Taylor Zimmerman Wins First Non Pro Level 4 Championship on Shining On Ruf

Taylor Zimmerman & Shining On Ruf Taylor Zimmerman & Shining On Ruf Photo by NRBC
April 23, 2022

The atmosphere during the 2022 National Reining Breeders Classic Non Pro Finals, held Friday, April 22, was full of anticipation.

When Taylor Zimmerman rode into the Great Southwest Equestrian Center Coliseum on Shining On Ruf, the excitement of the crowd built, and the whoops, hollers, and whistles hit their crescendo when the pair’s score – a 222 – was announced. “The crowd was electric. I was really focused and trying to zone in as much as possible, but I did hear and feel the energy from the crowd,” Zimmerman shared following the Finals.

Competing as draw 23 in the second section of the Non Pro Finals, Zimmerman had to wait out eight more impressive teams to know if she’d win her first NRBC Level 4 Championship.

The score held. Zimmerman was presented with a bevy of prizes, plus a big check to the tune of $30,000!

“I don’t even really know what to feel right now. It’s unbelievable. Earlier I was pinching myself thinking, ‘Is this even real?’” she admitted. “This is a dream come true.”

It’s hard to believe that such and impressive performance could come from a new team, but the NRBC was the pair’s first time to compete together! “This is my first show with him. He was trained by Jason Vanlandingham, and Cade (McCutcheon) has been helping me with him since the start of this year,” she said of the six-year-old stallion. “This horse is just so fun, and there’s nothing like him. He’s a breeze to ride.”

Shining On Ruf, owned by Taylor’s grandfather Vaughn Zimmerman, is by Zimmerman’s stallion Not Ruf At All and out of Boom Shine Sally. In fact, Jason Vanlandingham piloted Not Ruf At All, now an NRHA Million Dollar Sire, to the NRBC Open Championship in 2016.

With no experience in the show pen together, Zimmerman executed a very conservative plan in the preliminary round. “I didn’t know if he was going to have my back – I just didn’t know what to expect. When I went in there, though, he was 100 percent there for me,” she said of the preliminary run which resulted in a score of 216. “He was amazing then, so I knew that I could go in and show him hard today.”

Zimmerman has lifetime earnings exceeding a quarter million dollars, but she admits to feeling a bit of nervousness prior to the Finals. “All day long I was nervous, but as soon as I ran into the pen I relaxed. There’s nothing like showing in this arena. It’s so big and so fun to run and stop when you have the horsepower to do it. You know it can be great,” she said.

Next up for Zimmerman and Shining On Ruf is the 6666 Ranch NRHA Derby presented by Markel. “He’s six, so I’ll probably show him next year as well,” she said. “I thank Jason for maintaining this horse like he did, and the entire McCutcheon crew. I thank my grandfather and my dad for these great horses that I get to show, and everyone who was cheering for me.”

Finishing as Reserve Champions in the Level 4 Non Pro were Gina-Maria Schumacher and Gunnastepya with a 220.5. Schumacher and Gunnastepya, by Gunnatrashya out of SDP A Lasting Step, won $20,000.

Level 3 Non Pro Champions - Samantha Smith & Smokin 66
Samantha Smith scored a 218 aboard Smokin 66 to claim the title of Level 3 Non Pro Classic Champion and $12,500. The week of the NRBC is always a special one, but it was extra special to Smith this year.
“I feel amazing. It’s been a heck of a road to get here,” she said, explaining she had two back surgeries and was unable to ride for eight months.

“It was very difficult, so right now means a lot,” she shared.

From thinking she would never be able to ride again, to putting the five-year-old mare, who is by Inferno Sixty Six and out of Nuthin Chic, up for sale, this win for Smith is one of those meant-to-be-type moments.

“My plan was just to go out there and show her for what she is,” Smith said. “I was so proud of myself for not getting in the way. She was a Level 4 Open Futurity Finalist (in 2020), but last year I was in so much pain I couldn’t even make the finals.”

Owned by Smith’s father, Lance Griffin, Smokin 66, by Inferno Sixty Six out of Nuthin Chic, was trained by Martin Larcombe, then ridden by Trevor Dare while Smith was recovering.

Following the pair’s Level 3 Championship, the mare was shown in the Leadline class for a friend.

“She’s not going anywhere now,” Smith said.

Smith is looking forward to offspring out of Smokin 66, and hopes to continue the mare’s legacy. Smith is now almost 100 percent pain free, and with all of the obstacles she has had to overcome, the NRBC win is that much sweeter.

Level 2 & Level 1 Champions - Chandler Winard & Whoz Joe Daddy
In 2015, Chandler Winard piloted a palomino horse to win the NRBC Non Pro Level 2 & 1 Championships while also finishing reserve in the Level 3 and fifth in the Level 4.

It felt like déjà vu in 2022, as Winard placed identically, once again on a yellow reining horse. This year’s partner was Whoz Joe Daddy, a four-year-old stallion by NRHA Million Dollar Sire Lil Joe Cash out of Miss Sunshine Annie.

“I won it seven years ago with my really special horse, so it has been six years in the making to have a horse that is good enough to come here and win,” Winard said. “It means a lot.”

That special horse came into Winard’s life last fall during the Best of the West. “We bought him from Gunny Mathison, and it was just an instant connection. I loved him from the start,” she said. “He’s very close to my horse I won with in the past.”

Winard added that Whoz Joe Daddy has a big personality and can be a little quirky, but, “He’s really sweet.”

Although she was relatively calm most of the day, Winard began to battle some nerves when she moved to the indoor warm-up pen – the last stop before moving on to the Coliseum Arena. “It was his first finals, his first run in, and only our second derby together,” she explained. “I was a little hesitant on the run in, but he just carried it all the way through. Half-way through the pattern I was thinking he is really fun to show – more fun than anything. He’s a true show horse.”

Winard rides with Dan Huss. “Dan told me to keep it clean and have a good, positive ride because my horse is only four and it needed to be a confidence builder for both of us,” she said. “I thank Dan and Wendy Huss and the entire Huss team. Without them we would not be here, and I appreciate all their help immensely. I thank my parents for buying him and giving me this opportunity, and Gunny for selling him to us.”

So what’s it like showing in a pen like NRBC? “It’s my favorite arena ever because it’s so big and kind of has a magical feeling about it. Honestly, it’s different than anything else,” she said.

Prime Time Non Pro Champions - Francesca Sternberg & Red Dirt Paleface
Francesca Sternberg and Red Dirt Paleface made their long trip to the NRBC worth it. Sternberg and her team traveled from overseas to compete at the prestigious event.

The Prime Time Non Pro winner arrived from Great Britain ready to compete with the best of the best on her six-year-old gelding by Pale Face Dunnit out of Lost In Tinseltown. Sternberg has also ridden Red Dirt Paleface’s full brother.
“They’re very different,” she said. “His brother is a bit of a blonde bombshell, where this one is more of the let’s-get-to-it (types). I love the Pale Faces.”

The team competed at the NRBC two years ago, but, as the saying goes, fell in the crying hole, and that was the end of that year’s event. Sternberg only gets to show the gelding a few times a year, and she took advantage of her time in the arena so far in 2022. Together, Sternberg and Red Dirt Paleface scored a 219 (including handicap) in the Prime Time Non Pro Finals, and their 217.5 in Levels 4 and 3 tied for fifth in Level 4 and tied for second in Level 3. All totaled, Sternberg and Red Dirt Paleface won $20,250.

“I promised myself I would run in and do a proper stop, and as a result I wanted to pat my horse. I thought to myself I must not pat anything - I need to get on with it,” she said with a laugh.

Sternberg noted how tough the competition is at the NRBC. “You have to try, because you’re with the best. We started with more than 200 of the best, and if you don’t try to be the best you can be, then you might as well go home,” she said.

The large Coliseum arena at the NRBC differs from most in Europe that Sternberg is used to. That, coupled with the electric atmosphere, did not stop her from performing at the top of her game. “I look at all the others and think I’m never going to be as good as them, I’ll never make finals,” she admitted. “Then I make the finals and think I want to do that again.”

They say it takes a village, and Sternberg is happy hers includes her family. Sharing her passion with her family is what she loves about reining. “It’s a family thing. I love being here with my family and friends,” she said. “And I love my horse. I’m really lucky to have a horse like this.”

There was a tie for reserve in the Prime Time Non Pro between Lisa Neiberger and Jose Vazquez. Each had scores of 217 (including handicap).

Neiberger and her horse, All About Business, were the very first horses to compete in the Finals, as they drew the first draw position of the first section.

The pair also placed in Levels 1, 2, and 3, pocketing a cool $4,875. All About Business is by Smart And Shiney out of Anne Get Your Gunner.
Vazquez, a National Reining Horse Association Hall of Famer and former NRBC Champion, rode SLJ Corazon Valiente, by Smart Like Juice out of Wind Her Up Shiner. The pair also finished seventh in the Level 4 Finals, bringing their earnings for the evening to $9,125.

Matt Mills Wins $25k NRHA Open on Guns And Dynamite

Trainer Matt Mills has an ability to bring out the best in a horse, even a brand new one. Mills rode Guns And Dynamite to a score of 229 to take home the $25k Added NRHA Open win on Friday night. The trainer, who now calls Texas home, purchased the six-year-old stallion for his clients MaryBeth and Tim Ruckman just last week.

“That’s probably the fourth time I’ve ridden him. His spins felt phenomenal,” Mills said as he caught his breath. The horse and rider fed off the atmosphere in the Coliseum at Great Southwest Equestrian Center, just moments after Cade McCutcheon scored a 227.5.

Guns And Dynamite, by Gunners Special Nite and out of Chic Olena Starbuck, came from Shawn Flarida, who had warmed the horse up for Mills since there was not much time in between his runs on other entries. Mills also showed MaryBeth Ruckman’s RFR Voodoos Fuego to a 223, and Stopping In Jersey, owned by Bosque Ranch Performance Horses, for a 217.

“Shawn felt like the horse was ready, and I told him I’d blame him if it didn’t work out and I’d give him credit if it did,” Mills laughed. “I was back and forth on showing him, but the owners were behind him, so I thought why not take a swing and see what happens.”

Guns And Dynamite is without a doubt what the trainer hoped for, and the pair will head to the NRHA Derby next to continue their winning ways.

Cade McCutcheon Wins Open Classic Challenge on Modern Gun
After a self-described long week, Cade McCutcheon won the Open Challenge competition Friday night. Riding Modern Gun, a nine-year-old stallion by NRHA $4 Million Sire Gunners Special Nite and out of Taris Modern Design, McCutcheon scored a 227.5. He and Modern Gun also won reserve in the $25k Added NRHA Open. Between the two wins, McCutcheon raked in $20,100.

“He’s just a great horse. He has been shown a lot, and he still shows like it is the first time,” McCutcheon said. “I had a bad week, and I just wanted to have fun tonight. He was there for me, and it was a lot of fun.”

Taking home a first place finish Friday night was a good way to top off the NRBC for McCutcheon. “My non pro (Taylor Zimmerman) won today, and with my good run tonight, it was a good way to finish the week,” he said.

Unofficially, Modern Gun is the only horse to have won the NRBC Open Classic, the NRBC Open Classic Challenge, and the $25,000 Open at the NRBC. The talented stallion won the NRBC Open Championship with NRHA $2 Million Rider Duane Latimer in 2018 and the $25k Open with NRHA $7 Million Rider Andrea Fappani in 2020.

McCutcheon thanked Duane Latimer and Andrea Fappani for training such a great horse. “I also thank Modern Gun’s owner, my friend Oded (Fein),” he said.

Yellowstone Paramount Network Rookie Shootout Champion
Dawn Butler & TR Mic Magnum
“If you’re not first, you’re last,” may be a line from a movie, but it is also words Dawn Butler and her daughter, Rylee, try to remember together. Butler took those words to heart Friday night in the Rookie Shootout Finals.

“I can understand why everybody likes to be in the big pen. It’s super exciting, and this was our first time in here. He just came in and did everything he was supposed to and really locked in,” Dawn said following her win.

The horse she is talking about happens to be TR Mic Magnum, a six-year-old gelding by Magnum Chic Dream out of Hung Up On The Girl. Butler and the gelding beat out an all-female field with a score of 213.
“I tried to just really be in the moment, knowing that who knows when you get to do this again,” she said.

The Rookie Shootout was sponsored by Yellowstone Paramount Network, and the winner was presented with a custom handmade bench. Another NRBC sponsor, Toyon Ranch, paid for all the ancillary Rookie entry and judge’s fees.

“I can’t thank them enough for allowing us to come here and pay for our entries, and for the opportunity for all of us to participate,” Butler said of the two sponsors. Her new bench will be placed overlooking the family’s ranch in Colorado, in true Yellowstone style.

By NRBC Press Release