FORT WORTH-An American Paint Horse named Colonels Smokingun, "Gunner," aimed to outdraw the competition at the $100,000 United States Equestrian Team (USET) Opening Reining Championship in Galdstone, N.J., June 26, and didn't disappoint the crowd of 5,000 people who turned out for the showdown.
The American Paint Horse won the Championship by a wide margin, with a two-round composite score of 448.5-nine points ahead of the second-place competitor. A team of five judges awarded the points.
Gunner's totals were considered exceptionally high. In fact, the 8-year-old sorrel overo stallion went into the competition with the highest USET reining score in history -a 233 in the semi-finals at Oklahoma City, Okla. Ridden by Bryant Pace and owned by Kim and Debra Sloan, all of Newfoundland, N. J., Gunner has proven to be a master at the sport, earning more than $160,000 over his career.
"He's all start and he's all stop," said Kim Sloan, emphasizing that Gunner is cool under pressure and never wastes energy.
"That's where his success comes from.
"He'll be calm when he needs to be and then explodes in the pattern right when you want him to.
"All his energy is directed to responding to the rider. That's what's so special about him. Gunner is a great horse."
The thousands of people who attended the reining championship knew they were witnessing a special horse as well. Their enthusiastic response to his final performance, with loud cheers and applause, made it obvious they knew who was favored to win.
"But we never take anything for granted, and neither does Gunner," said his owner. "Every horse out there had the potential to win that championship, or they wouldn't have made it that far. But when Gunner is "on," he's very tough to beat. And Gunner was on."
Another American Paint Horse, Mark This Spot, also qualified for the Championship in Gladstone and participated in the competition. The 6-year-old bay tobiano stallion is owned by the Haverty Ranch in Krum, Texas.
In USET's Nation's Cup team competition, the Paint stallion Smokin Chic Olena was a standout.
Craig Johnson of Gainesville, Texas, helped capture a silver medal for the United States on the 7-year-old sorrel overo. In the Nation's Cup competition, teams that included four horses and riders competed in two rounds of action. The class featured four national teams, including Canada, Germany, Japan and the United States.
Smokin Chic Olena, owned by Susan Mason of Fairmont, W. Va., also earned a silver himself with the second-highest individual score in the class.
"To have three horses qualify to participate and do that well in the competition is a real credit to these horses and to our breed," said Jim Kelley, APHA assistant executive secretary. "We're proud of the horses and everyone involved.
"When you look at what these horses have accomplished, it reaffirms that, as a breed, American Paint Horses have the conformation, athleticism and talent to be international champions."
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The Fort Worth-based non-profit association employs 165 people and maintains an operating budget of more than $15 million for activities worldwide.
For more information about APHA or APHA programs, call (817) 834-2742, ext. 788, or log on to www.apha.com.