Para-Reining at the NRHA Futurity
Para-dressage rider Lara Oles finds freedom and the top score in para-reining
By Larri Jo Starkey
The American Quarter Horse Journal
December 8, 2014
Para-reiners saddled up December 6 in Oklahoma City for competition during the National Reining Horse Association Futurity. Para-dressage rider Lara Oles of Utah nabbed the top score of 70.5 on Western Whiz in her ninth ride on a reiner
“This was the best thing that ever happened to me, and that score blew me away,” Lara
Lara Oles riding her Para-Dressage Horse Slate who is also a Quarter Horse. Photo (c) Lindsay Y. McCall from the U.S. Para-Equestrian Dressage Symposium in California 2013.
said. “This horse – if I didn’t get a good score on him, I’d have felt bad, because he’s so talented.”
Western Whiz is a 2003 bay gelding by West Coast Whiz and out of Cameos Brite Star by Black Star Leo. He was bred by Roberta M. Witt of Williston, Ohio, and is owned by Robert N. Thompson of Pilot Point, Texas. He has $123,642 in NRHA earnings.
“This horse is so responsive,” Lara said. “Every day, we get more connected and I learn more of his cues. He loves his work. If you ask him right, he’ll do it. He wants to do it. (Riding the pattern) was easy. Once I learned his cues and to sit still and let him do his job, he makes it easy.”
Lara and many of the other para-reiners spent a week before the competition practicing at trainer Lisa Coulter’s facility in Pilot Point, she said, developing camaraderie with their competitors and with their horses.
“I was lucky Lisa gave me her Cadillac to ride – the long straw,” Lara said. “It was amazing. It was the most fun. This is only the ninth time I’ve ever ridden a reiner in my life. (Para-dressage and para-reining) are very similar. You have to be precise. It’s a discipline. People might think you’re hoo-hawing around, but you’re not.”
Lara’s not quite ready to give up her para-dressage saddle yet: She hopes to qualify for the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro.
“I’d love to have para-reining added to the World Equestrian Games,” she said. “Someday, that will happen, but for now, I’m enjoying this class. I’m in love with this sport.”
Other competitors were:
Briana Bartlett of Tecumseh, Nebraska, on her own Chromed Tejon
Cole Jacobs of Fabius, New York, on his own Ruf N Loaded
Lise Yervasi of Oregon on Gail Klapper’s Remin Star
Deidre Hannah Charity Smith’s Whiz Pop Bang
Freddy Win of New Jersey on Allison Smith’s Pistol Silencer
Catherine Sherwood on Robert Thompson’s Spark Chocolate
Two riders demonstrated walk-only reining patterns: Tara Kowalski and Ruth Armbruster.
Para-reining made its debut during the 2013 AQHA World Championship Show, and interest in the sport continues to grow, including a class at the 2014 World Show, a class at the Kentucky Reining Cup and the one at the NRHA Futurity.
For 2014, AQHA adopted para-reining rules in collaboration with USA Reining and NRHA. Those rules will be revised after this test year and with the cooperation of the United States Para-Equestrian Association with the goal of making para-reining a nationally recognized sport in 2015.