I could tell you a Cinderella story, the trainers kid on her beloved aged event horse wins one of the biggest aged events in Canada, The Calgary Futurity Non Pro Classic. Yet I think it’s the struggle that makes the Cinderella stories all that more magical in the end, wouldn’t you agree? Emma Reinhardt and Miss Smoke Is Smooth had a year of ups and downs, and through the process learned what it means to become a team, stepping up to the plate, and what it takes to be a champion. Which of course, is what happened in October of 2017 when Emma got to change out her youth buckle for one of the most prized buckles there is - the Calgary Non Pro Classic buckle. I’ll let her tell you the story of the year she won Calgary. ———————————-
Emma Reinhardt shows Miss Smoke Is Smooth, "Honey", in the Non Pro Finals of the Calgary Wrangler Futurity. Photo Credit: James Hudyma
It felt like it was time, I hadn’t shown in awhile and I kept telling my Dad [NCHA Trainer, Doug Reinhardt] that I really wanted to buy a show horse, and he kept telling me there was nothing around. Leading up to 2017 two of my all time favourite horses had been horses I had competed on in NCHA Youth Classes and High School Rodeo. The first was Linda Davies horse, Cetas Ahoy Mate, the famous “Chief”. I won the Alberta High School Rodeo Finals on him and showed him a lot in youth classes. He would never fail to mark you a 73 or 74, or even higher. Then there was Kim Krebs’ horse, Flew To The Moon, that’s another horse that ranks up there as one of my absolute favourites. I was reserve at the High School Rodeo Finals on the mare in 2014 and that was really the last really big thing that I’ve won, in my mind atleast. Since then I had shown a few aged event horses, a three and a four year old, we made a couple finals here and there but we really never did that great. In the summer of 2016 I saw that [NCHA Trainer] Travis Rempel had put up a for-sale ad on a horse they had in training at his barn, Miss Smoke Is Smooth, they called her Honey. She was owned by Doug Weins, they had both shown her, she had won a bunch of money and was bred really cool - a Smooth As A Cat out of Miss Smoke Travels (xTravalena) who had won over $78,000. I told my Dad to check this horse out, I thought she’d be a fit, but he wasn’t interested, I got that standard reply of, “oh, yeah, whatever.” I made Dad watch Honey at the Calgary Stampede Mercuria that summer, and she did really well, but he still wasn’t convinced. It literally took me until the end of the Calgary Futurity in the fall to convince him that we should buy her. On the very last day of the futurity, he relented and we got to take her home. That fall I had plans to go on a trip to Australia, so we brought her home and I rode her once on the flag for the first and only time before I left. She was insane, honestly it was terrible, it was awful. It was probably one of the worst flag works I’ve ever had in my entire life, and I kept thinking, oh my god, what did we do?! My Dad said, okay, just leave for Australia, don’t worry about it, when you come back she’ll have had two months off and she’ll be better. He was right, sort of. When I came home she was fine; fat and happy and ready to go back to work. She's honestly the sweetest horse to be around, I love her personality but we definitely had a weird year. It was full of ups and downs, I’d go out there and mark a 74 on her, and then the next show she would try to screw me in the pen. She’s kind of tough and it took me awhile to figure out how to get her ready. She’s tricky to lope, she’s super lazy, she’ll drag her head on the ground like she’s so tired and you start to feel really bad for her. Then you go out there to show her and she’s like HA! Got ya! I’m going to roll around over here and do bad things over here, it was frustrating. I work for my Dad, I’m always loping for other people, if I was rushed, or if I didn’t give myself enough time to just go get her, saddle her, whatever… I would be flustered, it never really worked if I was flustered. That's one of the biggest struggles I have at shows, last year I showed in the 5,000 Novice Horse Non Pro, it's like the last class of the day, and it's a very tough class. So you are super hot, you've already loped all day and your energy is really low. People don't really realize what a struggle that can be.
Emma and Honey amongst the fall leaves at the Canadian Supreme in Red Deer, Alberta.
When I was a youth, riding great horses like Chief, he would pack you. Honey was not going to pack me through it, I had to be thinking, I had to be reading that cow, if I wasn’t completely in the game she wouldn’t be there for me. Looking back, you know, that taught me a lot because I really had to find my mental game, and find my pre-show routine with her and we had to find what worked for us as a team. I learned so much, she made me work for it. Then, I do have some superstitions, and it seemed like last year if I didn’t do them, nothing ever seemed to work out for us in the show pen. Things like, I don’t lope horses in my show hat, and I usually don’t show in a shirt that I’ve been loping in. It’s little things, maybe more like routine things, like wrapping her front feet and putting boots on the back, making the time to do that. As the year went on we started to build a routine. We always worked Honey before we showed her, even if she felt really good we were like, nope, we gotta work her. Honey is very little, and she’s so quick. She’s kind of downhill and so finding a saddle that fit her was tough as well. She drops really low when she get’s going on a cow so finding a saddle that didn’t throw me up and over, or ride all the way up her neck was hard to find. I honestly found the right one before the big aged event fall runs. All these little things were at play and were coming together. Having a bad year, having those ups and downs, it was hard to handle. A lot of times if I have a bad run i’ll just leave the arena, I’ll go walk outside and try to calm myself down and forget it happened. That’s one of my Dad’s things he always says, “if you have a bad run you have to let it go and even if you have a good run, you have to let that go too. It feels cool to win these big events but the next show will be totally different.” He says that animals, they have a mind of their own, the turn back help, they have a mind of their own, there's so many factors. I tried to keep that in mind throughout the year. Honestly though, it wasn’t at the shows where I really struggled with the mental aspect of it all - it was at home. I’d be having a wreck with Honey while I was working her, it wouldn’t be going good, I’d get off and have a fit, I’d throw my reins at my Dad and say, “okay you work her then!” He’d jump on and work one cow and it would be perfect. It’s moments like that, that you know it’s not the horse, it’s you. The father-daughter dynamic is a little interesting, definitely different than what most people experience, but without my Dad being there for me, I would have had a disastrous year, I know that. I always had my Dad there to help me put her back together. I don't know if everyone says this, but my Dad would repeat it to me and Honey 24/7, “ride to that stop, and then slow through the turn,” so sometimes I'd be walking to herd and be like "stop, slow through the turn, stop, slow through the turn.” Now, I’ve realized a lot of things, about myself, and our game plan. The game plan is per show, we just see how she feels. I’m in school, so if I’ve had a long day or a bad day, if I'm super tired and I have to drive all the way home and have to get on Honey, I just know that i’m not mentally there. I know now to ask Dad to work her for me instead of me getting on her. Little things like that.
By fall, like I said, it was starting to come together but we were still learning as we went. At the Black Elk Cutting Classic in Ponoka, Alberta we marked a 75 and a 76, huge scores, I was so happy with us as a team. It was our first big aged-event feeling show. It made me realize like okay, we can do this. It was awesome. Plus, all roads lead to Calgary, I was showing against great competitors and their amazing horses, riders like Wyatt Benson, Carl Gerwien and Matt Anderson. I used to compare myself to other competitors, I used to be really bad at it to be honest. They’d go out there and mark a 220 and I’d say to myself “okay, now we have to go out there and do this, and this.” Now, I’ve realized it's going to be what it’s going to be. Before we get to Calgary, and I promise we are getting there, I have to tell you about the Canadian Supreme in Red Deer, Alberta first. At Supreme, I had a decent first round, in the second round I only had to mark a 212 in the second go to make the finals, I just had to have a nice clean run. Well, I went out the night before with a bunch of people from the cutting and it's safe to say that the next day I did not lope my horse well. She was super fresh. I think we marked a 210, so I didn't make the finals by just a few points. It was heartbreaking, it was a good lesson. That year I had already showed at Calgary in the summer, at the Calgary Stampede Mercuria, and it did not go well, I was in there for what felt like under three seconds and I got run over. I was super nervous, and I wasn't thinking clearly, it was our first big show together. I felt like the Calgary Futurity was going to be different, but I was a little worried about showing in that pen, it was kind of hanging over my head in the first go-round. But, the first go round went really well, but same thing happened again, for the second go-round she was a little fresh. Honey is just that type of horse, you’d think as the year had gone on she would be getting more tired, but she almost gets more and more excited about showing I guess. So, in the second-go, we didn't mark that great and we kind of snuck into the finals, I was near the bottom.
Photo Credit: James Hudyma
The Non Pro Finals, my finals, were on Sunday but the big Open finals are on Saturday and afterwards every one went out and had a lot of fun, but I had learned my lesson at Red Deer, I didn’t go out. It paid off. I was wearing one of my lucky shirts that day. I hadn't worn it it in awhile but I had worn it when I had a really big run on a futurity horse a few years ago. It's funny, I don't actually like that shirt that much, but I told myself I should wear it, it was lucky. I had my good friend, Alex Callaghan, helping me lope Honey throughout the year so that I could watch cows before my run. I had a pretty good idea of what cows we had leading into the finals. My finals run was a little nerve-wracking, I had a borderline hot quit that resulted in a review. My second cow was a little tough and I couldn't get off, I was freaking out and as soon as it headed off in the direction I needed it too, I tagged off. Then, I went to get my third cow and my corner help was telling me to go fish this cow out of the back, but I only had twenty seconds left. I didn't think it was a good idea. When we were watching cows, Travis had told me about a cow that he thought would be a good re-run, and it was on top, so I cut it. It was tough, I’m not going to lie. But, I think that cow was the cow that made my run the run that it was, Honey likes tough cows, she got in there and away we went. They announced my score, 216 with a review, I was tied for second. I kept telling myself that they were going to bump me up, but I could tell my Dad didn't think they were going too. Then, they announced it, they bumped me up! I won Calgary! That’s been one of my dreams since I was a little kid, to win the 5/6 year old at Calgary on a horse that is my own. [NCHA Trainer] Dustin Gonnet was in the stands and I remember him yelling out, “woo-hoo Emma, no more youth buckles!” because one of my favourite buckles is one I won as a youth rider, all my buckles say youth or high school rodeo, and i'm twenty-one, I’m pushing the limit for wearing youth buckles I think!
This year, things are going to be a little different. Last fall I tried to go to school and go to all the aged events, and it was really hard, my marks suffered pretty badly. This year, I’m going to take a spring semester so I can take my fall semester off. Honey has almost won $40,000, I’d like to see her get up to $60,000 so that in the future she can be a valuable little broodmare. Obviously i’d like to win another aged event this year, but I tell myself, if it happens, it happens, if it doesn’t, it doesn’t. I’m planning on showing in the Non Pro this year which, admittedly, will be the toughest class I’ve ever shown in, and I’d like to get top three in Alberta for the year. Honey’s heart is really so big. I never have to worry that she’s going to quit or give up. It’s a huge help having someone lope your horse because I get to watch cows and that’s the only reason I knew that re-run cow was on top and could pick it up. That was the cow that made my run. So I have to thank Alex for loping Honey most of the year, as well as Kim Krebs of Krebs Equine who kept my horse feeling good and ready to show all year long. It takes a village, I have to thank my turn back help for supporting me in the pen all year, and my mom and dad, of course.