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November 7-22, 2014, Oklahoma City

Senior Working Cow Horse

Rising Starlight works off to a back-to-back world championship.

Rising Starlight and Corey Cushing

Rising Starlight and Corey Cushing capture the senior working cow horse title in a work-off November 17 at the 2012 AQHA World Championship Show. (Journal photo)

Few things are ever certain in life, but one would venture to guess that a combined score of 448 would be good enough for a world championship. If that’s the case, one should think again – reconsider the top-caliber horses that flocked to Oklahoma City for the senior working cow horse at the 2012 AQHA World Championship Show.

Rising Starlight, ridden by Corey Cushing, and Nabisco Roan, with Jake Telford in the saddle, were neck and neck November 17 by the conclusion of the senior working cow horse rein work – both had marked a 222.

Tenth in the draw was Rising Starlight. With the way that her cow worked out front, her Scottsdale, Arizona, rider and trainer didn’t know how things would pan out once they rolled off the corner and down the fence.

“We started the boxing and it got real numb and just was against the fence,” Corey said during his Journal Winning Run interview. “It had me nervous, so I figured, ‘Well, I better show that I’m wanting things to start building right now.’ And luckily that cow grabbed ahold and took me and presented a bigger challenge than what I thought it was going to.”

That challenge was good enough for a score of 226. Although Corey wasn’t certain what exactly he’d marked, he had a certain inclination as he whipped off his cowboy hat and sent it sailing through the air.

Jake and Nabisco Roan were the last to work.

“I’ve seen Jake’s horse work before, and that horse can handle a lot of cow,” Corey attested. And handle a lot of cow Nabisco Roan did, marking a matching 226.

Given the chance to catch her air, Rising Starlight was ready to enter the Jim Norick Arena once more for her work-off. This wasn’t Corey’s first fence work work-off. Several years ago, riding Smart Boons, Corey faced Todd Bergen aboard Smart Luck at the National Reined Cow Horse Association Derby.

“And I lost,” Corey recalled. “So when they said (‘work-off’), I was so pumped and just ready to do it again. No matter what happened, it wasn’t going to be because of lack of effort, that’s for sure.”

All Corey had on his mind was staying out of the mare’s way and giving her the best opportunity to show her stuff.

“It doesn’t matter what kind of position you put her in or how tough the cow is; I just stay out of her way and she’s going to take care of it,” Corey promised. And the Oklahoma City crowd knows that to be true – Corey and Rising Starlight won the 2011 senior working cow horse world championship.

Pulling off a near-identical run to that with their first cow, Corey and Rising Starlight wowed the crowd in the work-off. Jake and Nabisco Roan entered next, laying down a great run – but was it spectacular enough?

They had to wait to find out, as their scores were held. It certainly didn’t help that the announcers, Darren Moore and Jayson Jackson, were making a show, well, out of the show.

“Aw, Jayson, he’s a real character – I’ll get him back for that,” Corey promised.

But, before they knew it, the wait was over – Nabisco Roan earned a 223; not enough to catch Rising Starlight’s 227.

“It always comes down to the fence work, and you saw today two great horses go down the fence and battle it out,” Corey said.

Owned by Eric Dunn of Norwich, Kansas, Rising Starlight is by Little Bay Starlight and out of Peppys Hot Star by Lucky W Peppy Lena. The 2005 bay mare was bred by Casey Deary of Weatherford, Texas. Her adversary, Nabisco Roan, is owned by Holy Cow Performance Horses LLC of Santa Ynez, California. The 6-year-old red roan stallion, by Boonlight Dancer and out of Crackin by Smart Little Lena, was bred by Polo Ranch of Marietta, Oklahoma.

Nabisco Roan, as his first year in the bridle, sported a two-rein rig; the 2012 AQHA World Show was the first year such equipment was allowed.

Rising Starlight, on the other hand, was one year more wisened in the bridle. Last year was Rising Starlight’s first year in the bridle; in the past 12 months, Corey has done even more refining to make a seasoned bridle horse.

“It takes a long time to get a horse in the bridle, and truly in the bridle. We’ve spent time, not really going hard and showing her, but just doing things right, showing her a little bit here and there.”

Not only did that time pay off in another senior working cow horse world championship, but also in the 2012 Farnam Superhorse title.  

“I’m walking on air; it’s been such a great year,” Corey said. A few months earlier, Corey captured his first NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity open championship; he was riding San Juan Ranch’s CD Diamond.

The next year – 2013 – will be off to a great start, too. Corey’s wife, Kristen, is due January 6 with their second child, a younger brother for son Caleb.

The Cushings also have a vacation planned for the near future. Believe it or not, they’re traveling to Belize with Jake and Jessie Telford, plus even more cow horse buddies.

As he’s tooling around Belize, you can be sure Corey will be thinking about Rising Starlight, whose 2011 world championship kicked off such a fantastic chain of wins.

“She’s just neat: She came from a great place, she’s got a great bloodline behind her,” Corey said. “That mare, she means so much to me.”