by Tara ChristiansenThe American Quarter Horse Journal
When Michelle Cowan slinked into the herd on her flashy mare, Loves Etch, she knew that she had some tough competition hot on her heels.
But Michelle and her 2006 chestnut mare had their game faces on and got to work, marking a 222, which shot them straight to the lead in the amateur cutting finals at the 2011 AQHA World Championship Show.
However, four horses later, in walked a horse and rider that would stop Michelle and Loves Etch right in their tracks: Bill Cowan and Foxie In Style.
Bill and “Foxie” had already shown the judges what they could do in the prelims, where the duo had the high mark with a 222.
But when Bill walked into the herd in the finals, he was faced with an unfortunate situation – Michelle had already beaten him to some good cows that he wanted to cut.
“I was pretty deep in (the set) and I just wanted to find some good, fresh cows,” Bills says. “(The cows I picked) were getting hard to find that deep, so I started out with that fresh cow that we found and I drove her up and I got cut.”
And got cut he did. Bill and his 2005 sorrel mare laid down a stylish run good enough for 223.5 points.
“This is a mare that I’ve shown for probably the last two years,” Bill says of the daughter of Docs Stylish Sam who is out of Foxie Merada by Freckles Merada. “(We’ve) shown off-and-on at some of the aged events and weekend shows, and I’ve been kind of hit and miss with the success that I’ve had on her. But I’ve really enjoyed showing her and all of the things that have happened throughout the year…
“I love this mare. She’s all heart and try,” he adds.
But what was the secret to tonight’s success?
“I loped her a little more for this show, and it made her really accurate. I found that out last night when our run really started getting going fast and that mare stayed really accurate,” he explains. “That’s kind of the way it went tonight, and then I could really use her. She held together and stopped and read those cattle really good.”
One might wonder, what was Michelle thinking while Bill was cutting?
“‘Oh great…’” she drawls out, remembering Bill’s run. “‘He just had to one-up me!’ I thought for sure with a 222, ‘Finally, I’m getting somewhere.’ And he had to go in there and chase me down.
“It’s fun though,” she says with a laugh. “It made it a really fun cutting tonight.”
The horse and rider right after Bill, Miss Ella Rey and Brandon Dufurrena, were also gunning to win. The duo threw down a 223, half a point shy of the world championship, knocking Michelle down to third place.
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“I knew there were some really good horses tonight,” Bills says. “The horse that was second is one that I’ve been showing with all year long and that was one that I really wanted to watch show and I only got by that one by half a point.”
“She’s a great mare,” Michelle says of Miss Ella Rey. “She’s fun to watch.
“I was a really hoping for a one-two (finish), but you know, hey, it’s all good,” she adds.
For some it might be hard to compete against a spouse, but that isn’t the case for Bill and Michelle. They actually claim that it’s fun showing against each other.
“It’s not near as fun as trying to work together at the house, day-in and day-out,” Bill says sarcastically. “Usually by the time that you’re at the show it’s all fun and games.”
Bill and Michelle have enjoyed preparing their own horses for the show, but they have a long line of people to credit for help.
“Sean Flynn has been helping us the last few years,” Bill says. “Both of these horses we’ve had at the house and we’ve been working them ourselves, but if there’s anyone who has been helping us the last few years, for sure it’s been him.
“We started with Al Dunning, way back when. He invited us up to Frank (Merrill’s) the day before the show started, and we worked with him and he gave us some help. They felt really ready when we started showing here last night.”
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“Al Dunning and Matt Miller were in our corners (tonight), and then Glen Whitman and Gaylyn Wells were turning us around. They did an awesome job,” Michelle says.
To add to the list of thank yous, Bill definitely has to thank his mom, who has helped them through thick and thin.
And Michelle reminds him that they need to thank their loper, Robin.
“We couldn’t have done it without Robin,” Bill says.
“She was great,” Michelle adds. “And Shadd Parkinson loped.”
“Yeah,” Bill chimes in. “Shadd Parkinson got my mare ready!”
Bill Cowan and Foxie In Style marked a 223.5 in the amateur cutting finals to take the world championship at the 2011 AQHA World Show. (Journal photo).