Road to the Horse champion Stacy Westfall astonished crowds at the Tulsa Reining Classic earlier this month when she rode without a bridle or saddle to claim top honors with a score of 151 (a combination of two judges' scores; a 140 is an average, no-faults run). Westfall is the first person ever to win the freestyle event without tack.
Westfall defended her 2005 title by winning the 2006 competition while riding Whizards Baby Doll to the Tim McGraw song "Live Like You Were Dying."
"She has become a crowd favorite and people were lined up for hours to get her autograph," says event coordinator Jenifer Reynolds. "Stacy is an amazing horsewoman and a gracious competitor."
Westfall says she decided to go bridle-less and saddle-less to see if it could be done. "For the challenge of it," she says.
"I chose the song because it was a risk and an adventure. All of the maneuvers at a high rate of speed become difficult-especially the sliding stop with nothing to balance against. It is more difficult than just bareback with a bridle because you have to remember that every time my legs move I am cueing my horse to go somewhere. So if I slip and hold on with my legs it causes me to accidentally steer - then I am going somewhere unplanned. Ironically, I won a saddle after that ride!"
Westfall will defend her other current title — that of Road to the Horse champion — at the 2007 Champion of Champions event March 3-4 in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. Each year, Road to the Horse fans pack into the Tennessee Miller Coliseum to watch and learn horse-training secrets from professional "horse whisperers."
As the original two-day colt starting challenge, Road to the Horse gathers top horses, top horse trainers and expert judges to ensure optimum education and quality horse training demonstrations. For 2007, past champions Clinton Anderson (Belle Center, Ohio) and Westfall (Mt. Gilead, Ohio) will challenge newcomer Cox (Mineral Wells, Texas).
On the first day of competition, clinicians watch as 10 equally-bred and previously untouched horses race into the coliseum. Soon each clinician will choose a horse to work with and round one begins. On day two, clinicians have two more hours of training time before entering the obstacle course and freestyle rounds—time to show off all they have accomplished with their equine partners.