Congress Freestyle Reining

Squeaky Clean Genes wins the All American Quarter Horse Congress open freestyle reining with Rocky Dare in "Gangnam Style."

By Larri Jo Starkey
The American Quarter Horse Journal
October 13, 2013

Rocky Dare rides Squeaky Clean Genes to the open title title in freestyle reining October 12 at the 2013 All American Quarter Horse Congress in Columbus, Ohio.

Rocky Dare rides Squeaky Clean Genes to the open title in freestyle reining October 12 at the 2013 All American Quarter Horse Congress in Columbus, Ohio. (Larri Jo Starkey photo) For more freestyle reining photos, scroll to the slide show below.

Screams and shouts filled the Task Coliseum on October 12 as one of the premier events of the All American Quarter Horse Congress entertained spectators with a reining extravaganza.

This year, the unofficial theme of freestyle reining was mascots. Dr. Ronald Kantner of Wapakoneta, Ohio, rode dressed as the Ohio State University mascot, Brutus, getting the crowd to chant along to “O-H-I-O” and AQHA Professional Horseman Pete Kyle dressed as a chipmunk for his routine on his mare A Ruf Gal.

But it was Rocky Dare in a plain black suit with sunglasses who would win over the judges and the crowd for the open win October 12 on Squeaky Clean Genes

In a freestyle reining competition, exhibitors are free to dress any way they choose and include props and extra people as they ride a reining pattern of their choice to music of their choice.

 Two National Reining Horse Association judges – this year Larry Little and Terry Thompson – look for technical proficiencies in routines and make sure the exhibitors complete the required elements. The crowd and the “applause-o-meter” are the third judge.

Rocky chose “Gangnam Style,” and  he and “Meadow” hit the mark for all three sets of judges for a 231.5.

Squeaky Clean Genes is a 2007 bay mare by Genetically Loaded and out of Larks Squeaky Clean by Rugged Lark. She was bred and is owned by Bruce and Susan Kuryloski of Elverson, Pennsylvania.

“She’s been a really good mare, and that probably put her close to $70,000 in earnings now,” Rocky told the Journal after the awards ceremony. “She’s been very good. I showed her as a 3-year-old, 4-year-old and 5-year-old, and (Susan) showed her this year, but she was gracious enough to let me show her in the freestyle.”

The routine began with a slow part, with three children in bed being sung to about dreams, but then the children burst out of bed to dance.

“Well, the kids love Gangnam style,” Rocky said. “We had a little routine we did at Jersey and won a local show and I told my wife, ‘We can’t just go out there and do “Gangnam Style” the whole way. We’ve got to come up with a slow part for the beginning.’ She came up with the slow theme and we put the dream in it and it all kind of fit together with trying to win a trophy.

“Somebody said, ‘I thought that was going to be awful boring till you got going fast,’” Rocky said with a laugh.

Twenty-two exhibitors entered freestyle reining, and the sold-out performance began with a demonstration by Stacy Westfall of a 2-year-old she is training and a discussion of how reining is scored. Charis Thorsell of Fort Worth, Texas, sang the national anthem, and at intermission, reining trainer Shawn Flarida performed a routine with his son, Sam, who won small-fry reining earlier in the week. Former AQHYA world champion Denny Strickland sang live to the performance.

The first exhibitor to ride, Caroline Gute of Dublin, Ohio, won the non-pro competition on Travel Whiz Me to the song “Colors of the Wind.” She also placed fourth in open.

1.    Caroline Gute, Dublin, Ohio, on Travel Whiz Me
2.    Suzanne Cooper, Grove Hill, Ohio, on Dun It In Ruffles\
3.    Emily Fisher, Canal Winchester, Ohio, on Whiz Bye Gollie

1.    Squeaky Clean Genes, owned by Susan and Bruce Kuryloski of Elverson, Pennsylvania, and ridden by Rocky Dare of Salem, New Jersey
2.    A Ruf Gal, owned and ridden by AQHA Professional Horseman Pete Kyle of Whitesboro, Texas
3.    BB Leo Hangten Peppy, owned by Blackburn Farms of  Roaring River, North Carolina, and ridden by Kelly D. Sapp of King, North Carolina