Steamboal riders trot toward competitive season in Scottsdale |

Steamboal riders trot toward competitive season in Scottsdale

Mignon Stetman shows Legacy PR at the Scottsdale Aarbian Horse Show last April. Stetman and Legacy will continue to compete this summer, as the team works toward the goal of bringing home another title at the U.S. National Championships in Tulsa, Okla., this October.

For Legacy PR, and owner Mignon Stetman, February's 55th annual Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show marked a strong start to a new season.

"Scottsdale is like a big coming-out party," Stetman said. "It's a chance to show off what you've got, and it's a time for the best horses in the country to shine."

And there is no question that Legacy and Stetman sparkled in the desert show in Arizona, which traditionally opens the Arabian show circuit.

Legacy won the Arabian Western Pleasure, Adult Amateur Owner to Ride ages 36 to 54 class at the show, which was Feb. 11 through 21 in Scottsdale. He also brought home a top finish in the Hunter Pleasure class.

In Western Pleasure classes, the horses are shown in an arena with as many as 30 other horses at the same time. The rider must position the horse so the judges notice it, and the horse must show well enough to earn their attention and score the points.

The horse and rider are scored as a team based on appearance, movement and the rider's control. The top six horses are ranked in order of finish. Legacy won the qualifying class and the championships class at the event.

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The show, which is one of the largest of the season, with more than 2,300 participants, is also one of the most prestigious. It's considered to be as important as the Canadian National Championships, which are held in August, and the U.S. National Championships in October.

This month, and throughout the summer, Stetman and Legacy hope to build on their great start. In April, Stetman plans to compete at a regional event in Scottsdale, and again in June at a regional event in Denver. She also might enter several other events as she prepares for the nationals in October.

Stetman, who has been riding horses since her father gave her a pony at age 5, explained that the win in Scottsdale has placed Legacy at the top of the list of favorites contending for a title at the nationals in Tulsa, Okla. But she plans to head to the other shows because she and Legacy love competing.

"The win qualified us for nationals, but it still takes a lot to win," Stetman said. "Your horse has to be in a good mood; you still have to be on the top of your game on that day and in the right frame of mind."

But after winning her class in Scottsdale, Stetman has high hopes for the horse she bought in October 2007 from her trainer, Gary Dearth, of New Mexico. He was barely broke at the time, but by 2009 the purebred Arabian horse already was showing promise at the junior national championships, where Dearth's daughter Kristin rode him.

Legacy was named the Youth National Champion in Western Pleasure in the 13 and younger class. It was the only time someone other than Stetman has shown the horse.

Legacy has continued to shine, winning regional championships and placing in the top 10 at the U.S. National Championships in 2008 and 2009 with Stetman holding the reins.

"He loves his job," Stetman said about Legacy. "He loves going out and performing for his owner and trainer. He has already displayed the quality and characteristics of a great show horse."

But there was a time when things didn't look so bright for the top-notch show horse. Legacy's mother struggled to carry the foal to full term. Dearth nursed Legacy's mother, an older broodmare that had given birth to several highly regarded show horses, to full term. He even devised a harness that lifted the mare several times a day to keep her off her feet during the final six months of pregnancy. The stress was too much for the mare, which died just two days after Legacy's birth. Legacy was introduced to another mare that had lost its foal a few weeks before Legacy's arrival, and she adopted him.

Legacy was eventually sold to Stetman and her husband, Greg, who has been working with the horse.

"I grew up with horses," Mignon Stetman said. "We don't keep our show horses here — we just don't have the indoor arenas needed to train them properly — but we have several trail horses that we ride."

Still, Mignon and Greg Stetman elected to keep several of the family's other horses in New Mexico, where they can take advantage of the mild weather and be closer to Dearth, who is an award-winning trainer.

The Stetmans have five horses in New Mexico including Legacy, a pair of 2-year-olds and a 3-year-old that is training to be a show horse. The family also owns a mare, which is pregnant.

Mignon Stetman travels to see the horses several times a month and before shows to stay connected with the horses she takes to shows.

"They have to be ridden four or five times a week," Stetman said. "It takes a lot of work and a good trainer to be successful."

It also takes a lot of natural talent, which, thanks to his pedigree, Legacy possesses.

"Top horses have a certain way they move, and it takes a certain confirmation to be a Western show horse," Stetman said. "In the arena, the horse is judged on the way they move, their gait, whether they are walking, jogging or loping, and how they respond to commands."

Competition is tight among the best Arabians in the country, and in order to win at a show like the one in Scottsdale, both the horse and rider must be in top form.

Mother, daughter place

Medora Fralick and her daughter Ryan also got a jump on the competitive riding season at the 55th annual Scottsdale Arabian Horse Show last month.

Both riders collected several top-10 finishes in the Western Reining Class, where riders guide horses through a precise pattern of circles, spins and stops.

Ryan competed in the Purebred Reining Junior to Ride, ages 14 to 17 class. It was her first year in the age group, and she finished in the top 10. She also competed in the Half-Arabian Reining Horse JTR 14-15, where she collected several top-10 finishes on her half-Arabian Megas Missing Lynx.

In the reining classes, the judges announce the champion and reserve champions. The next eight are recognized but not placed in any particular order.

Medora Fralick also competed and brought home top-10 finishes in the Adult Amateur Reining and was third in the Non-pro Derby for horses ages 6 to 8 years.

The Fralicks’ futurity horse, BJ Dark Hero, was shown in the futurity class, which competes for $50,000 in prize money. The horse, ridden by Crystal McNutt, made it to the finals and was in the top 10.

Medora Fralick said the family planned to stay busy in the arena this summer but had not made final decisions about which competitions they will travel to. However, Medora Fralick said she would be at nationals in October and that Ryan has penciled in the Arabian youth nationals in July.