When Samantha Belcher decided to take Taser Gun to the National Reining Horse Association Derby on June 21–28 in Oklahoma City, she just wanted to make the finals—any finals—in the Non-Pro division.
“I always want to make at least one finals, and then whatever happens in just icing on the cake,” the Cave Creek, Arizona, resident and APHA member said.
She and “Taser”—a 2010 chestnut overo mare by Jacs Electric Spark (QH) and out of Majestic Gun, a Colonels Smokingun mare—teamed up last August and competed together in NRHA futurity competitions in 2013. The 2014 Derby is the first time they’ve qualified for the Non-Pro Level 4 Finals, an accomplishment Samantha doesn’t take lightly.
“When I made the Level 4 finals, I was just ecstatic, so I was just like, ‘I’m just going to go have fun now in the finals,’ ” she said. “Taser was the best she’s ever been for me.”
They finished within the Top Five of all four Non-Pro divisions with their score of 220 in the finals—they were fifth in the Level 4, fourth in the Level 3 and Level 2, and second in the Level 1—and took home a total of $22,351 in winnings.
Samantha, who trains with Troy Heikes of Scottsdale, Arizona, currently attends Arizona State University, where she’s studying biology. She started riding hunter-jumper horses at the age of 6, but transitioned to Western riding only a couple years later. At 9, she started learning reining, and has been hooked ever since.
“It’s always been riding and school—I’ve never really had time for anything else,” she said.
But the college equestrienne also makes sure to construct a careful balance between riding and school to keep everyone happy. She arranges her school schedule to only attend classes a few days each week, then spends the other half of the week riding intensely.
“I talk to my professors at the beginning of the semester and explain what I do. They don’t understand, but they do understand that it’s a really big commitment,” Samantha explained. “They’re really open to working with me so far at ASU—they’ve all been really interested as long as I work ahead or work around their schedule.”
And it’s well worth a busy schedule to ride and compete Taser.
“She’s pretty goofy. She really likes her job and she tries really hard, but she has a really big personality on the ground. She’ll never sit still when you’re saddling her, so everyone is like, that horse must be really hard to ride. Then you get on her and you have to kick her every stride. She’s super laid-back,” Samantha said.
In addition to Samanth and Taser, several registered American Paint Horses placed in the Top 10 of the NRHA Derby Finals. Mandy McCutcheon rode Check Out My Guns to sixth place in the Non- Pro Level 4. The 2010 sorrel overo mare by Colonels Smokingun and out of Darlins Not Painted earned a 219.5 and a $6,965 paycheck.
In the Prime Time Non-Pro Derby, Chicks Smokingun—a 2008 by a solid stallion by Colonels Smokingun and out of Dun It by Chick (QH)—and Mark Bradford placed seventh with a 215. Right behind the pair, Spooks Gotta Run—a 2008 by a solid stallion by Spooks Gotta Gun and out of Prettywhizprettydoes (QH)—and Michael Jeffcoat placed eighth with a 214.
In the Open Derby Level 2, Hes Smart With A Gun and Michael Berg placed eighth with a 218.5. The 2010 chestnut solid stallion by Colonels Smokingun and out of Smart Connection (QH) is owned by ECRC Ranch of Yorba Linda, California. The pair earned $2,676 for their efforts.
Held in conjunction with the Derby, the 2014 Interscholastic Equestrian Association National Finals for Western riders saw APHA member Shelby Derr of West Liberty, Ohio, named IEA Champion Western Rider for accumulating the most points in the Varsity Open Division. Shelby competes for the Hancock Horseman team of Findlay, Ohio, and she rode unfamiliar horses in Western horsemanship and reining to gain points toward her title.
Read more about Shelby in the September Paint Horse Journal.
The American Paint Horse Association is the world’s second-largest equine breed association, registering more than a million horses in 59 nations and territories since it was founded. APHA creates and maintains programs that increase the value of American Paint Horses and enriches members’ experiences with their horses.