A sold-out, standing room only crowd packed the John Justin Arena in Fort Worth, Texas, on Saturday, February 20 for the finals of the 2016 World’s Greatest Horseman, presented by DT Horses.
The 2016 World’s Greatest Horseman Champion, Clayton Edsall, riding Skeets Oak Peppy. The pair won the herd work round in the finals with a 221 on their way to the Championship.
The World’s Greatest Horseman title, with its $25,000 paycheck, is a showcase for the elite all-around equine athlete and multi-tasking rider. Competitors are judged in four grueling events – herd work, rein work, steer-stopping, and fence work. The caliber of competition among the ten finalists is often described as unmatched anywhere in the Western performance horse industry.
The Champion, with a combined 883 score (221 herd/219 rein/218 steer/225 fence), was Clayton Edsall, Oakdale, California, riding his own gelding, Skeets Oak Peppy (Skeets Peppy x Oak Ill Be x Ill Be Smart).
Going into the fence work, Edsall and “Sly” were in third place, trailing the leaders, Todd Bergen and Smart Luck, by eight points. Working second in the draw, Edsall scored a big 225 down the fence – the second highest score of the go-round – but then had to anxiously wait to find out whether the score would endure to win the championship.
“I knew I was going to have to go with as much cow as I could handle down the fence, or else those guys were going to catch me, and you saw them – they almost did. They gave me a new cow, and the second cow worked out real well. Everybody here does such a good job. I tried to do the best I could, and let it fall where it may,” Edsall said, adding that it was “pretty neat” to win on the gelding with whom he’s had such a long history.
“He was one of my earlier horses to train and he’s such a great athlete. I’ve won a lot of money on him but I haven’t won any big titles on him, and I always felt like he deserved it.”
Besides the $25,000 paycheck, Edsall took home a Bob’s Custom Saddle, Gist buckle and CR Morrison Trophy, all sponsored by Kalpowar Quarter Horses; chaps from Joey Jemison; custom ostrich Rios of Mercedes boots; a fleece cooler from Classic Equine, a prize packet from Farnam, and product from Platinum Performance.
Edsall won the title by a point over Phillip Ralls, riding Dom Dualuise (Dual Rey x Smart Little XX x Smart Little Lena) for owner Chris Larson. It was the second consecutive year for Ralls and the gelding to be Reserve in the World’s Greatest Horseman.
Bergen and Smart Luck, the overall leaders going into the final event, mounted a serious challenge and appeared on track to win the Championship, but ran into misfortune down the fence. The 2006 stallion slipped badly coming out of a turn, and by the time he regained his feet, had lost control of the cow for a disappointing 197 score. The pair finished in sixth place.
“It’s a hard pill to swallow, but you know what, it happened because he’s trying so hard. I can’t take anything away from him. You hate for it to happen, but he’s a great horse. I don’t think I’ll ever have another one like him,” the NRCHA Two Million Dollar Rider said. “There’s nothing like this event. It’s the elite, it’s physical, it’s tough, it’s hard, you name it – it’s got all the ingredients. To get a horse you feel like you can be competitive with here, is a special horse.”
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