One man, one horse: the challenge and the performance.


Article and Photographs by Fran Devereux Smith, written September 1999.

JayMcLaughlin JohnWardJay McLaughlin (at left) and John Ward on the trail from the stalls to the Lazy E Arena. At age 24, Jay was the youngest entry. John’s legacy in the NRCHA is a huge one; his dad was the legendary Greg Ward, whose memory was honored at the Oklahoma event. The results are in, and Ted Robinson, Oak View, Calif., is the World ‘s Greatest Horseman. However, before the first go-round of inaugural competition began, Robinson gave credit where it’s due. “It’s titled the World’s Greatest Horseman,” he commented, “but I think it’s the World’s Greatest Horse … or maybe the World’s Greatest Team. But it is one prestigious title.”

In Robinson’s case, the world’s greatest horse wasn’t The Nu Colonel, a stallion and veteran campaigner Robinson had planned to ride until a bone bruise interfered. At the last minute, he substituted Katie Starlight, at age 6 one of the youngest entries and the only mare.

Furthermore, the mare had just been started in roping, one of the four required events. “1 roped about 15 head,” Robinson said as the competition began,” so she’s had the ‘mumps’ (as ropers describe the seasoning process for an inexperienced mount), and she’s ready to go. She should be fun.”

No doubt she was. Robinson never quit grinning during the week as he piloted the mare, owned by Paula Hunsicker, Solvang, Calif., through preliminary go-rounds in cutting, reining, steer stopping, and fence work, placing first in the reining and third in the fence work. He was still grinning during the clean-slate, final go-round with back-to-back competition in all four events. When he realized he had won the title, Robinson continued to grin and sailed his hat to the arena rafters.

Before the event began, he and fellow competitor Benny Guitron commented that the champion would be the best horseman on that particular day and that any horseman there was capable of winning the title. Robinson then laughed, saying, “You can gloat for 30 minutes and it’s over.” But the morning after the finals, he was still wearing a big, big grin.

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