The National Reined Cow Horse Association Snaffle Bit Futurity is a test of endurance. The contestants are the epitome of perseverance – and the winners always inspire. On Sunday, Oct. 2, another chapter in the history book of the NRCHA was written as one horse and rider team bested the field of 25 to take the Open Championship.
Todd Bergen and Shiners Dun Juan finished the finals with a 657.5 composite to win the coveted Open title and accompanying $100,000 paycheck. Bergen received a Bob's Custom Saddle sponsored by Jeffrey Matthews and One Time Pepto, a Gist Silversmiths buckle sponsored by Lone Oak Veterinary Clinic – John Migliore, a Cinch vest from Bob's Custom Saddles and Platinum Performance.
Owner Janiejill Tointon received an original CR Morrison bronze sponsored by Farnam Horse Products, a Bob's Custom Saddle sponsored by Lyle Lovett, a Gist Silversmiths buckle sponsored by Hooker Creek Ranch - Matt and Lesley Day, a 100x hat from Shorty's Hattery, an ESP saddle pad from Classic Equine, custom designed boots from Rios of Mercedes, Platinum Performance, a Cinch vest from Bob's Custom Saddles, a Farnam Horse Products gift basket, a $100 gift certificate to Santa Cruz Biotechnologies, and a CR Morrison trophy and commemorative medallion.
Tointon purchased Shiners Dun Juan, by Smart Shiner out of Cremes Chic Olena, as a yearling from her friend and dentist Carolyn Kupka. "Carolyn is who I bought my stallion, Shiners Lil Nic, from. He's another Smart Shiner. I love them because they're so honest, trainable, and athletic - and there aren't many left," she said. "She showed me a picture of him and I just knew I had to have him. He's pretty special."
When it came time to find a trainer, the decision was an easy one. "I just thought he was a Todd Bergen horse because I could visualize Todd on him. I thank Todd for everything he does, my husband Bill, my son Dylan Potts for coming to watch, and my family for their support," she said.
Many people wondered if Bergen would be able to even compete in the Futurity, having sustained a concussion and a cervical sprain the Sunday before the show began. "It was so tough to not be able to school or work my horses. I felt helpless - I just had to sit in the chair and watch. It's a good thing I had Erin Taormino here - she did everything. I also thank Phillip Ralls for working the flag on my horses," Bergen explained. "I felt a little better as the week went on, but I don't feel great yet."
Despite drawing up last in the herd work, Bergen and "Dun Juan" managed to mark a 216, and followed that with an outstanding display of rein work with a 224.5. "Phillip Ralls and I just wrote down a ton of cows and tried to do something good. It wasn't the best in the world but we got through clean and this horse felt good." He added, "I knew he was a good reiner. Our herd work was respectable and we were in the hunt. He felt great tonight in the rein work and that big score got us back into it."
While Bergen and Dun Juan had a two-point lead going into the rein work, the former Snaffle Bit Futurity Champion and NRCHA Million Dollar rider knew that it could all change with the cow work. "Going into the fence work you never know what will happen. I remembered the cow we drew because I liked him in the herd work. He acted like he had juice on the back fence. I might have stayed a little long because he was a good cow but a little soft down the fence," he said. "My horse did everything he was supposed to. I didn't know if it was going to be enough. There are always some big runs in this finals. We did all we could do so I just had to sit and wait."
For Tointon, the wait was arduous. "I thought I was going to throw up waiting for it to wrap up. I started to cry because it's just amazing to be here. To be in the finals was enough - I had only imagined this in my dreams," she said. "To have Todd be hurt and ride through it - I was so worried he was going to hurt himself that I told him he did not have to ride. He is amazing to ride through all the pain."
Tointon and her husband Bill had actually sold Dun Juan - but the buyer backed out the morning of the finals. "I was glad, because I knew he had a chance to win. Now I get to keep him!" she said prior to the awards ceremony.