Arizona Fall Championship Delights Once Again

Arizona Quarter Horse welcomed exhibitors from around the corner and around the country to its Fall Championship show September 21 through 25 at the West World equestrian complex in Scottsdale. Once again the management team delivered the high caliber experience of a major show with plenty of camaraderie and less stress. There was something for everyone, with world champions going head to head in the rings, to exhibitors who were having a blast at their very first breed show.

The show boasts a wide array of leveled classes including ranch, english, western, trail, cutting, reining and cow horse. The show’s popularity can be attributed to several factors. Most everyone comments on how much fun they have and the fabulous awards in all divisions and levels are a huge incentive too. The handsome circuit award trophies, saddles, spurs, coolers, buckles and cash awards are coveted by all. This year, Circuit champions could opt for a $150 gift certificate to Equine Oasis in lieu of a trophy. While it was certainly warm in sunny Arizona, classes were held in climate controlled arenas or covered outdoor pens.

Ranch classes at the Fall Championship continue to be strong at every level. “I think the enthusiasm for the Ranch classes keeps growing. It certainly is a big part of all our shows here in Arizona,” says Doug Huls, CEO of AzQHA and producer of the Fall Championship. AzQHA has featured non-AQHA Ranch on the Rail as well as Ranch Trail at its shows for several years and both classes have been exhibitor favorites. Huls continued, “We see a lot of cross over with our ranch riders entering the ranch trail and ranch on the rail and they are having a blast doing it.”

Ranch Riders from the littlest cowpokes to seasoned veterans navigated the patterns or loped full out in the ranch rail classes. Support of one another was on full display at the show with hoots and cheers for each go.

Many Ranch Riding exhibitors were lured by added money events. The Farnam $5,000 Added L1 Open Ranch Stakes drew a fine slate of contenders showing off their up-and-coming ranch horses in Level 1 Ranch Riding, Ranch on the Rail and Ranch Trail along with a halter class. When the points were tallied, Charleston LK shown by Ryan Kail was the champion winning $2,000 and the champion buckle. Second place went to Stylish In My Boots shown by Heather Bryant, winning $1,500 and a set of AzQHA Spurs. Abby Cosenza showed Suns Out Guns Out to win the third place prize of $1,000 and a bronc halter. Gunnabememorable with Mike Edwards aboard rounded out the placings winning $500 and a bronc halter.

Markel Insurance offered $5,000 in added money in the Ranch Riding Derby for horses 5 and Under. Twenty horses took up the challenge. Ryan Kail was having a great show all week on Charleston LK and the team took the champion spot in the Derby as well winning $3,040 and another buckle. Ryan piloted the second place horse, Cee My Special Nite owned by Libby Williams Haydon to win $2,280 and AzQHA Reserve Champion Spurs. Heather Bryant showed her horse Stylish In My Boots to win $1,520 and a Bronc Halter in third place. Mississippi Hippie, owned by Oraz Holdings and shown by Debbie Cooper landed in fourth for $760.

Sami Fine Jewelry sponsored a fun Ranch Riding Team Challenge with the expressed intent of building spirit and friendships across barns and divisions. Entry was free and 70 exhibitors signed up to play. They were randomly drawn into teams whose scores were combined to determine the winners. First place went to Amateur Jeanne McNearey & Select exhibitor Debbie Allen who had a combined score of 459.50. They split the $500 team money and each received some Sami prizes. Amateur Heather Bryant was paired up with Select rider Ann Shriver to win second place and split $300. L1 exhibitor Jimmy Smith was teamed up with Kendall Woellmer showing a Senior horse and the pair won third place for $100 each.

Youth ranch exhibitors had had their own prize line up. The Kimes Best of Show Ranch Awards combined scores from Ranch Riding, Ranch Trail and Ranch on the Rail. Champions won a headstall. In the Youth 18 Under, Payton Portefield tallied the most points for the win. Bentley Johnson put in a solid performance across all the classes to win the Youth 13 & Under. Abby Hokana piled up a string of firsts and gained the most points to take the Best of Show Youth 11 & Under.

Ranch Riding and Trail exhibitors earned hundreds, and even thousands of dollars in the 2D and 3D Jackpots which featured a total of $32,000 in added money. Jackpots were concurrent with the regular AQHA classes, and with two or three payout tiers, exhibitors could win money without winning the class. Gary Roberts understood the great value in entering Jackpots. He rode a string of horses who cumulatively earned $4,283. Kendall Woellmer also likes to play hard and rode 4 horses in Jackpots to rack up $1,900 in winnings. Between Ciera Bennett and Kip Larson showing Set On Cruze, the team won $2,849.23. Best is Good Enough earned Bonnie Kay Ramsey a total of $1,945.91. U Got It earned Susan and Sabrina Wilson $1,125.83 in Trail Jackpots and Next At Bat won them another $875.93. Heather Bryant added to her Ranch Riding Derby winnings by going all in on Ranch Riding Jackpot entries with Stylish In My Boots, adding another $1,079.42 to her lucrative AzFC show.

Cattle classes are another big draw in Arizona. One of the highlights of the show was the $10,000 Added NRCHA Futurity sponsored by Rogers Heaven Sent Ranch and Arizona Reined Cow Horse Association. Many of the super stars of the cow horse world were running down the fence for a big payout. Ricky Nicolazzi put all the pieces together with Bet Her Shiner, owned by Rogers Heaven Sent Ranch, to win the champion title and $5,200. Bet On The Mick came in second with Jake Barry at the reins earning owner Deah Hessian-Ruple $3,900. Shinerdiamondlight owned by Bronwyn McCormick and shown by Shadd Parkinson settled into third for $2,600. Jake Barry rode Rowdy Yatez, owned by Allan Kaplan, for fourth and a $1,300 check.

While ranch and cattle classes are certainly a big draw at the Fall Championship, there was plenty of action in the trail, pattern and rail arenas too. Non Pros and L1 Non Pros were running for High Point Bob’s Custom Saddle awards. Points were tallied from showmanship, horsemanship, pleasure and halter. Julie Hoefling won the Non Pro L1 Saddle award with Bringin Booty Back along with some Circuit awards and Jackpot money. Ciera Bennet and Set On Cruze took home the Non Pro trophy saddle, adding to Circuit Award trophies and Jackpot payout.

Best of Show Awards acknowledged high point winners in All Around and Ranch, Reining and Cattle divisions. Champions won a pair of Rod Patrick Ostrich boots and a Cinch Jeans and Shirts certificate. Ciera Bennett added a pair of boots to her AzFC loot winning the Amateur All Around Best of Show award. Andrea Kail showed Made Four Lopin to earn the Best of Show All Around Level 1/Green horse title and a new pair of boots. The All Around Open exhibitor was Bob Stubbs. Kim Gutowski picked up another title in the All Around Select Amateur division. Sydney Swallom was very busy for 5 days and compiled the points to win the All Around Division Youth 18 & Under. The Level 1 All Around Youth was Ruby Gunderson.

In the Ranch, Reining and Cattle Division, Ryan Kail won the Open. Amanda Kimes picked up the boots for the Amateur Ranch, Reining and Cattle division and Carson Tulloss won the Youth 18 & Under Best of Show.

A Cooler was the All Around award for 13 & Under. Reagan Thenhaus prevailed to take home that prize. Rose Amala was the High Point 11 and Under Walk Trot champion, also winning a Cooler.

The show offered NSBA Futurities as well. The 3 Year Old Open Hunter Under Saddle was won by Iron Lion Zion shown by Stacy Huls and owned by Betty Jo & Richard Carr. Kaci Rodriguez rode her horse Rock It Man Rockn to win the 3 Year Old Non Pro Hunter Under Saddle. The NSBA 3 Year Old Open Western Pleasure winner was Cant By Me Love owned by Ron & Linda Coakley and shown by Kip Larson. Cant By Me Love was back in the ring with Linda at the reins to win the 3 Year Old Non Pro. Andrea Kail scored another AzFC win in the NSBA 3 Year Old Open Trail with Titos On The Rocks owned by Amanda Kemling.

In addition to the action in the ring, exhibitors had a chance to win gift certificates and merchandise with the infamous Prize Patrol. Boot races, balloon races and other silly challenges joined hard luck and random awards worth hundreds of dollars. Winners took home Apple watches and other electronics from the Arizona Quarter Horse Association along with prizes and gift certificates donated by sponsors and vendors.

The Fall Championship makes a huge impact on the lives of many Arizona youth horsemen every year. The Arizona Quarter Horse Association awarded over $ 24,000 in scholarship funds during the show. It was the sixth year that the organization held their innovative ASCENT scholarship competitions for AzQHA Youth members on the last day. Money was earned through an Interscholastic Scholarship Show which offered classes in Horsemanship and Reining. Additionally, middle and high school students were awarded scholarship funds through a three person panel interview process. There were a total of 14 $1,000 awarded this year to an outstanding and dedicated group of youth.

Another successful Fall Championship is in the books, however exhibitors love showing at WestWorld in Arizona every chance they get. No one will want to miss the 50th Anniversary of Sun Circuit March 4 through 12 when Arizona Quarter Horse will be pulling out all the stops for a spectacular extravaganza.

Full results can be viewed at