Sun Circuit Smashes Records 

The 2021 Scottsdale Arizona Sun Circuit exceeded all expectations while delivering the biggest horse show in its 47 year history. The 9 day equine extravaganza was held February 27 through March 7th at the expansive WestWorld facilities in Scottsdale, AZ. A perfect storm of pent up desire to show, a tremendously diverse slate of classes and a destination worthy location drew exhibitors from all corners. Returning exhibitors joined many who made it to their bucket-list show for the very first time. The prodigious increase was apparent before the first classes even started. Additional stalls were erected, more trailers filled the parking lots and more horses were acclimating to the mild Arizona weather as they casually exercised in a dozen arenas.

Sun Circuit is a premier event in the equine industry for youth, amateur, select and open exhibitors. There were 26,108 AQHA entries and 4,561 NSBA class entries, including Color Breed classes. NRHA and NRCHA classes also saw increased numbers. Once the numerous special events, added money classes and 2D jackpot classes are tallied, a whooping 38,841 entries were made. That is nearly a 20% increase over 2020’s total class numbers. The explosive growth pressed Sun Circuit management to creatively utilized every inch of the West World show grounds.  Several adjustments had to be made to the schedule and additional arenas were opened. Classes were held in a total of 11 arenas and additional areas and pens were available for warm up.

Innovation is always a hallmark of Sun Circuit and this year’s show was full of fun and lucrative opportunities. Leann Rhodes was the lucky winner of the fully customized Western Hauler Crew Cab Chevrolet LTZ in the Western Hauler Truck Bonanza Raffle. Sun Circuit also kicked in $4,500 to cover taxes and registration fees for the winner. The entire package was worth about $90,000. Only 500 tickets were sold. Each raffle participant drew a raffle ticket from a box with a number between $1 and $500. Whatever number they drew was the amount they paid for the ticket. Some people opted to buy several tickets, and the event was so popular, folks at home wanted in so drawings were taken by phone also. All proceeds after expenses went into the pot for the Western Hauler Western Pleasure Truck Bonanza class. There were 17 qualified horses and riders from L1 Open, Junior and Senior pleasure in the class. Each Open rider drew a horse’s name as their mount. If they drew their own, or a horse they’ve ridden in the past, they had to draw again. After a few minutes to get acquainted, these new teams competed for a slice of nearly $50,000. Payouts were made to all 17 and winnings were split equally between the rider and the horse’s owner.

Katie Green easily clicked with Susie Johns’ horse KM Flat Out The Best to rack up the most points across the 3 judges. Katie and Susie split the top payout of $9,132.34. In second place, Becky and Gil Galyean’s horse, Made Sleepy, gave Rusty Green a smooth ride and earned $5,580.88. Good Vybes, owned by Amy Lynch and shown  by Ty Elrod, finished in third place for a $4,566 check. At the end of the class, champion Katie Green had the honor of pulling the winning raffle ticket.

Fantastic awards are another reason people love Sun Circuit. Rod Patrick Boots were the Best of Show prizes that awaited youth, amateur and select exhibitors in both the all-around and ranch and cattle divisions. There were 43 saddle awards across disciplines, ages and levels. Non Pros in L1, L2 and L3 accumulated points to win Bobs Custom Saddles. They had their points tallied from showmanship, horsemanship pleasure and halter. Lydia Menossi with 128 points took top honors in the Level 1 Non Pro. Shez Flat Mystical was shown in Level 2 by Bailey Anderson earning 179 points to claim the saddle award. Laina Banks had 163 points to win the Level 3 saddle with Strawberri Wine. The Non-Pro English saddle was won by Brooke Jolstad riding Betta Believe It. The High Point Green Horse was Not Dun Loping owned by Jane Humes, taking home a Superior Saddle.

Thousands of dollars were added to a new series of 2D jackpots in Reining, Ranch Riding and Trail. They provided opportunities for a lot of people to win cash. Added money and entry fees were divided equally between the 1D and 2D Divisions and each D paid 3 places. Over $29,000 was paid out. “We are really excited about the 2D format and spreading it around to multiple classes,” commented Sun Circuit Director and AzQHA CEO Doug Huls. “The Divisions are another form of leveling. You don’t have to be the big class winner to win a prize. You can score in the average and earn some money. For a nominal investment in the jackpot, you can go home with a nice check. It’s new for us, but the exhibitors who jumped on this year were really thrilled with it. We are definitely going to be offering  2D classes again next year.” A few highlights from the 2D payouts include Gunna Sail Away and John Gilbert winning $1,320 in the Amateur Reining. The Senior Trail stakes had 21 entries jackpotted and a total purse of $4,100. Hes Blazin Trouble with Jason Martin earned $923 in the 1D and VS Highroller with Brad Jewett aboard won $923 for first in the 2D.

L1 Amateur Ranch Riding had a jackpot and Liz Wagstrom rode Pay Me In Chocolate to win $315 in cash rather than chocolate in the 1D. Another $315 went to first place Kist My Assasin and Chelsie McAllister in the 2D.

The biggest payouts were seen in the $5,000 added Junior Trail Stakes. Not Dun Lopin  and Jane Humes won $3,120 for first in the 1D and Metamorphic and Ashley Clock-Dunbar claimed the top spot in the 2D earning $2,080.

Several NSBA Futurities offered more opportunities to earn money too. Good To Be First, owned by Emily Miller and shown by Beth Case won the $5,000 added $2,500 Novice Horse Hunter Under Saddle Open with a payout of $3,480.

$2,500 Limited Horse, Limited Rider Open HUS was won by

Cprealsurehestheone owned by Kristie Perea. Nancy Alto-Renfro was in the saddle and the team won $1,300.

West Coast Breeders offered futurity classes as well, including the $2,500 Added 3 & 4 Year Old Non Pro HUS. Im Simply Southern was shown by Kara Flentje to earn a $2,650 paycheck.

On the Western side, the $2,500 Added West Coast Breeders 3 & 4 Year Old NP Western Pleasure saw Never Have I Ever and Dakota Andrie take top honors, the trophy and a check for $1,635. Kent Ray Taylor had a fine ride in the  NSBA 3 & 4 year old Non Pro Pleasure with SnippitySnap earning $662.  The Intermediate Non Pro saw The Candy Mann ridden by Macy Brandt claiming the trophy and $502

In the $2,000 added 3 Year Old Open Western Pleasure, Gil Galyean showed Made Sleepy, a horse he and Becky own, to claim first and $2,260.

Ima Gold Machine owned by Rusty and Katie Green was in the gold earning $1,733 with Katie at the reins in the $5,000 4 & Over Pleasure.

The 3 Year Old Novice Horse Western Pleasure sponsored by Gil Galyean Quarter Horses was won by LunaMoon and Angie Cannizzaro. The smooth moving mare earned owners Scott and Linda Berwick $1,468.

The Susan Johns Family & Nothin But Nett sponsored 2 trail futurities. The 4 and Over Maiden Trail was won by Martinis In The Dark owned by Katie Michell and shown by Jess Bergantzel. They earned $1,569.38 for their efforts. Brad Jewett navigated If U Say So, owned by Hanna Olaussen, through the course to win $1,309.10.

From flat to fences, the fun and money kept flowing. The Greenway Saddlery Open and Non Pro Hunter Derbies were back. Pam Stubbs cleaned up in both. Pam rode her horses DGS Dont Tell Tales and A Classic Iron in the Non Pro to take first and second. Gretchen Lof guided them through the course in the Open to place second and first respectively.

Enthusiasm for Ranch related classes continues to grow at Sun Circuit and the western backdrop of Scottsdale provides a fitting stage to showcase the Quarter Horses’ versatile working heritage. Shunning silver and bling, the ranch  horses shined with phenomenal  athleticism. Ranch Riding classes saw 40, 50 and more entries across the divisions. L1 Ranch Riding saw the biggest numbers with 63 in the L1 Open.

L1 Open horses filled the Ranch Trail classes as well and dozens more amateur and open riders navigated the naturalistic obstacles. More and more exhibitors are enjoying the fun and thrill of Ranch on the Rail aka Working Western Rail. There were 33 L1 Amateurs together in the ring showing off their best long trots and fast lopes. L1 Open classes saw 25, and the numbers in select and amateur were strong too. Youth exhibitors are gravitating to the class as well with 65 competing across L1, Youth 10 and under and 11 and under.

Many of those L1 Open exhibitors were chasing the top prize in the Farnam L1 Open Ranch Horse Stakes with $5,000 added. Points were tallied from L1 Ranch Trail, L1 Ranch Riding, L1 Ranch on Rail and halter. When all the points were counted, Gina Maekaw and Rug You Up won $2,500 and the champion buckle. Colette Ledlow aboard Metallic Shock Wave took home $1,500 as reserve along with a saddle pad.

Plenty of other Ranch High Point and Best of Show awards were being chased by talented and versatile exhibitors. Colette and Metallic Shock Wave also won the Open Best of Show Ranch and Cattle Division and a pair of Rod Patrick Boots. Sydney Sargent will be rocking Rod Patrick boots too after MWS Flashed N Chock carried her to the Best of Show win in the Youth Ranch and Cattle Division.

Cindy Sotello and Righteous Rascal picked up a Superior  Saddlery Saddle after winning the High Point Open Ranch Horse while on the Amateur side it was Katie Fox and Nitenshining Armor winning the Ranch High Point Superior Saddle.

The show also offered a full slate of VRH classes which drew more exhibitors than previous years. An all-breed VRH Open High Point Superior Saddlery saddle was the award many exhibitors were aiming for. When the points were tallied, it was Caymus Pepto and Cynthia Baker who came out on top. A Superior saddle was on the line for All Breed Amateur as well. JB Hananero Whiz and Tonya Brigance took the honors.

The $5,000 added Arizona Golden Cowboy award sponsored by Cushing Performance Horses was won by non other than Corey Cushing. The Golden Cowboy is an event in which one horse and rider have their scores combined from Golden Cowboy Herd Work, Muley Steer Stopping, and Wednesday’s Jr or Sr Cowhorse. Corey Cushing and Shining CD Light accumulated the most points and was able to repeat his 2020 win, earning $3,250. Jason Hershberger and Pepto Hot Sox were in second place winning $1,950.

Rogers Heaven Sent Ranch sponsored the Junior and Senior Bridle Spectaculars with $3,500 added to each. The event tabulates scores from 2 goes of cutting and 3 of cowhorse. Brandon Clark prevailed in the Senior Spectacular aboard Truckin Chics Rule, owned by Laura and Lexi Woods. They won $1,750. Brendon Clark also won the Benny Guitron perpetual trophy for Junior Cow Horse.

The Junior Spectacular saw SJR Talkin Shine and Jake Barry accumulate the most points for owner Kristin Bachetti who got a check for $1,050. Nickles Player and Brittany Factor rode to the top of the Parkinson Amateur Spectacular leader board while Chicaroos and Dorn Parkinson finished out with the most points in the Anchor Cross Ranch Amateur Boxing Spectacular.

The ARHFA Sun Circuit Rope Horse Futurity had an increase in entries as well. The Futurities showcase the horses’ ability to make a run that is set up and executed with the precision needed of an AQHA Show Horse combined with the speed of a team roping horse. The format uses two judged scores and one timed score for a combined total.

There was $15,000 added to the Open, plus a limited rider division and Non Pro each had $5,000 added to the pot. The open entries were littered with team roping legends. The Open Heading saw 91 entries and paid 10 places for a total of $42,275.00. ARHFA World Champion Andy Holcomb piloted Walking the Dog for Blake and Liz Hirdes. When the dust settled, their combined score of 926.5 put them in first place to earn $8,455. Relentless Big Shot and Trevor Brazile picked up second for $6,764 on a score of 921.26. Brazile also held the third place with a 918.35 on American Greed for another $5,918.5 and 4th on BoomBoom Firecracker winning $4,650.50. The Open Heading Limited was won by Cord Forzano on PLL Real Tiger for $1,680.

Paul Bogart earned himself $3,120 after marking 675.34 in the Non Pro Heading on Shesa Royal Cat. With a score of 671.98,  Kyle Kukla and Freckles Lil Boy came in 2nd place earning $2,600. Bogart double dipped in the Non Pro Heeling where his score of  673.03 settled him into second place earning another $2,675.00. Davis Grup won the NP Heeling on Brigasis Jay with a final score of 680.78 and a check for $3,210.00.

Cord Forzano was back in the Open Heeling aboard his horse Ima Trashy Romeo. They were up against 118 teams chasing a pot worth $54,175. The pair laid down one great run after another scoring 920.75 to take the championship check for $10,835. Second place went to WND Affair shown by Dakota Kirchenschlager for owner Darren Johnson. They scored 915.13 to win $8,668. Kirchenschlager also took the 3rd hole aboard Hat Six Fine Dinero owned by Walter Greeman. The pair had a score of 914.59 that paid $7,042.75. The Open Heeling Limited was won by  Dillon Graham riding Lyle Grantham’s KR Resolution earning $2,000.

Amateur roper Chantz Stewart had a hot hand all week and was rewarded with the High Point Roping Caliente Saddle. Gavin Hershberger, riding Expect a Big Boon, continued the family legacy by winning the High Point Youth Roping award of a Caliente Saddle Shop saddle. His brother Garrett claimed that title last year. A new award this year was the Mike Drennan Memorial Caliente Saddle for the high point all ages team roper. Les Oswald was the winner of this inaugural tradition.

The National Championships in Horsemanship, Equitation and Showmanship were decided at Sun Circuit after 3 rounds of tournament style competition reduced the field of nationally ranked amateur, select and youth exhibitors down to just four in each division. The Four showed in head-to-head matchups that were both fun and exciting. All of the finalists received embroidered leather bomber jackets, and each champion won a gorgeous silver buckle.

Farnam National Championship in Showmanship saw Griffin Holliday and Good N Plenty Gold prevail in the final round over Lauren Stanley and Extremely Good Stuff. Griffin took home the buckle. The final match in Select Showmanship had

Jaqueline Marlow and Mug Shot repeat the pattern against Carla Townsley and UF Certainly A Priss. The judges agreed that Jaqueline had the better run to claim the champion title.

The Equine Chronicle was the title sponsor of National Championship in Equitation. In the Select finals, Karen Lee Tegner-Manseth defended her 2020 Champion title, this time aboard Amarillo By Moonlight. The pair held a slight edge over Caroline French-Campbell riding Creepin In My Sleep.

In Amateur, 5th ranked Lauren Stanley’s presentation of Extremely Good Stuff had extra polish to get the judge’s nod over Shez Hot N Platinum and Christianna Schukman.

Adequan National Championship in Horsemanship saw #1 ranked Karen Zarda and Betcha Want This finish the week stronger than they started to ultimately win the Select championship. She had a tight match with finalist and 4th ranked Dan Yeager riding RL Suddenly Lopin.

Nicole Barnes arrived at Sun Circuit ranked 11th nationally. Riding Its All Good Man, the pair progressed through the rounds to The Four. Nicole was just happy to be at Sun Circuit and was a little surprised when she was announced as a finalist. She was overcome with joy upon receiving the champion buckle after the judges agreed she had the edge over Imma American Made and Andrea Kengis Foss’s final go.

Youth National Championships saw a number of nail-biting match ups. Brooke Jolstad was ranked #15 in Youth Equitation coming into Sun Circuit. Riding Betta Believe It, she showed with exquisite form in each round right up to the finals to win the championship buckle.

Meagan Braun and Showin My Ace were in sync through their final two rounds in Showmanship. She bested Ima Lazy Cowboy, Kaitlyn Bloom in the finals and received the champion buckle.

The final round in Youth Horsemanship matched 16th ranked Emma Cress riding Best Gift Yet and top ranked Hanna Olaussen riding Wearin Only Moonlite. While both had a good final pattern and earned shouts and whistles from the crowd, The judges deemed Emma’s ride the best.

Sun Circuit strives to make the show fun and rewarding for everyone. The Prize Patrol was busy roaming the grounds with fun give-aways. After 9 days of boot races, egg and spoon races, long trot and back up races races, trivia, word of the day and other games, over $60,000 worth of electronics, products and gift certificates were distributed thanks to generous sponsors.

More fun was had at the exhibitor parties hosted by Seven Bar Ranch and by Sandra Morgan and her fine  AQHA stallions Mechanic, The Mile High Club and Good I Will B. The parties provided great food, music and some out door social time for everyone. Attendees also enjoyed a bountiful trade show with over 80 vendors. Despite the busy schedule, many exhibitors, their friends and family got to head into Old Town Scottsdale for great dining and fun shopping.

A welcoming environment, copious points, fantastic awards, great give aways and the opportunity to enjoy Scottsdale’s coveted sunshine, Arizona Sun Circuit delivered on all expectations. The dust had barely settled on the 2021 Sun Circuit and show management was already planning for 2022 which will be held March 5 through March 13.