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November 7-22, 2014, Oklahoma City

Junior Working Cow Horse

Matt Koch and SDP Blue Blood’s first World Show yields their very first world championship.

SDP Blue Blood and Matt Koch

Matt Koch pilots SDP Blue Blood to a score of 225 down the fence to clinch the junior working cow horse world championship. (Journal photo)

Matt Koch wasn’t sure what to expect at his first AQHA World Championship Show; it sure wasn’t a gold trophy and shiny new buckle.

Matt and his mount, SDP Blue Blood, are relatively new to showing, but they had a taste of success at the 2011 National Reined Cow Horse Association Snaffle Bit Futurity in Reno, Nevada, where they won the Level 1 open championship in the industry’s crown jewel for 3-year-olds.

By Laredo Blue and out of the Dual Rey daughter SDP I Got Good Genes, SDP Blue Blood was bred by Shane Plummer of Fort Worth, Texas, and is now owned by K&H Performance Horses, a partnership between Matt Koch and Craig Haythorn of Haythorn Land & Cattle Co., an AQHA-Pfizer Best Remuda ranch and AQHA Ranching Heritage Program member near Arthur, Nebraska.

Since Reno, Matt and the 4-year-old red roan stallion have done some training to get ready for their AQHA World Show debut. Where most reined cow horses have one job – to do their darnedest in the show pen – SDP Blue Blood pulls double duty: He’s a using horse on the spread of AQHA Ranching Heritage Breeder Haythorn Land & Cattle Co.  

“The beginning of his 4-year-old year was a little shaky,” Matt said in his Journal Winning Run interview. “Here this fall, he kind of came on again and just started doing well.”

Matt and SDP Blue Blood arrived at the 2012 AQHA World Show at 5 a.m. on November 12 – the junior working cow horse prelims started at 8 a.m.

“I had no idea where I was going. I called (AQHA Professional Horseman) Brad Lund and asked him where the show barn even was and where to go,” Matt said with a laugh.

They squeaked into the finals, Matt said, and did a little bit of fine-tuning before the finals on November 14. They drew up first in the finals, facing the nation’s leading junior horses.

“(There were) tons of great horses and people,” Matt said. “I thought, ‘Well, heck, if I end up in the top five that would be just really nice.’”

Working through Pattern 11, Matt and SDP Blue Blood hustled through two large fast circles, one each way, and throttled back for a small slow each direction. Then it was on to the fun stuff.

“For my first rundown, he really ran to the stop really nice and hit it,” Matt recalled. “He didn’t turn around real great, but it was OK.”

OK enough to warrant a score of 219 points.

Both Matt Koch of Arthur, Nebraska, and Tripp Townsend of Earth, Texas, let ranch work be the training ground for success in the show pen, and they share their training tips in the December 2012 issue of The American Quarter Horse Journal.

From there, they squared off with their bovine adversary, which Matt said was a little numb to start.

“He handled it good – just went left and right. I left out of the corner and he rated nice, and made the first turn.” He modestly added, “It was a pretty nice turn, and then the second turn the same way. Then I got a third turn and just circled, and that’s about all there was to it.”

The crowd was behind Matt and SDP Blue Blood the whole time, cheering them to a whopping 225 points down the fence.

“There was plenty of hollering,” he recalled. “I was plenty nervous, so I didn’t hear a whole lot.”

Matt had gone to see a man about a horse, and in the mean time, missed the announcement of his scores. A friend called to congratulate Matt, but he was unconvinced that he could possibly mark a composite 444. It took a second person to convince the cowboy that he indeed posted a score that bested the reserve world champions, Corey Cushing and Docs Catty Jo, by eight points.

Not only did Matt and SDP Blue Blood garner a world championship trophy and Montana Silversmith buckle, but they also take home to Arthur the Intermediate first-place award. Matt said he couldn’t have achieved such a feat if it wasn’t for the support of Haythorn Land & Cattle, plus help from Robbie Boyce, Boyd Rice and Don Brown, not to mention Justin Lawrence, who was especially helpful during the finals.

While Matt said he’s headed home to rest after a full show season – he and Ms Figure Four 008 recently won the Rapid City AQHA Ranching Heritage Challenge in South Dakota – he and SDP Blue Blood will still head out to work.

“I’m pretty lucky – I work for a large ranch, Haythorn Land & Cattle. We get to use these horses along with trying to make show horses out of them.” He added, “This horse we rope on a bunch; he just gets treated like a horse. It really works well for me.”

Real well indeed.