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Michelle Cowan Wins Circle Y Ranch SRCHA Derby Non Pro Championship; Tammy Johnston Takes Intermediate

Michelle Cowan collected all the rewards at the Circle Y Ranch SRCHA Derby on her horse, Reward Me Please (Chic Please X Reward Me Peppy), when her 146.5 in the cow work broke a tie with Tammy Johnston and clinched the Non Pro Championship. Her last National Reined Cow Horse Association event, the 2007 NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity, had the same result - but on a different mare, Wheres My Shine (Shining Spark X Boomerita), also entered in the Derby.

“Coming in I thought they both had good chances - each has her own strengths and weaknesses,” Michelle said. “Dolly (Reward Me Please) is a year older and she is so consistent down the fence and always good in the herd. She always stops and turns big. Reining is challenging but she was good here. She just gives you a lot of confidence down the fence and is incredibly fast and very tight on a cow. She’s the best fence horse I’ve ever had.”

With her 2007 Snaffle Bit Futurity Champion, Wheres My Shine, “I was last in the herd on her and we cut soft, safe cows. Then we didn’t get a good cow down the fence. I really wanted her to do well, but she had a foot abscess after the futurity and was off for three months, so I’ve only been back on her three weeks. When the cow didn’t want to stay on the fence, you could tell she was still green.”

She’ll have plenty of time to become more seasoned, as Michelle plans to continue to show both mares in NRCHA Limited Age Events in 2008.

Cowan was quick to thank trainer, Todd Crawford. “He’s a little birdie in my ear; he gives me a pep talk before I go in about how to do it.” She also mentioned the support from her husband, Bill, and the rest of her helpers. “It’s always fun to see and show against such great people. Tammy Johnston made me work for it all today. I really enjoyed showing against her!”

Johnston won the Non Pro Reserve Championship and the Intermediate Non Pro Championship on Quanah Dual (Dual Reward x Quanah Leah) and the win was the first major NRCHA title for a wife who has spent most of her time helping her husband, professional trainer Lance Johnston. Tammy was leading the event after the rein work, so did the pressure have an impact? “I understand it’s usually hard to stay focused in the lead, but I seem to do better under pressure. Without pressure I don’t step up to the plate,” she said.

Tammy did step up to the plate at the Lone Star Arena and says the reason is because of her confidence in her horse. “I did the turns on the fence one-handed; he’s so broke, so cowy and athletic. I knew I had the horse to do well and Lance had me and my horse so prepared - it was up to me.”

Her excitement was palpable. “I’ve been on the phone text-messaging - my mom and mom-in-law and our son and all my friends - I let everyone know. My son always asks me if I won and this time I got to say yes. He was excited.”

She was quick to thank her husband. “Lance is amazing in everything he does for me and our family. He was more nervous than I was and he’s more excited that I won!” She laughed, then added. “He even wore two different color socks today. His Aunt Pat does that when he shows and he always does well when she does!”

So how will she celebrate the win? “By helping to support Lance through the rest of the week; we’ve got a lot to go. Mine is over but his is just beginning,” she laughed, referring to her husband’s entries in the Open Hackamore, Two-Rein and World’s Greatest Horseman.

The Intermediate Non Pro Reserve Championship went to Tammy Jo Hays on Little San Rose (Smart Little Lena x Dox San Rose ) with a composite score of 428.5 (144, 142.5, 146).

McKenzie Merrill of Weatherford, Texas, was showing in her first NRCHA event at the Derby and ended up winning the Amateur Championship on 5-year-old Captain 327 (Hickorys Indian Pep X Mac O Lena Queen). Although she’s new to riding reined cow horses, she’s a veteran of cutting and reining competition. She won the NCHA Derby Limited Non Pro title, and has been a finalist in just about every NCHA Aged Event. In National Reining Horse Association competition, she was a Reserve Youth World Champion and a two-time All American Quarter Horse Congress Champion.

She had gotten a Snaffle Bit Horse a couple of years ago, then the day before Reno the horse tore a suspensory - a career-ending injury. “I got a taste of it, then I had to wait.”

McKenzie bought Captain after the 2007 American Quarter Horse Association World Championship Show from Jackson Land & Cattle. “I always liked him and I had been riding some cow horses at Todd Crawford’s even before I got him so I had Todd try him and he said he thought he would be good.” She was able to ride with Crawford some prior to the show as her parent’s home is only about fifteen minutes away.

In January, she went to the Arizona Sun Circuit and was able to show several times. With help from Shadd Parkinson, she learned about her new horse and how to prepare him. “It really helped my confidence,” she said. The confidence was well-placed and her composite score of 426 (141.5, 140.5, 144) earned the Amateur title, plus fourth in the Non Pro and third in the Intermediate!

Next on the agenda for Merrill is to enter the NRCHA Derby this summer and to show enough to qualify for the world show. “My brother, Tyler, is going to rope on him too. Thanks to Tyler and to my parents for their help and encouragement.”

Karla Rogers was the Amateur Reserve Champion on BJ Chula Mula (Chula Dual X BJ Tari) with a score of 425 (141.5, 140.5, 144).

Action continues on Tuesday morning with the Open Bridle Preliminaries of the NRCHA World Championship show.

The National Reined Cow Horse Association, the governing body of cow horse competition, is responsible for promoting the sport, insuring high standards of competition and educating members and the public about the history and tradition of the cow horse. Through the support of a Corporate Partner family that includes Wayne Hodges 4-Star Trailers and Outlaw Conversions, Bob's Custom Saddles, Cinch, Inc., Classic Equine, Gist Silversmiths, MD Barns, Platinum Performance, Inc., Nutrena, Quarter Horse News & Performance Horse magazine, the Peppermill Hotel/Resort, Fort Dodge West Nile Innovator, Rios of Mercedes, Merial products ULCERGARD and GASTROGARD, Great American Insurance Company and the Silver Legacy Hotel, the association works to keep the vaquero tradition alive in today’s equine industry. For information on the National Reined Cow Horse Association, call 580-759-4949 or visit the NRCHA Official Web Site at http://www.nrcha.com.


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