by Christine HamiltonThe American Quarter Horse Journal
More than 45.
That’s the number of AQHA world championships and reserve world championships, all divisions combined, collectively earned by the horses in the senior western pleasure finals November 17, the last night of the 2012 AQHA World Championship Show.
It includes titles in performance halter, western riding and western pleasure, and three reserve Farnam Superhorse titles – two earned by Vital Signs Are Good, one by A Certain Vino.
That’s the money those horses had collectively earned (to date): $735,683 in lifetime National Snaffle Bit Association competition, and $224,285 at the AQHA World Show alone.
Don’t think that wasn’t a tough field of horses.
But when the placings were called, the last horse and woman standing in the Jim Norick Arena was once again A Certain Vino, aka "Vino," and trainer Karen Hornick of Jamestown, Ohio – a repeat of the 2011 class. The judges were unanimous with the choice.
One Lazy Investment and Kenny Lakins, the 2011 junior western pleasure world champions, took the reserve and Vital Signs Are Good and AQHA Professional Horseman Charlie Cole were third.
“Incredible,” Karen said in her Journal Winning Run. “That horse, each time,” she paused and smiled, “everybody says, ‘Don’t you get used to it?’ No. I like the challenge and each time he just tries so hard. I think we both like the pressure.”
She added: “That’s what keeps me going. Each year there are horses that come in that were junior horses, and now are stepping up into that senior, and they are great horses. You can’t let your guard down; if you’re going to compete, you just give it your all.
“With Vino, you ask him and he’ll give you 100 percent; you can peak him at the right moment and he’s there.”
The Reeve family of Garden City, Kansas, bought Vino as a coming 3-year-old in December 2005, after Vino had won the Equine Sports Medicine 2-Year-Old Western Pleasure Challenge at the Reichert Celebration, and won his first world title – the reserve world championship in 2-year-old snaffle bit western pleasure. Since then, he’s kept the Reeves – with daughter Darcy riding him in youth and then amateur – in world championship and year-end high-point form.
“It’s been great,” said Darcy's father, Lee Reeve. “Every year, you don’t ever get tired of it. But Karen’s right, every year it seems like the competition gets tougher, and you sit there and think, ‘Those are really nice horses. I don’t know if we can do it again!’ But we did.”
In 2011, Darcy focused on adding western riding to their repertoire and ended up winning the amateur world championships in western pleasure and western riding with Vino. She repeated the western riding win with Ima Petite Classic during the 2012 Bank of America Amateur Week, and won the amateur western pleasure with Vino.
“We’ve done the western riding, and this year we decided to focus on the pleasure, but we’ll be back,” Darcy said. “Last year we had an incredible year in both events, so we’ll try to do it again and see.”
She admitted that it’s easier to ride Vino than to watch someone else show him.
“It’s a little easier to watch Karen do the pleasure than any other class with any other rider,” Darcy said. “But it’s still very nerve-wracking. I only watch her (during a class); I don’t watch other horses because I psyche myself out.”
Karen and her husband, Ty, take it easy on Vino’s show schedule.
“We’ll just do a few of the big shows,” Karen said. “We don’t show him a whole lot. Just enjoy him and pick and choose.”
She said getting the gelding ready for an important class is “more of a mental prep.”
“Like, I got up at 5 this morning and I like to bring him into the show pen and just walk, and let him relax, so he doesn’t have to think it’s a big ordeal to go in there or work hard,” she said. “I try to change it up; I try to keep him not out-thinking me; it’s more of a mental game with him.
“And it’s worked. We change (the show prep) up a little each time, and ride him a little. Just when he thinks it’s easy, you ask him a little harder before you go in and he’s like, OK, I’m here for you.”
He’s sure making the Reeves and the Hornicks proud.
“He’s good to me, and that’s all I can say,” Karen said. “Each year, the competition is so tough, it doesn’t get old: You just keep trying."
A Certain Vino and Karen Hornick win the 2012 AQHA western pleasure world championship for the Reeve family of Garden City, Kansas. (Journal photo)