Top riders and horses show off their skills at AQHA’s Cowtown Showdown.

By Susan Morrison

Quarter Horse ShowdownCorey Cushing, reigning champion of the World’s Greatest Horseman, will compete in the Cowtown Showdown March 7 in Fort Worth, Texas. Photo by Ross Hecox.

When the American Quarter Horse Association convention comes to town and it’s the organization’s 75th anniversary, something special is bound to happen. It’s called the Markel AQHA Cowtown Showdown, and it begins at 5 p.m. Saturday, March 7, at Will Rogers Memorial Center in Fort Worth, Texas.

It’s a chance to see great Quarter Horses and accomplished riders from three disciplines—cutting, reined cow horse and reining—show off what has made the breed so popular and versatile. Event producer Patti Colbert says the Cowtown Showdown will present the horses in an entertaining format.

“It’s going to be a great event,” says Colbert, who also created the Extreme Mustang Makeover and served for six years as senior director of development for the American Quarter Horse Foundation. “It also promotes Fort Worth and the facility to AQHA directors who host and promote events all around the country.”

Seven ranches that have been breeding AQHA-registered horses for 75 years will be recognized and participate in a ranch horse competition. They are the R.A. Brown Ranch, Burnett Ranches, Haythorn Land & Cattle Co., King Ranch, the Norell family, Pitchfork Land & Cattle Co. and the W.T. Waggoner Estate.

Representing the National Cutting Horse Association will be riders Lloyd Cox, Clay Johnson, John Mitchell and James Payne. Cox and Johnson each have won the NCHA Futurity, and Mitchell and Payne are members of the NCHA Riders Hall of Fame.

National Reining Horse Association riders Shawn Flarida, Dell Hendricks, Lyle Lovett and Tim McQuay will be on hand. Flarida is the association’s leading rider with more than $5 million in earnings, while McQuay is a $3 million rider. Hendricks is a NRHA Futurity winner, and Lovett is an accomplished non-pro rider and a Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter. He also will sing the National Anthem at the event.

Quarter Horse ShowdownBoyd Rice will represent the National Reined Cow Horse Association during the Cowtown Showdown. Photo by Ross Hecox.

The National Reined Cow Horse Association will be represented by Todd Bergen, Todd Crawford, Corey Cushing and Boyd Rice. Crawford is a $2 million NRCHA rider, and Bergen is closing in on that mark. Cushing and Rice each have won the NRCHA’s World’s Greatest Horseman competition, in 2015 and 2014, respectively.

Dan James, the 2014 All American Quarter Horse Congress freestyle reining champion and part of the winning Team Australia at Road to the Horse in 2012, will present a freestyle demonstration.

An auction of commemorative items will include a Cimarron Firearms sporting rifle, a Double J Saddlery saddle signed by AQHA Hall of Fame inductees, a Montana Silversmiths buckle, a John Deere Gator and a trip to the 2015 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. Proceeds benefit the AQH Foundation.

Tickets are $7.50, with children under 12 admitted free. Tickets can be purchased at aqha.com/cowtownshowdown.

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