Deb Harrison is taking the 5,000 Novice Horse Non Pro by storm this year. Currently sitting second in the NCHA World Standings with $17,628 won in 26 shows on her home-grown mare, Sophisticated Rey. Harrison, a successful and recognized veterinarian that specializes in equine reproduction, is finishing out the year in Arizona before she makes the final leg of the trip to Fort Worth, Texas. Western Twist Media sits down with fellow Canadian, Harrison, about the ups-and-downs of hauling on a home-grown mare, where the road has taken her, and what she can't live without.
Deb Harrison shows Sophisticated Rey at the South Point in Las Vegas, NV. Photo Credit: Midge Ames. Tell me about your horse... Sophisticated Rey aka ‘Piper’ is by Sophisticated Catt and out of a Reys Dual Badger mare named Dolly Rey. Piper is extra special to us because she is a home-raised baby and because she has been a lot of work. We first took her to Bruce Morine as a two-year-old. He would say “she’s pretty neat and can do some cool stuff but she’s kinda crazy”. Not a whole lot has changed. She is super inquisitive and friendly, but lots can set her off. As a four-year-old she went to Dustin Gonnet where his wife Marla nicknamed her ‘hamster’. She would laugh and say, “it’s like she has 5 hamsters in her head and they are all running in different directions”. I spent a lot of time in the saddle with this mare. It would often take 3-4 hours of warm up to get ready to show. That’s a lot of riding for a two-and-a-half-minute run!! As she has gotten older she has calmed down a lot but still very busy. What is your favorite thing about your pony?
My favorite thing about this mare is her grittiness and her expression on a cow. She try’s her heart out every time and she absolutely loves her job.
Who originally trained it and bred it and who showed it previous to you?
We used to own her dam, Dolly Rey, and pulled an embryo from her prior to selling her. We tried to selling Piper a few times but for various reasons she never sold. We decided to bring her to Weatherford, Texas where Bruce Morine trained her. Piper has gone through a few trainers but if it wasn’t for Bruce Morine and Tosten Peterson she would not be cutting horse today. They had the stamina and patience to get through to her without scaring her. What class(es) do you show in?
Last year we showed hard in the Arizona circuit to capture the NP Classic Challenge Year End Championship. We went to quite a few shows in Arizona, Vegas and California and things just started to click. So, in the beginning of this year we decided we would try for the Top 15 in the $5,000 NH/ NP. We said right from the beginning that we would take one day at a time and see how she holds up and how things go. No pressure. Just one show at a time. We started in Arizona and things went well then, we moved back to our home in Alberta and started showing in Canada. The transition to Canadian cattle was a little challenging at first because although not as fast they work a lot closer to you and they often don’t have the same level of respect as the Arizona cows. We had to shorten down quite a bit and just try and read the cows better. Piper and I had great help from Les Timmons and good pen help from Keith Stewart, Glen Beveridge and Brad Peterson. They all knew I was working towards the World Finals and they all helped out lots. What is the best advice your trainer has ever given you? Is there something they tell you a lot?
The one thing that sticks in my head a lot is from KT Costello “only one of you can go fast and you know Piper is going to go fast so ya better think slow”. It took me a long time to figure it out but exhaling on the ends and sitting deep can help soften those tough cows. Its super hard to do as I get nervous / excited before every run so to stay calm is tough for me.
What has been the highlight of your year so far? Winning the Canadian and Alberta Championships has been a huge honor. I am so proud of my little horse with her giant heart and so thankful for all the help we got in Canada.
Have you had a low point?
My lowest point was a double whistle after my horse quit a cow. I was frustrated and disappointed at me and at her. How did you get through it?
We got through it my re-evaluating the run and trying to understand what led up to her quitting. It is very unlike her and I had to take a step back. Basically, I was trying too hard to make things happen. Also, we were trying to pull embryos at the same time and she didn’t have her mind or body on task. It was still early in the show year, so we decided then to focus solely on the World Championships and go back to taking one show at a time. Do you get nerves/anxiety in the show pen?
I get super nervous every time I go out. Not sure why really. What helps me is I try an envision the run while I’m loping my horse. How I want my cuts to be; how I’m going to stop the cow; sitting, breathing. Basically, the whole run. It helps get me focused. Also, If I know ahead of time that I would be super nervous I would enter a class before mine just to get rid of all the nervous energy. What’s your “real life job?”
My real-life job is a Vet specializing in Equine Reproduction. Typically, I work long hours during the breeding season which prevents me from showing but this year I had a great associate and coworkers which allowed me weekends off to go show. What’s your best tip for balancing real life with hauling?
It’s hard because showing is so addictive, but I try and keep a hold of the big picture and live in the moment. Make a plan but also be flexible. What could you not live without at a cutting?
My husband. He’s been able to go to almost all the shows and is super helpful. He always gives me a last-minute tip as I walk in, keeps me organized and is my biggest fan. We watch the videos together and afterwards we socialize with friends and laugh about the day. Have you had to haul pretty hard this year?
We have a winter home in Arizona, so we started the year out there then moved back to Canada where we showed pretty hard. This fall we will head back to Arizona and hit the road again. We will take one day at a time and see how Piper feels as we proceed. What is your favorite show to haul too, and why?
Queen Creek, Arizona. Good ground, good cattle, great help and an incredible group of people. Plus, the weather is usually great! If you could show to one song, what would it be?
The Booze Cruise by BlackJack Billy Looking towards world finals, what are you most excited about?
I think just the level of excitement and energy. What do you plan to show in next year?
The plan for next year is for my husband to show in the $15,000 Am class and hopefully make the Top 15. What are your goals for next year?
As for Piper, we shall she how she feels. Maybe the $25,000 NH / NP or maybe a year off to be a broodmare.