March 2, 2007 -- Each year the Fort Dodge Animal Health Celebration of Champions culminates as the National Reined Cow Horse Association (NRCHA) World's Greatest Horseman is crowned. This year's champion is no stranger to the title. Team Horse & Rider member Bob Avila, from Temecula, Calif., earned the 2007 World's Greatest Horseman at the Lone Star Arena in Stephenville, Texas, as the show wrapped up February 25.
Avila teamed up with Alan and Kay Needle's Light N Fine to win the 2007 championship and a check for $30,000. Light N Fine, a Grays Starlight stallion out of Lenas Fine Freckle, is a former NRCHA Stakes Open Champion and Open Derby Reserve Champion. Although the horse has remarkable earnings from cow horse competition and has won his fair share of titles, Avila wanted him to win something huge. The World's Greatest was just what he was hoping for and now Avila feels the horse has more than earned his retirement.
"This is the end of his career right here. He's retired," Avila said. "I really wanted to win it on this horse. He deserves a great big title. He's got a bunch of titles but he didn't have the biggest one I wanted. He deserved a big title and this is it. I'll let him ride into the sunset with this one."
In the 28-horse prelims, Light N Fine placed fourth in both the herd and rein work, seventh in the steer stopping and third in the cow work. He returned to the clean-slate finals to win the championship by a half point.
"These cattle, we knew they were going to be just wild down the fence," Avila said. "When they brought them in to settle them this morning we knew. Being first in the herd, I just tried to be safe. He was a little strong in the rein work, which I kind of felt he would be. He was really good for me in the roping. In the cow work, I worked that first cow so long I didn't know if I had enough horse. When they blew the whistle on that second cow I was out of horse."
The World's Greatest competition is a true test to a horse and rider's ability. Each team competes in herd work, rein work, steer stopping and cow work in the preliminaries, which take place over three days. After a day off, the top 10 return to the arena to compete in all four events again--this time in one day.
"We all say it's the event we love to hate. It's so nerve racking," Avila said. "You have to try to have a cutting horse at one minute, you have to try to bring that whole tempo down and have them be a reining horse, then you have to go catch something and then the cow comes again."
Avila is a three-time NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity Open Champion, a National Reining Horse Association Open Futurity Champion and is one of only four NRCHA Million Dollar Riders. He won the 2000 World's Greatest Horseman title riding Paid By Chic.
Shawn Hays, from Saint Jo, Texas, finished reserve with Shine Smartly--a Shining Spark mare out of Smartly Dressed owned by his wife, Tammy, and father-in-law Walter Greeman.