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The Cook Family Ups the Ante for the All American Novice Horse Futurity

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By Delores Kuhlwein and JR Cook:

In July 2023, the Cook family made history with a one-of-a-kind novice horse futurity showcasing the 3-Year-Old & Over Novice horse: The inaugural 2023 All American Novice Horse Western Pleasure Futurity!

Last year, the open class had $10,000 added with a $250 entry fee, with 90% of the entry fee going straight into the purse. They also awarded a Blue Ribbon saddle, sponsored by Dr. Tony Roconni of MidSouth Equine Sports Medicine & Surgery, to the first horse out of the money.

Last year’s winners of the Open: Ladee Luck with Ashley Lakins for MR And Mrs. William Wilkes. Photo: Cody Parmenter Photography.

See last year’s open winners here:

Exciting New Additions

The first piece of exciting news for 2024 from JR Cook: “It’s coming back this year with more money added, with the same low-cost entry fee. The open has $15,000 added with $1500 in limited rider bonuses, which is up from last year.”

The 2024 eligibility for the $2500 3-Year-Old & Over Novice Horse Open Western Pleasure horses remains the same with one addition:

*Horse cannot have won $2,500 as of January 1st

*Overall Champions and Reserve Champions in the 3-Year-Old & Over Novice & Maiden Slot classes at the March to the Arch, The Virginia Maiden, The Madness, the Premier LTD/LTD class, or A Sudden Impulse Futurity are ineligible.

*With the exception of Premier’s LTD/LTD class, the Limited Champions and Limited Reserve Champions in the other events are still eligible.

Bring On the Non-Pros

In addition, the Cook family is celebrating the Non-Pro owners of those novice horses in a big way.  They’ve upped the stakes in the Non-Pro futurity they offered in 2023 alongside the open futurity, this time by bumping up the added money to $7500 in the $2500 3-Year-Old & Over Novice Horse Non-Pro Western Pleasure Futurity.

The horse eligibility above is not applicable to the Non-Pro futurity, he explains. It’s open to all Non-Pros, and the eligibility requirement is simple:

*Horse cannot have earnings in excess of $2500 as of January 1st.

JR explains, “We want to set this apart by providing an opportunity to the owners if they want to show those novice horses, too, with the same core idea.  The industry needs more of that – allowing the owners to realize how fun it is to go out and show their horses.”

JR Cook and Line Up Behind after winning the 3-Year-Old Ltd. Non Pro Western Pleasure, Tom Powers Christmas Challenge, December 2020.

Increasing the incentive and participation in the Non-Pro class is a logical step, since the two classes go hand-in-hand, and he fondly recalls the enjoyment of the futurities for him as an owner.  “This industry will be better off and better served if we start getting those owners to ride. Exhibit your horse and have fun because that’s what it’s all about.”


The Overall Picture

The winners from each class this year will be presented with Holly Spagnola buckles, and details for more awards from the likes of Bobby Smith of Rod Patrick Boots and Chuck Letchworth Bits are forthcoming.

JR estimates after adding the extra $10k in cash from last year, they’ll have approximately $22,500 for cash payouts, and “when it’s all said and done, we’ll award well over $30k in cash and prizes. We are adding more cash money and prizes all while keeping the low cost $250 entry fee, with 90% of the entry fee going straight into the purse”

He’s looking forward to growing both the open and the Non-Pro in the future and seeing just how big they can make the program, in addition to his goal of hopefully adding as much money in the Non-Pro class as the open.

JR and Melissa are also grateful for the support from trainers, exhibitors, and owners they’ve received in their mission to continually improve and give back to the industry.  “I think we had 14-16 riders show last year, and everybody seemed to enjoy it,” JR says.  “The Big A has always been such a fun show for us, and it presents a good opportunity before we all head to NSBA and the Congress and everyone’s attention goes to the fall majors.”

For more information on this year’s program, contact JR Cook: 713-249-4220 or by email:

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