Journal on the Road

Kentucky Reining Cup – Freestyle

May 2, 2011

Houston Shine and Shane Brown win “In Color” at Kentucky Reining Cup Freestyle Championship.

By Larri Jo Starkey

Houston Shine and Shane Brown slide to a win at the freestyle championship. (Larri Jo Starkey photo) For more photos, scroll to the slide show below.

A 7-year-old sorrel stallion repeated his freestyle win from the National Western Stock Show at the inaugural Kentucky Reining Cup World Freestyle Championship, an evening that combined exciting freestyle with a collegial celebrity slide.

Riding to “In Color,” as recorded by Jamey Johnson, Shane Brown of Elbert, Colorado, and Houston Shine told the story of an old man’s remembrances of his life in black and white photos through slow circles followed by fast stops. Shane said he liked the song on first hearing it and thought it would go well with Houston Shine’s abilities.

“One of the things he likes to do is slow down like that and lope slow and do the big parts the way he does them,” Shane said April 30 after collecting the winner’s share of the $25,000 prize money. “And we just worked until it felt right.”

The freestyle reining was at the Alltech Arena in Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky, one of the facilities built for the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.

“The horse was USEF-eligible to show (April 29) in the open as well,” Shane said. “We’d been here for the WEG (freestyle reining demonstration), and it was a very nice facility. We thought it would be worth the trip.”

Houston Shine is by Hey Houston and out of Shining Shiner by Shining Spark. He was bred by Tom Chambers of Scottsdale, Arizona, and is owned by Sheryl and Preston Mease of Grand Junction, Colorado.

The win wouldn’t have been possible, Shane said, if he and Houston Shine didn’t have a long-term partnership. The arena lights were turned off, and four spotlights lit horse and rider for their routine.

“There are times when you look up to go run down, and the walls are black,” he said. “They trust you. It’s amazing these horses do what they do.”

Third-place finisher Heather Johnson of Ringgold, Georgia, agreed. Riding her homebred sorrel stallion Doublenotyourreeboks, Heather roused the crowd early in the evening with her hand claps and the horse’s blazing spins to “Dynamite.” She also wore sunglasses, in part for her costume and in part for the glare.

“It actually helped a little bit,” she said. “With the spotlights on, (the horses) really do have to trust you. It’s nice that when you practice here, they let you use the spotlights. I’ve been in events where they turn them on as you’re walking in for the performance. Sometimes it works and sometimes the horse runs away from them. They made a real effort to have the lighting here exactly as it was going to be tonight, and that makes a big difference.”

AQHA Professional Horseman Pete Kyle finished second on Whizs Bronze Star to Toby Keith’s song “Good to Go to Mexico.” He had nothing but praise for the Kentucky facility and the event that took place in conjunction with the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, the premier hunter trial in the United States.

“It was really fun to be able to go out on that cross-country course today and gain a whole new perspective,” Pete said. “That’s some scary stuff out there, and they show no fear. And they’re great horsemen and do a great job with their horses, preparing them and physically having them fit to do that kind of course. When we come as horsemen and we talk with these other horsemen from other disciplines and we all learn from it.”

Four eventers – Hamish Cargill of Australia, and Gina Myles and David and Karen O’Connor of the United States – rode reiners and collected score sheets.

David, the United States Equestrian Federation president, picked up his first reining check by finishing sixth.

“We all had a short time (to prepare), but we have to thank Pete for preparing the horses for us, because if you sit on a Pete Kyle horse, you just have to hang on and not get in the way,” David said.

On Paid By Corona, owned by the Roper family of Hobart, Indiana, David felt bold enough at the end of his ride to take his horse’s bridle off and try a little bridleless spin. He grinned happily through the whole thing.

“I’m big into the cheering,” he said. “This is a spectator-friendly sport. They understand it; they’re passionate about it, and we’ve got to – in our sports, we’ve got to be more willing to go there and really get the crowd involved in what we do. So I think that’s a lesson for all of us, because it’s a blast to come.”

For more photos, scroll to the Journal slide show below. Click on each photo to see the caption.

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