It’s All About Style

In freestyle reining, it all comes down to entertainment, and the freestyle reining at the All American Quarter Horse Congress is most definitely entertaining.

Pete Kyle does not smoke.

Pete Kyle and Gimme Major Bucks performed to "Smokin' in the Boys Room" for their freestyle reining routine.

Neither does his son, Austin. Let’s clear that up right away.

However, when you’re performing a freestyle reining routine to “Smokin’ in the Boys Room,” cigarettes are a necessary prop.

You’ve gotta do what you’ve gotta do when it comes to freestyle reining competition. From burly men squeezing into cheerleader get-ups to winged horses, it all comes down to entertaining the crowd.

And the freestyle reining at the All American Quarter Horse Congress is most definitely entertaining …  so much so that tickets sell out every year.

It’s where Stacy Westfall and Whizards Baby Doll wowed the crowd in 2006 with their brideless and saddleless routine. A video of that performance has been seen around the world and even caught the attention of Ellen Degeneres, who invited Stacy and “Roxy” to her L.A. studio.

Stacy wasn’t at this year’s Congress freestyle reining, but there were 18 others vying for fame and glory with their routines.

Pete stole the show with not just one but two open performances. His first, riding John McElreath’s Gimme Major Bucks, had help from Austin and his wife, Tamra.

“I’m fortunate to have a son and a wife who will go out there and help ham it up with me,” the AQHA Professional Horseman said after his “Smokin in the Boys Room” routine. “They did a great job. They helped that act a lot.”

Pete came back last in the draw, this time riding to Brad Paisley’s “I’m Still a Guy” on Kaitlin Townsend’s Whizs Bronze Star. He marked a 230, which was 1.5 points higher than his previous ride. He ended up taking first and second.

“They both were real good,” Pete said of his two horses. “The first horse was a little spooked at that big a crowd and stuff. But once I started into maneuvers, he fell into it and went to work. Then this little horse is just such a nice horse. He just does his deal and has a lot of fun with it.”

And fun is what it’s all about.

Non-pro rider Kimberly Crupper, who has been the Congress champion in non-pro freestyle reining twice, always has a routine that wows the crowd. This year, she put wings on her 9-year-old gelding, Quick Enterprise, and rode to Kenny Chesney’s “Everybody Wants to Go to Heaven.”

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“This was the backup costume for last year, actually,” said Kimberly, who repeated her non-pro title win again this year. “It wasn’t working at the last minute, but then we got it to work so we saved it for this year. He loves the wings, and he loves the crowd.”

“Matt” is the National Reining Horse Association’s top-earning freestyle reining horse, with lifetime earnings of almost $40,000.

“He’s such a great horse,” the Paris, Kentucky, resident said. “He’s been turned out since Congress last year and I’ve only had him up for the last 30 days just to get ready for this class.”

However, next year, Matt, won’t be getting as much time off. Kimberly, as well as Pete, has been invited to participate in the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games freestyle reining exhibition. Although dressage freestyle is a regular event at the World Equestrian Games, this will be the debut for reining freestyle.

“I’m really excited about it,” Kimberly said. “It’s practically in my backyard.”

“They are going to have a lot of good people with really good horses there,” Pete added. “I think it will be a great, great entertaining night.”

And that’s what matters most in freestyle.

Tonya Ratliff-Garrison
Field Editor
American Quarter Horse Journal

Check out the photos below from the 2009 All American Quarter Horse Congress Freestyle Reining (click on the photo to see the captions). Also, catch ReelHorse Channel videos of this year’s routines.

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