If you haven’t heard the name “Dufurrena” before, after the astounding year the family has had, I bet you’ve heard it now. The Dufurrena family has been successfully breeding, raising, training and showing cutting horses for years. The family is helmed by NCHA Trainer Ed Dufurrena, a million dollar trainer, his wife Shona, and their two children, Brandon and Rieta. For the family, it’s all about the horses, and the success they have achieved can be attributed to a strong family body, belief in their horses and above all a unrelenting work ethic that they all share. This past December though, may have just been the families biggest month yet. Rieta Dufurrena, a Non-Pro in the cutting horse world, with LTE of +$230,000 calls December, “one wild month” and the NCHA Futurity and World Finals as the “show of a lifetime.”
Team Dufurrena celebrating Stevie Rey Von's Open Futurity Win
Rieta congradulating her father on a big win Photo Credit: Cutting Horse Central
The Dufurrena crew stormed Fort Worth this year. In the NCHA Futurity their stallion Stevie Rey Von (Metallic Cat x Miss Ella Rey) rose to the occasion and tremendously won both the Open Futurity with Ed, as well as the Limited Non-Pro with Rieta. In the World Finals, Ed made it aboard their great stallion, Auspicious Cat. Brandon won the show on Stevie Rey Von’s full sister, Purple Reyn, and was awarded NCHA Horse of the Year, Non-Pro for his efforts. Rieta, to tie up the family affair theme, made the finals on Miss Ella Rey, Stevie and Purple Reyn’s mother. I watched the Futurity intently, and after seeing Rieta run out to congratulate her father, and her beloved Stevie, after their win, I knew there was a story there. For this year, atleast, that story centres around a cutting-obsessed woman, and her beloved roan stallion, Stevie.
Rieta, of Gainesville Texas, grew up on a horse. From the early age of three she was riding alone and started running barrels and poles right out the gate. Her first horse, Sassy, was her babysitter, but it was when she was 8 and received her first cutting horse, Docs Playboy Rio, that she was hooked from there on out. In her senior year of high school she hauled for the NCHA youth world in 2012 and was awarded the Senior Youth Champion. After finishing high school she headed straight to cooking school at Le Cordon Bleu and graduated with a pastry chef certificate. Then, she took two years off from school to campaign Miss Ella Rey in the Non-Pro Top 15, and to focus on Stevie. That strategy worked, in 2014 she became the AQHA World Champion, a year after her brother, Brandon, did the same, both of them on Miss Ella Rey. Now, in 2016 she’s back in school at NCTC enrolled in a business and management degree, and is also on their stock horse team.
An average day in Rieta’s life is a hectic one, she generally works out in the mornings, then has class, then goes to the barn to ride or goes to her stock horse team practice. Most weekends you can find her at a cutting horse event, and in her free time she’s probably baking something really, really good. This year though, is looking to be a bit quieter than 2015. Last year Team Dufurrena was at a show every weekend campaigning for the world. This year, her plans are to go to a few weekend shows here and there, but to focus on the aged events with Stevie. For some one that has done a lot of showing in both realms, Rieta enjoys both the weekend shows, and aged events. Weekend shows she loves because she gets to show her older horses that already know how to have fun. Whereas aged events she finds more exhilarating because of the challenge of showing a young horse. Overall though, Rieta says that the Mercuria shows are her absolute favourite, “They usually bring in big crowds with music playing as you show, so the energy level is unreal and I really enjoy that excitement! I feel like, along with showing at the Futurity, showing at a Mercuria show should be on everyone’s bucket list!”
Rieta and her beloved, Stevie
During a show, Rieta says that one of her pre-show rituals is to never, ever eat before she shows. She also makes sure to work her horse two or three moves on the flag before she shows to help settle herself in. In the show pen, she says the advice she get’s more often than not is to “SLOW DOWN”, and to breathe. Her advice to other women competing in cutting, her advice is mostly to be confident. “When you show with confidence, even if things aren’t going as planned, it still makes it picture perfect.” As far as fashion in the show pen goes, Rieta favours a “tasteful look” accompanied by a sleek, well fit shirt. She does admit though, that “every now and then i’ll get a wild hair and wear something crazy!” Don’t we all though, right there with you Rieta!
As we’ve seen, family is centre to everything the Dufurrena’s do, and Rieta says that showing alongside her brother and father is “shockingly pretty great! They are both very supportive, even if I don’t do great.” They also obviously spend a lot of time together on the road, while their mother and wife, Shona, holds down the fort at home, but Rieta claims that, “surprisingly, my brother and I hardly fight, and it’s a rare occasion if we do.” Her father is also very much in her corner, and she considers herself a “daddy’s girl”. Ed, she says, “always allows me to be a part of everything in the business and teaches me how to manage situations.” The biggest thing she has learned from both her brother and father are how to be a team, and how to be a great team player.
Rieta on Miss Ella Rey at the 2015 World Finals
It’s that team player attitude that led Rieta to have the outstanding year she had on two of her absolute favourite horses she’s ever shown, coincidentally enough, a family unto themselves, Stevie Rey Von and his mama, Miss Ella Rey. Miss Ella Rey (Dual Rey x Huggs Olena x Smart Chic Olena) was bred by LKC Ranch in Nebraska, a ranch that Ed Dufurrena used to work for. When the owners dispersed their stock Ed scraped up the money to buy Ella as a yearling. Ella has payed that initial investment back, the mare now has LTE of $375K, and has guided each member of the family to massive wins in the show pen. As far as her personality, Rieta says that “for a Dual Rey, she’s actually super laid back, every now and then that Dual Rey stubbornness will come out, but it’s very rare. She is sweet and enjoyable to be around, and she’s my favourite to just pull out of the stall and ride around.” Her most memorable moments with Ella have included making multiple Mercuria finals in Las Vegas, Idaho and San Antonio.
Ella’s son, Stevie Rey Von (Metallic Cat x Miss Ella Rey), is Rieta’s pride and joy. “Stevie was Ella’s second baby, and first colt, I love boys more than girls so I was instantly attracted to him. However, he just has some way of drawing my heart! I cant even really explain why or how it happened, it just happened.” Both mother and son are incredibly strong horses to ride, but manage to also be sweet and laid back. Ella, Rieta says, has a very aggressive way of moving, whereas Stevie is smoother and carries a big self confidence about himself. If you don’t understand what Rieta means by that, go watch their winning run in the Limited Non-Pro at the 2015 NCHA Futurity, and you’ll understand. A lot of three year olds have trepidation going into the big pen for the first time, Stevie, it seemed, knew that he was meant to be there and was he ever right.
Stevie Rey Von & Rieta in the Limited Non Pro Photo Credit: Cutting Horse Central
Incredibly, Rieta was also the first person to start Stevie on the flag, and then on a cow, in his two year old year. She said that he was easy to start because “he is just so chill about everything, he didn’t care about much until he truly figured out how much fun the flag was. Just about anything I asked him to do, he would do it - no arguing. He is smart, and for the most part, was easy to train. He has always been a very mature horse.” Heading into the futurity, Rieta had high hopes for Stevie but says, she never dreamt he would win both the Open, and the Limited Non-Pro. For the Dufurrena’s, it was the show of a lifetime, “with having my dad, my brother and I showing in the world Finals as well as all of us showing in the Futurity, we were very busy.” The success the family achieved this year proves to Rieta that hard work really does pay off in the end. During the go-rounds of the Limited, Rieta astoundingly scored a 220 each time. The first round she said she did not know what to expect, but she did know that she could trust Stevie with anything she threw at him, they played it smart and it worked. The second go round Rieta wanted it to be a similar run, and easy, but she admits the second go round was a little bit more nerve wracking going into it with such a big score. For her final, and winning run, Rieta said she was focused on reading her cow and sitting her stops. After her run she says, “i was so excited because I marked ANOTHER 220, but I was afraid someone could still come back and beat me. Honestly, I didn't think I would win it at all.”
Getting Low with Stevie at the Futurity Photo Credit: Quarter Horse News
In the end, as we all know, Stevie and Rieta were victorious and took home the title of Limited Non-Pro Champions. Now that Stevie has proven himself to be such a big deal, the Dufurrena’s plan to campaign him for horse of the year. The stallion has already amassed earnings of $248K with only a handful of shows under his belt since the futurity. His trajectory for horse of the year is looking good, with Stevie currently leading the pack with 292 points. Matt Miller, and Amandas CD are the closest to him, trailing with 208 points. Stevie will also be shown at most major aged events in hopes to achieve this goal. The most recent on the horizon being Super Stakes where both Ed, and Rieta, will show Stevie in the Open and Non-Pro respectively. As far as up-and-coming prospects, like we’ve seen the Dufurrena’s like to keep it in the family… literally. “I plan on sticking with my boy for now,” says Rieta, “but I do have my eye on his full sister that's a 2 year old we call Razz.”
I’ll sum up this edition of “The Centre Arena” with a quote that Rieta says she loves, and I have to agree. “The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little extra.” She continues, “if we all give our little extra every day we can develop to become a better individual overall.” When I think about Rieta Dufurrena, the themes that come to mind are hard work, perseverance, believing in yourself, believing in your horse and believing in your family and support system. The Dufurrena’s, and Rieta, seemed to capture the key to success in 2015. Realistically though, that key was not gifted to them, they worked hard to obtain it. They continue to craft their breeding program, and how they train and show their horses, the way they want to. They are creating their own niche in the cutting horse world, and clearly, they are doing something very right. For me, that's exemplary and something to be admired. Rieta Dufurrena may have had one of her best years yet in 2015, but she shows no sign of slowing down, and is definitely on track to continue having more and more major years to come.
The story of a huge-hearted horse, and a hard working family... it's a good one. Photo Credit: Quarter Horse News