With heartbreak behind her, DIY Amateur Chrissy Alcorn reinvented a former cutting horse to show in Ranch events at the 2023 AQHA World Show
By Delores Kuhlwein
A horse lover since birth, Chrissy Alcorn of Bailey Oklahoma, thought she would be wrapping up her 2023 show season with her beloved mare, Six Lighted Star, at the AQHA World Championship Show.
The pair had qualified for the 2023 VRH World Show and the 2023 AQHA World Show, and they had their sights set on both when Chrissy lost “Sierra” in a tragic incident in January.
Sierra was a horse Chrissy and her husband, Steve, had purchased from the Best of the Remuda Sale from the Haythorn Land & Cattle, and Chrissy began showing her in VRH and AQHA ranch classes.
Enter Former Cutter, Merl
While the former all-around exhibitor showed Sierra in the VRH classes, they began to bring Steve’s horse, “Merl” along as well.
“My husband bought Jazarrell Peppy when he was three as a ranch horse prospect. He was a reject cutter by Jazarrell Cat out of Little Avalanche who is by Peppy San Badger,” explains Chrissy. “Merl was taught all the aspects to be a good ranch horse mount and boy was he! He was my husband’s go-to horse, who he could rely on to get any ranch job done. From catching and roping bulls, to doctoring and checking wheat pasture yearlings, Merl was “the horse” all the cowboys wish they owned. Merl was also used as a ranch rodeo horse who performed in many top ranch rodeos helping to earn many team championships for my husband’s team.”
Chrissy had been showing Sierra in VRH classes for about a year and a half when she decided to “give ol’ Merl a stab at seeing how he could do in the boxing and in the ranch cutting. He took to it pretty well considering he was bred to be cowy, and boy, was he cowy!” she says.
So they began to tag Merl along for those two cattle classes while she continued to show Sierra in ranch classes. When they lost Sierra unexpectedly in January, however, Chrissy knew Merl had to “step it up and become my main mount if I wanted to stay doing all the classes I loved so much – Ranch Riding & Ranch Trail.”
An Old Dog with New Tricks
The problem was – amongst other things – Merl had never been trained to carry himself with a level head, “nor did he know how to correctly lope off on the correct leads until the last few months of his 10-year-old year,” says Chrissy.
They ended up qualifying for the AQHA World Show in the Open and Amateur Working Western Rail at the very last minute. “Who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks!” Chrissy exclaims.
“Now with that said, remember, Merl is a very hot, cowy horse who when he sees the environment of his ranch horse lifestyle, he’s literally on the muscle and is ready to do his job,” Chrissy adds. “So it was quite a feat to try to retrain his mind and body to relax and slow down so that he could actually go in the pen and complete a pattern and not have a cow coming out of a gate at him, on his mind. It was definitely a process and still is, but for me to have to take what I had and make use of it and to even get qualified to compete at the World Show was a HUGE accomplishment to say the least.”
When the time came to show, Chrissy knew she could only show in Amateur (even though she also qualified in the Open) due to the way the World Show schedule was laid out, since she only has three personal days off during the school year as a second-grade teacher in Sterling, Oklahoma. In fact, she’s in her 20th year as an Oklahoma elementary school teacher.
As a DIY Amateur who shows and maintains her own horses, in addition to being an educator, wife, and mother of a toddler, one might say she’s had a lot of practice juggling. So she put her skills to use and relied on a good friend, despite living about a 1 ½ hour drive from OKC, and still having to work. “Merl had never been in that type of show environment, so I knew he needed to be there days ahead just to acclimate and settle in to all the hustle and bustle of what the World Show includes. I had to make the drive back and forth several of those days,” she says.
On the days when she worked, she relied on her friend Jeanine Jones, also a DIY Amateur who was there showing horses she raised. “She saw that Merl was looked after and even managed to get him out to longe him amongst her busy show schedule,” Chrissy says.
Words of Encouragement
What Chrissy wants others to know: “Showing horses on a teacher’s salary is a struggle in itself. People have no idea how little we make, so I have to scrape and make do with what I have. I’m married to a working ranch cowboy, so that should tell you how little we make as a whole,” she reveals. “I want people to know that even though you don’t have a lot of money, showing and competing at the World level is possible if you work your butt off, make goals, and stick to them no matter what life throws at you. I did not make the finals in my class, but I had one of the absolute best arena rides ever on Merl. He loves the working rail class and that’s what makes it so fun.”
To overcome the loss of her precious mare, Sierra, Chrissy leaned on what, and who, she knew. “Knowing that I had already qualified her for both World Shows and had to switch horses at the end and still somehow manage to get him qualified in 2 classes is a huge blessing. God is my rock, and I couldn’t do any of this horse show thing if it weren’t for Him. Put the Lord first in your life, work hard, set goals, and stick to them.”
Finally she says, smiling, “My husband and I still shake our heads at the horse Merl is today. We would’ve never in a million years ever thought Merl would 1), be a show horse, and 2), be qualified and showing at the highly ranked AQHA World Show. And last but not least…. You CAN teach an old dog new tricks!”