A Look at the Congress NRHA Open Reining Futurity
October 7th, 2015Tweet
By: Barbara Aitken
Photo: Congress NRHA Futurity Winner, Robin Schoeller and Tinseltown Flash owned by Beth Himes.
The Congress NRHA Open Reining Futurity is one of the many highlights of the All American Quarter Horse Congress (AAQHC). Each year, reiners travel thousands of miles to compete in the prestigious Futurity where they are able to show off their best three-year olds and compete for the largest pre NRHA Futurity purse in the nation. The Congress NRHA Open Reining Futurity is simply unlike any other reining event.
The Congress NRHA Open Reining Futurity holds a connection between the NRHA and the AAQHC that cannot be broken. The connection dates back to the early years of the quarter horse industry in Ohio. Amidst the infancy of the Ohio Quarter Horse Association (OQHA) in the early 1960s, another fraction of the horse industry began to form—reining.
“The quarter horse shows had a reining class at the end, but it wasn’t anything much,” recalls Clark Bradley, an NRHA Hall of Fame member and longtime OQHA Director, board member, and Hall of Fame member. “At one time, we didn’t even have patterns. We just went in the pen and did maneuvers.”
After a while, completing maneuvers in random order did not pose as much of a challenge. Consequently, a group of the reining individuals decided to develop patterns. Bradley stills remembers the first pattern he rode. “We started loping in a circle and made a smaller and smaller circle over and over again until we broke down into a spin.”
That same group of people began thinking that these horses they called reiners could potentially contribute from a specialized group of their own. A short time later, the National Reining Horse Association began in Coshocton, Ohio.
In 1966, the first NRHA Futurity was held in Columbus, Ohio. One year later in 1967, the All American Quarter Horse Congress made its debut in Columbus. While only a three day show, the AAQHC welcomed the NRHA Futurity to be a part of its growing event. For the next 18 years excluding the year in 1972 when it was moved to Sedalia, Missouri, the NRHA Futurity was part of the AAQHC.
“At the point when we moved to Oklahoma City, we were out growing the Congress. With the NRHA Futurity and the Congress in one place at one time, the grounds just weren’t big enough,” explains Bradley.
When the NRHA Futurity permanently moved to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, the idea to develop a Congress NRHA Open Reining Futurity came to light. Since 1986 the Congress NRHA Reining Futurity has been a permanent fixture of the AAQHC.
Over the past few years, the AAQHC and the NRHA have worked closely with one another to ensure that the Congress NRHA Open Reining Futurity remain a top-tier reining event.
The 49th AAQHC’s new barn improvements and additional added money made the trip worthwhile for many of the world’s top trainers. Four of the five 2014 top NRHA money earners including Jordan Larson, Andrea Fappani, Ohio resident Shawn Flarida, and Ohio native, Craig Schmersal competed in the Futurity.
Photo: Professionals Jordan Larson, Shawn Flarida, and Andrea Fappani host a reining demostration before the Futurity Finals on Tuesday.
Schmersal said, “Being from Ohio, the Congress has always been special to me. The sport of reining started here and I’ll always want to come.”
Fappani, who lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, believes that the $32,000 added money and the new Adequan barn made it worth the 2,000+ mile drive. “The facility is great, the pens are great, and the people are friendly. I look forward to it every year.”
Larson, from Whitesboro, Texas said, “I come to the Congress for the prestige. I get to compete against the toughest guys in the world.”
“The world” is an accurate term to describe the Congress NRHA Open Futurity. Exhibitors from across the United States, Canada, South America, and even Europe came to compete.
Cody Sapergia, a native Canadian who now trains in Austria, flew especially to compete at this year’s Futurity. “I have to be back in Austria in a week to be at another show. But the Congress is worth my time when I know there’s money on the line and I can see where my horse will be for the NRHA Futurity in Oklahoma City in a month.”
2015 Congress NRHA Open Futurity winner, Robin Schoeller, from London, Ohio, is excited to see the reining events grow stronger each year at the AAQHC. “I think the Congress could be one of the top reining destinations in the world. We’ve got everything—the facility, the money, and the competition.”
Officials of the AAQHC and NRHA believe that the AAQHC could be the next reining hot spot. With the rich history of the NRHA coupled with the strength of a quality facility and enticing money added, the Congress NRHA Open Futurity is simply a show “you can’t afford to miss.”
Photo credit: Farmstead Images- Danielle Stephenson & Shane Rux Photography