Journal on the Road

Same Song, Different Horse

July 2, 2009

Seven years ago, Shawn Flarida wasn’t really a household name in the reining world.

NRHA's $3 million rider Shawn Flarida and RC Fancy Step won the 2009 NRHA Derby with a 232.5.

However, in 2002, Shawn rode a spunky little palomino stallion to a phenomenal 233 to win his first National Reining Horse Association Futurity. Wimpys Little Step boosted Shawn’s star. Since then, the Ohio reining trainer has returned to the winner’s circle again and again, including three more times at the futurity, twice at the National Reining Breeders Classic and now four times at the NRHA Derby, after winning on a son of “Wimpy” on June 27.

Shawn and RC Fancy Step were 12th in the draw for the 2009 NRHA Derby open finals. Marco Ricotta and Hollywoodtinseltown were leading with an amazing 230.5. This same pair had tied with Shawn and “RC” with a 227 for the lead in the Derby prelims.

Shawn put the high score out of his mind and focused on the 5-year-old palomino stallion underneath him.
“I try not to think about those things, because there are a ton of guys out there who can mark a score like that,” Shawn said. “So you don’t think about those things or you will drive yourself nuts.”

Riding pattern 5, Shawn moved RC into his first set of circles.

“In the circles to the left, I ran him as hard as he could run. He’s a little, short, fat stud, so he can’t go very fast. But as soon as you hum to him or say anything to him, he’ll come back really hard.”

RC’s first set of spins were phenomenal.

“He turned to the left so freaking hard, they felt like a 1 1/2,” Shawn recalled. “I’m just glad when he stopped that I was still on his back. They were really, really cool.”

Moving into his second set of circles, Shawn pushed RC again and then went into his right spins.

“He was so sweet, and was at least a plus 1 about everywhere across the board.”

In the figure eight, Shawn didn’t run RC quite as hard as he did in the circles, trying to conserve the stallion’s air.

“I don’t know that I did a very good job, but I tried,” Shawn said. “He did run out of gas a little bit running into the stops but he stopped really good on the left lead. Usually he’s better on the right lead but he actually stopped really good on the left lead tonight. He was just a lot of fun to show and did awesome.”

The pair took over the lead with a 232.5, and it was not topped by any of the next 25 horses, include two Shawn was riding: Western Whiz and the 2007 NRHA Futurity and 2008 NRHA Derby champion Wimpys Little Chic.

Shawn and RC have been together since the beginning of the stallion’s career. By Wimpy and out of Sonita Wilson by Doc Wilson, the stallion and Shawn won the 2007 All American Quarter Horse Congress Futurity and were the reserve champions at the 2007 NRHA Futurity, just behind another Wimpy foal, Wimpys Little Chic, also ridden by Shawn.

Just before the 2008 NRBC open finals, Mark Schols and Jimmy Pierce sold RC to Debora Plummer of Buffalo Ranch of Fort Worth, Texas.

“The ranch has been absolutely wonderful to work for,” Shawn said. “The (owners) wanted to venture into the reining horse industry. I told them when they bought RC, ‘You’re starting at the top and that means we can only go one way.”

But as talented as RC is, Shawn doesn’t see that happening.

“He’s just such a dominant, physical horse, and reminds me so much of his dad,” he said. “Wimpy was good to me in 2002 and that seems like an eternity now but it really wasn’t. And I hope Wimpy will continue to produce some more for me and keep me in the winner’s circle.”

To read about Fred Christen’s non-pro Derby championship on Skeets Little Annie, click here.

Tonya Ratliff-Garrison
Field Editor
American Quarter Horse Journal

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Below are photos from the 2009 NRHA Derby. Click on the photos to see the captions.