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    Rising to the Challenge

    CRHA wraps up 2012 at LAEC

    From Horsetrader staff reports - December 6th, 2012 - Cover Story, Show & Event News

    BURBANK – Trainer Tom Foran was pleased to win the Open division on Lil Joe Tag at the California Reining Horse Association Challenge. But his satisfaction from this year’s event, held Oct. 24-28 at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center, also stems from the show itself.

    Foran, the CRHA President, worked alongside CRHA board members all year to prop up the 2012 Challenge, and the efforts paid off. With an innovative line-up and with sponsors stepping up to provide the show its biggest purse in years – more than $50,000 in cash payouts — the “challenge” was more than just met this year. It thrived.

    “Historically, it was always one of the biggest reinings in California, and we’ve got it back up to that,” said Foran, who bases his training operation at the LAEC. “We want to keep working at it to the point where we hope it will be one of the bigger reinings in the country, with any luck.”

    “Everything came off great,” he added. “All the feedback we got from the visitors — from the spectators, from the owners, from the trainers — it was all positive. Everybody says they are coming back and they want to do it again. It couldn’t have been any better to kind of springboard reining in Southern California and get it really launched and going strong.”

    KC Montgomery photo

    Cassandra Stambuk of Yorba Linda and her "Mickey".

    A highlight of this year’s Challenge, which included almost $70,000 in prizes, was the inaugural crowning of the CRHA Reiner of the Year. The contest included 22 top point-earners in all divisions, squaring them off in a handicapped system designed to level the playing field.

    Cassandra Stambuk of Yorba Linda, a 20-year-old junior at Auburn University in Alabama, flew out and won the title on her 7-year-old gelding, Smugglin Diamonds, whom she campaigns in the Rookie Level 2 division.

    Stambuk, who trains with Mike and Kristi Berg at Berg Performance Horses in Temecula, flew in the night before her class, then flew out the day following.

    “I didn’t get to spend a lot of time there, but while I was there, I really enjoyed it,” said Stambuk, in her third year of reining after showing all-around on the Paint Horse circuit under Jerry and Shelley Lunde of Norco. “I want to thank Mike and Kristi for everything — they have ‘Mickey’ so ready and have me confident – and my mom. She is very dedicated to my horse endeavors, and to me.”

    Stambuk acquired Mickey when they spotted him at a Zone Paint Horse show in Utah. With the Bergs’ help, the pair has meshed.

    Brian Smith / EQ Images photo

    Kenneth Hamilton of Clovis slides to a stop in the CrHA Novice Horse Non Pro competition during the Oct. 24-28 event.

    “Winning the Reiner of the Year shows how much Mickey and have been able to come together — our journey from starting and me not knowing much about reining,” Stambuk said. “Now we’re getting deeper and deeper into the reining, and we’re still able to learn from each other, make goals, and reach farther to accomplish harder challenges.”

    She says she will compete in Rookie Level 2 one more year, with the goal of cracking the top 10 in Oklahoma City next November. She just missed that mark – 12th place – last weekend.

    The Reiner of the Year proved popular with competitors, spectators and the management. “It was a great idea, great program,” said Foran. “We’ll probably tweak it a little bit for next year. We’re trying to come up with new, creative programs that make it fun — something else to shoot for, something else to try for.”

    Stambuk was one of several bright spots for Berg Performance Horses at this year’s CRHA Challenge. Mike Berg won the Novice Horse Level 1 and Novice Horse Level 2 on Gangsters Hitman, owned by Earl Wiggins. Wiggins won the Rookie Level 1 and Rookie Level 2 on Dun Dreaming, earning the use of the trailer for a year. Kristi Wiggins won the Youth 13 and Under on Dun Dreaming.

    Berg also was the coach of Friday night’s Celebrity Slide winner, Brian Unger, who was one of a field of five celebrities that also included William Shatner, Lyle Lovett, Bijou Lilly Phillips and Obba Babatundé in a fund-raiser that raised the roof of the Equidome. Unger rode Cee Nita Hickory, owned by Kathleen Stillman.

    MORE ONLINE: http://bit.ly/212A_CRHA

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