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East Coast Reined Cow Horse Classic


Article and photos by Allison A. Rehnborg

The East Coast Reined Cow Horse Classic (ECRCHC), held July 16-20, 2014 at the Tennessee Miller Coliseum, drew more than five hundred entries this year, ranging from youth to non-pro to open riders. The Classic encompassed multiple events: two horse shows, the Winfield Farms Snaffle Bit Futurity, Bridle Spectacular, Derby, and the East Coast Reined Cow Horse Championships. During the East Coast Classic, the herd work was held on Thursday, followed by the reining on Friday and the cow work on Saturday. On Sunday, the final day of the show, a variety of youth, hackamore, and two-rein classes were held. Reined cow horse enthusiasts came from all over the eastern United States to attend – from Pennsylvania to Florida to Oklahoma – and brought some of their best cow horses with them to take a turn in the pen.

According to the National Reined Cow Horse Association, the reined cow horse discipline has its roots in the California Vaquero traditions of the early 18th and 19th centuries, when a trustworthy cow horse was a working necessity on a ranch. An essential companion and valuable tool for any rancher, a good cow horse worked on a daily basis, cutting, herding, and working cattle with “nerves of steel” and “quick-footed” intelligence.

Today, reined cow horses are primarily used for showing, but the functionality and utility of these horses remains at the heart of the discipline. Reined cow horse classes include three parts: herd work, reining, and cow work. Similar to cutting, herd work assesses the ability of horse and rider to ride quietly into a herd and “cut” a cow away from its fellows. After herd work, horses and riders are judged on a reining pattern, which includes large, fast circles and slow, small circles; sliding stops; and turnarounds, “spins.” Finally, in cow work, a horse and rider are judged on their ability to control a single cow in the pen. The horse and rider first demonstrate their ability to “box” a cow by keeping it on one end of the arena, then take it on a “fence run,” and finally turn the cow into the middle of the arena, where they demonstrate turning it in circles in both directions.

For Hannah Hedgcock, a 19-year-old youth rider from Bradenton, Florida, the East Coast Classic represented an important stop on her way to the American Quarter Horse Youth Association World Championship Show. Hannah competed in multiple classes over the week of the ECRCHC, including the youth boxing, on her 13-year-old Quarter Horse, Heza German Jewel.

Hannah began riding at age two, and quickly progressed through a series of disciplines – from lead line to the English all-around to reining – before finally settling on reined cow horse.

“The reining is a lot of circles,” Hannah confides. “You get a horse and [I feel like] you fry him, going to every show. Before Jewel, I had a reiner, and we made him into a cow horse. It changed up his personality. He was so happy, going out every day, seeing and smelling the cows. It’s a lot more fun for me and it was a lot more fun for him.”

Hannah sold her reiner last year, and purchased her current horse, Jewel, from Dick Rosell, this past winter.

“I just love him,” Hannah says of the chestnut gelding. “I bought him in December. He was a stud last August, and then they gelded him and I bought him. He’s had some rough patches, but it’s me, not him.”

Hannah and Jewel did well in the Youth Boxing, showing twice over the weekend and earning first place both times with consistently good scores in the 270s. Hannah also became the Youth Limited Champion over the weekend, adding a $300 check to her total prize money haul.

“I like the boxing a lot. If you get a cow that’s really quick, you could be going constantly – and my heart’s pounding the whole time I’m out there!” Hannah says with a laugh. “But if you get a ‘dead’ cow, like I did today, you can really show off by getting behind and pushing it and then cutting it. Eventually I’ll learn to go down the fence on Jewel, but the deal with my trainer is, I gotta win something big first and prove to him that I’m ready.”

Hannah trains with Jay Holmes, the manager and head trainer of Triple J Ranch in Sarasota, Florida. This year represents Hannah’s last year of eligibility to compete at the 2014 AQHYA World Show, and she plans to make it a good one, competing in several classes, including boxing.

Other winners over the weekend included Mark Sigler, who took first place in the Open Snaffle Bit Futurity with Rockys Surprize CD with a score of 434. Owned by Dom Conicelli of Collegeville, PA, Rockys Surprize CD also won first in the Limited Open and Intermediate Open Futurities, earning money all three times. In the Open Bridle Spectacular, Shawn Hays and The Crowd Loves Me, owned by Yellow Creek Ranch in Franklin, Tennessee, won first place, earning more than $1100. In the Open Derby, Brad Lund and Honey Bees, owned by Debbie Branch of Cleveland, Oklahoma, was first with a score of 436, earning $2604 in prize money. For full results of the show, visit 

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