The adage “always a bridesmaid, never a bride” no longer applies to Porterville, California, trainer Russell Dilday. On February 24, Dilday, riding his great horse, Topsails Rien Maker, finally captured the World’s Greatest Horseman title – but the road to the Championship wasn’t easy. After the first two events, it seemed clear that it would come down to two riders – Dilday, and Robbie Schroeder.
“I haven’t absorbed it yet,” admitted Dilday. “I keep waiting for them to announce ‘we have a review.’”
Having finished as Reserve World’s Greatest Horseman twice, he knew that he needed to lay it all on the line to win – but it seemed that luck wouldn’t be on his side. Drawing up first in the herd work, he only managed to score a 211 – a score that normally wouldn’t seem too promising. However, tough cattle made it difficult to mark high, and Russell ended up in fourth place.
“I scored two 211s, and I was bummed about both of them,” he noted. “I knew it was time to play catch up.”
From the beginning of his reining pattern, it was easy to see that Dilday was not planning on taking it easy. From super fast spins to flawless lead changes, he was clearly out to mark high. A score of 221 put him a few scant – but much needed – points ahead of Schroeder and another equally talented stallion, Shine By The Bay.
Going into the steer stopping, a little strategy was needed, “I played it safe, but I knew it still had to be good, because Robbie was right there with me – and he’s a much better roper. Obviously, he won that part, but we did ok.”
After the roping, Dilday and Schroeder were tied, and it all came down to the cow work, where Dilday drew first. A difficult cow looked like it would put the leader out of the running after another 211 score. “We just didn’t have luck,” he said. “I thought it would run, and it didn’t. So I figured we would get beat. But I considered it, and thought ‘Oh well, second’s cool. I’ve done that before.’”
But, as luck would have it, Schroeder also had a difficult cow, and marked a lower score than Dilday. With seven horses left, it was possible for another rider to take the lead, but none of the remaining finalists got close.
“All these horses could have legitimately won it,” noted Schroeder, who finished Reserve. “But it all came down to luck today. I’m just thrilled to be here in the finals, with this caliber of horses. I’m very happy for Russell to have won it, finally.”
Along with a very impressive title, the World’s Greatest Horseman contest also bestowed its Champion with a check for $30,000.
Finishing Reserve and winning a $22,500 was especially exciting for Robbie Schroeder, of Gainesville, Texas. Although he has competed in the event three other times, 2008 is the first time he has made the finals. “It’s always been me,” he admitted. “Everything is tough – there is no part that’s easy, and you have to be good in all four events. I would have something happen each year that kept me out. To even make it to the finals is great.”
Schroeder, who has won numerous AQHA World Championships in roping, rode Shine By The Bay, a horse that he has a long history with. He trained “Shine By,” and the stallion was his first horse he took to the NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity, where the pair placed Reserve in the Limited Open. He also took him to the National Reining Horse Association Futurity, where they placed fourth.
Shine By went on to win over $200,000, before entering into semi-retirement. With the exception of a few ropings and small cow horse events since December, Shine By hadn’t been shown for almost two years prior to the World’s Greatest.
“You bring the horse you think you can win it on, and he’s the one for me,” said Schroeder. “I’m very lucky that I got to bring him.”
Shine By, owned by Shine By The Bay Partnership, will move to Kentucky to stand at stud until after the breeding season, when he’ll return to Schroeder to get in shape for the AQHA World Show.
Both top finishers agreed that the World’s Greatest Horseman is the best western competition for putting horses and riders in real situations. “These horses can go do anything on a ranch that needs to be done,” said Schroeder adamantly. Dilday was quick to expand on that statement, “This event makes you do everything you would have to be able to do as a cowboy. Frankly, a guy without a rope is just a boy on his horse.”
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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<a href="http://www.equestrianmag.com/article/russell-dilday-world-horseman-02-08.html">Russell Dilday is 2008 World’s Greatest Horseman</a> ~ EquestrianMag.com