by Tara MatslerThe American Quarter Horse Journal
Strawberri Wine and AQHA Professional Horseman Bruce Vickery scored a 228 to win the junior western riding, the last class at the 2013 AQHA World Show. (Journal photo)
Slinking to the first cone, Strawberri Wine took up the jog, cadenced and true, never missing a beat over the log. From there, she and AQHA Professional Horseman Bruce Vickery moved to the lope, covering ground around the far end of the Jim Norick Arena.
Down the line they weaved, changing, changing, changing – showing off the lead change that caught Bruce and owner Jeremy Guthrie’s eye.
It hasn’t been a narrow road to the 2013 AQHA World Championship Show, but November 23 in the junior western riding finals, Strawberri Wine was the best she’s ever been. Eight lead changes, two passes over the log, and a stop and back later, “Strawberri” and Bruce earned themselves a score of 228 and the last world title awarded at the 2013 World Show.
Having earned the junior trail world championship and senior trail silver trophy on November 19, Bruce is feeling pretty high about his trip to Oklahoma City this year. The win with Strawberri Wine, however, was especially sweet, given the fact that the Sanger, Texas, trainer had not won gold in western riding for quite some time.
“I would have been pretty happy with reserve. But to get the win, that was a really special moment for me. I’ve won the western riding here at the World Show, but it was 1995. So, wow, right?” Bruce told The American Quarter Horse Journal with a laugh. “(I have to thank) my crew, for sure – I couldn’t have done it without them. They’ve been incredible at this horse show and have kept me going with a lot of horses.”
But the win wasn’t about Bruce or his crew, the trophy, neck wreath, buckle or money – it was all about a picture-perfect red roan mare.
“Strawberri Wine is very special,” Bruce said modestly.
Bred by Katie Green of Pilot Point, Texas, Strawberri Wine is by Openrange and out of Buddys Buffalo Gal by Buddy Man Jack. Buddys Buffalo Gal was no slouch in the show pen, having earned multiple Superior awards, top-10 placings at the World Show in western pleasure and western riding, and even an AQHA Performance Championship.
At the World Show, Strawberri Wine was up against a fierce group of junior western riders. The group included Whatscookngoodlookin, who was crowned the junior western pleasure world champion just days before, and Dunit On The Range. By Openrange, as well, Dunit On The Range was fresh off a junior western riding win at the 2013 All American Quarter Horse Congress with AQHA Professional Horseman Jason Martin.
“I think this is a great year – it’s a great group of junior western riders, and obviously some incredible exhibitors that I admire very, very much,” Bruce said. “I didn’t get nervous, but I knew that I would have to be great to be in contention.
“I just want to thank the judges and all the great people who recognized what a great horse that she is,” Bruce added.
When Bruce first laid eyes on Strawberri Wine, he knew he was looking at a champion in the making.
“The first time I ever saw her, my partner, Jeremy Guthrie, and I were looking for a horse for him. We saw her and saw her change leads once. I knew that was the horse that we needed to get.”
That was three years ago, and the trainer-owner team have gone slow with Strawberri, mostly due to an injury that the mare has recovered from.
“We’re just taking our time and teaching her the other events,” Bruce said. In fact, he plans on adding showmanship and horsemanship to Strawberri’s repertoire so her Cameron, Ontario, owner can take his turn as the exhibitor. “I want to thank Jeremy for all his hard work and dedication and support with this horse.
“She has an incredible attitude,” Bruce said of the Strawberri, certain that she will be a fierce all-around competitor. “She’s got such incredible self-carriage, as well.
“I think she’s going to go for a long time. She holds her back up and her shoulders up all the time; she always keeps a great cadence. Just her self-carriage will keep her going for a great deal of time.”
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