to the WEG event is very important for the Reining industry. For The International to have that many horses competing in a non-WEG year and with very competitive horses is fantastic, and something I don’t think has happened in the past.”
For more information about The International visit: TheInternationalReining.com