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Sun Circuit Marches to Success

March, 2017

One word summarizes the March Arizona Sun Country Circuit: More.
The show had more entries than ever in its 44 year history with nearly 18,500 AQHA class entries and 21,479 over all entries. More classes, more horses, more sunshine, more arenas and more prizes resulted in more points, more smiles and more happy exhibitors. Once again, Arizona Quarter Horse Association has managed to take a wildly successful show and make it even better. The quality of the competition was outstanding, and the atmosphere exuded fun.

The show enjoyed the kind of March weather the City of Scottsdale brags about in glossy magazine ads with picture perfect blue skies, and technicolor sunsets.  The continued expansion of the outstanding West World Equestrian complex offered new venues for exhibitors. Sun Circuit used two brand new, climate controlled arenas in the North Hall of the Equidome. An adjacent warm up pen was very convenient and made the perfect staging area. Exhibitors, judges and staff alike loved the North Hall. AzQHA CEO Doug Huls was very excited about the additional facilities and was already looking toward the future commenting, “between the North Hall and the main Equidome, we will be able to offer most all of our classes indoors at the AZ Fall Championship this September.”

An astonishing amount of prizes, awards and give aways were distributed across all levels. A total of 36 saddles were awarded, including reining, roping, cow horse, trail, pleasure, All Arounds and Versatility Ranch Horse. L1 Champions received custom designed rings from Sami Fine Jewelry and other awards included Professionals Choice Air Ride Pads, Cowboy Bronze trophies, embroidered sheets, Rod Patrick Ostrich boots, and gift certificates. Over $55,000 in added money was on the line as well across a number of classes from roping to cow horse to jumping and pleasure.



Sun Circuit offered a full slate of Versatility Ranch Horse classes during the first weekend for both AQHA and All Breed. The classes enjoyed very enthusiastic participation with large numbers, especially among amateurs. A Scottsdale Performance Saddle sponsored by Cre8ive Event Rentals was awarded to the All Breed Amateur Champion Sarah McKibben and Chex Are Cashin. Ranch Riding and Ranch on the Rail classes also demonstrated their continued popularity with extremely large class numbers. As many as 59 Amateurs and 55 Open entries worked the pattern.

Sun Circuit also featured an NSBA Futurity Day with 4 Hunter Under Saddle and 4 Western Pleasure futurities. It was a tightly matched field in the 3 & 4 Year Old $1,000 Novice Horse Open Western Pleasure class. After lengthy scrutiny, the judges’ placing put How About Later with David Archer riding for Ryan and Andrea Kail tied for 1st with Mouse N Around owned by Tommie Prichard and shown by Angie Cannizzaro. Both winners added $4,260 to their NSBA winnings tally. Made In The Shade, owned by Natasha Blanchard showed consistency taking top honors in both the 3 & 4 Year Old Limited Non Pro and the 3 Year Old Open Western Pleasure. The non pro ride earned $2,882 while the Open class paid $624. 

Ms Aloha earned $1,026 in the 3 & 4 Year Old Open Hunter Under Saddle with Deanna Searles aboard. The 3 & Over $2,500 Novice Horse HUS saw another tie. Stealing The Prise with poised perfection by Brittany Andrews for owner Sara Jackson while Alyse Roberts highlighted Me Myself And Sky’s fluid strides for owner Jennifer Goss. These 2 fine horses each earned $1,750 for the day.

It didn’t take added money to add entries to Trail, Western Riding and Pleasure. There were simply a lot of horses primed to ride. Junior Trail saw 74 patterns and Senior trail had a mind boggling 115 horses navigate the poles. Another 64 Select Exhibitors and 42 Amateurs kept the trail pens busy every day. Youth classes on the final 4 days were impressively large as well with the largest numbers seen in Trail, Showmanship and Horsemanship.

The Smart Boons Fence Challenge is always a crowd pleasing spectacle of equine athleticism, and it certainly didn’t disappoint the fans this year. Smart Boons owners, Eric and Wendy Dunn added $20,000 to the pot chased by 18 exceptional horses and riders. The energy of the event was contagious as the crowd whooped and hollered with each turn of the cow. After 2 rank cows were waved off, Jake Cruzan and his agile grey horse PG Reylena showed they could remain focused. The pair found 3’s a charm and finally got to show their best steer stomping moves for a high score of 149. Jake earned a $6,800 pay day. Shadd Parkinson also had a dominating performance on Dan and Toni Heath’s horse, Smart Peppy Doc Doll. Their score of 148 slid them into 2nd place and a check for $5,040. The Dunns were thrilled with their highlight event, adding that it was really fun to have many of the Rodeo fans who came early adding to the excitement.

Ropers had numerous ways to catch some cash at Sun Circuit. In addition to Jack Pots, Cinch Jeans ponied up a total of $7,500 split between Open and Non Pro heading and Heeling classes in their Timed Event Challenge. On the Header side, Andy Holcomb rode Joann Chex to the top in the open, and won $1,587. Layton Oswald put together the best times for the first hole in the Non Pro and a $1,587 check. Non Pro Garrett Hershberger proved he has a bright future by winning the heeling and $1,687. On the Open Heeling, it was Zan Bruce aboard Smooth Count Dracula winning the top spot. The really big money came out in the $15000 added DT Horses Roping Futurity. The Equidome was electric in the final round with cowboys trying to shave tenths off their times. When the final flag dropped, Dustin Rogers riding DT Scotch Man, owned by Armenta Quarter Horses, had bested the field of headers to take the Championship and $5,120. On the Heeling side, it was Winamillion with Andy Holcomb aboard riding for Karen Holcomb who out-roped the pack. Their efforts won $5,920. Both champions were also awarded a Bob’s Saddle.

Mister OMG dominated the field every day in the Senior Cow Horse. Corey Cushing showed him smooth and steady to top scores from 5 out of 6 judges in L3. He won a Scottsdale Performance Saddle from Scottsdale Western World for owner Joyce Esernia. Those rides were also enough to secure the team top honors and $750 in the Rogers Heaven Sent Ranch Senior Bridle Spectacular. It also helped propel Cushing to capture the Bella Vista Ranch Open All Around Cowboy Award of $1,000. The Cow Horse pen was also very good to Amateur Chantz Stewart. She rode Leggy Lisa Marie to scoop up the Amateur Circuit Award, a Scottsdale Performance Saddle sponsored by Dr. Otto Stanislaw and the Parkinson Performance Horses Amateur Bridle Spectacular. Her placings in both Heading and Heeling, combined with her Cow Horse success, earned her the  Bella Vista Ranch Amateur All Around Cowboy title along with a $1,000 check. The Junior Cow Horse Scottsdale Performance Saddle went to One Smooth Mate with Grant Lindaman riding for G2 Performance Horses. They also won the Rogers Heaven Sent Ranch Jr. Bridle Spectacular and $750. Joshua Briggs picked up a new Equine Oasis saddle sponsored by Trent Pederson Performance Horses after winning the Youth Cow Horse Circuit Award. But that’s not all he can brag about. He also won Circuit Awards in Youth Break Away, Tie Down and Heading on his versatile horse, SV Whiskey Whiz.

Arizona is a hotbed of Reining activity, and many of the best reiners from around the country joined the natives for some spectacular dirt-spewing show downs. Saddles were offered to Circuit Award winners in Junior, Senior, Amateur, Novice, Select and Youth. Matt Mills was seen carrying out two saddles. He picked up a Scottsdale Performance Saddle for owner Janice Dickson riding Whimps Cool Breeze in the Senior. On the Junior side, he rode Sparkin Whiz It for Tim & Mary Beth Ruckman to very strong finishes during the second and third shows to vault ahead in the point standings. Those rides meant an Equine Oasis Saddle was going home in the trailer. Reiner enjoyed being in the new North Hall, especially with the number of entires to be seen each day. Senior boasted 82 runs and 65 Junior horses were on pattern during the second show of the circuit.


Exhibitors didn’t always have to place first in a class to be a winner though. Over $50,000 in give aways kept the fun and excitement going from the first day to the very last class. AzQHA president Michele Pearson, AZQHA Executive Board member Dale Litton and their Prize Patrol relentlessly criss-crossed the West World grounds ensuring everyone, at every level and discipline, had a shot at winning something, and those prizes were substantial. It was wonderful to see a person who may have placed 5th in a class stride out grinning ear-to-ear because they had just won a $500 gift certificate. The bounty included a 50” TV every single day, iPads, Beats headphones, Bose speakers $100 gift certificates from Eddie Merlot’s, Rod Patrick Boots, $1,000 Shorty’s hats, a $1,000 Watsons hat, gift certificates from D Designs, Showtime, Show Me Again, Sami's Jewelry, Barbara’s Custom Hats, along with products from The Glassy Lady, Finish Line, ExcelEQ, Just Peachy, Pro Choice, Nutrena, South Texas Tack Give aways came in many forms. Know the ‘Word of the Day’? Find the Prize Patrol and you could take home a new cinch or bucket of supplements. Good at trivia? You could win a $500 gift certificate from one of the many show vendors. Prizes were also bestowed on random back number draws, or tough luck exhibitor awards.

The most talked about give aways involved the fun and often rowdy challenges that tested skills exhibitors didn’t even know they possessed. The hunter jumper folks competed in the Mimosa Morning Challenge where they had to take a low fence while holding…and not spilling…. a flute of champagne and OJ. Along the same my-horse-is-so-smooth theme, pleasure and equitation riders battled it out in Wine Races by taking a lap in the arena as fast as they could while holding their liquor. Pandemonium ensued when a herd of bouncy horses were added to the arenas. Equitation, cow horse and youth exhibitors all had a shot racing the hoppities. However, it was laughably obvious that none of them could transfer their horsemanship skills to this new discipline. It is truly amazing what people will do for a monstrous flat screen. 

Everyone was expecting some type of show stopping challenge in the Senior Western Pleasure after last year’s horse race, but no one expected they would have to race backwards for this year’s $1,000 Shorty’s hat prize. In a display of dyslexic contortionistic riding, the intrepid pros made their way around the arena. Cleve Wells finally found a steady and straight stride to cross the finish line first. 

It just wouldn’t be Sun Circuit without some great parties. Lunch was served ringside at the Equine Chronicle Arena on 3 days for 400-500 people. Sandra Morgan and her stallion Mechanic started the parties off on Monday with great food and live entertainment by country singer Chris Manning. The Machine Made Lunch Party thrown by Candace Hall and Corey Seebach was another big hit. As soon as the grills were touched off folks sued up lured by delicious smells. AQHA stallions Indefinite and Definitely All That and the 7 Bar Ranch wrapped up the fun with the final lunch party.

Sun Circuit proved that moving to March would not dissuade exhibitors. The word heard round the rings was how happy everyone was with the move to March and how much fun they were having. Its remarkably huge growth, combined with the ease of showing there ensures it will remain one of those shows that everyone plans their calendar around…..no matter where it lands on the calendar.

2017 Sun Circuit Making the Most of Its March Move

November, 2016

After the initial shock of Sun Circuit’s move to March wore off, exhibitors quickly got on board with the change. The 2017 Sun Circuit gets underway Saturday March 4th and runs through Sunday March 12th. The move frees up more of West World’s new facilities for the show since there is no longer a conflict with the Barrett-Jackson Auto Auction or the PGA golf tournament. Show management is making the most of it’s new found space and is able to offer a very diverse slate of classes while maintaining an exhibitor friendly schedule. From cutting to jumping to trail, there is something for everyone. For the first time, Sun Circuit will be using two new indoor arenas in the North Hall of the Equestrian Center in addition to the Equidome. This allows for all the reining classes to be held inside.

Sun Circuit has always scheduled some crowd pleasing events and this year is no exception. The Fence Work Challenge returns showcasing some spectacular cow horses.  Cowboy Mounted Shooting will blast into the North Hall on Sunday the 12th and the DT Performance Horses Roping Futurity will certainly attract top ropers with $7,500 added to both the heading and $7500 added to the heeling.

Even more entertainment comes exhibitor’s way when Scottsdale’s wildly popular Parada Del Sol PRCA Rodeo will celebrate its 64th anniversary with 4 performances held during Sun Circuit. The event draws many of the World’s best Cowboys and Cowgirls. The sell-out rodeo crowds shouldn’t impact exhibitors however since parking and entry for the rodeo will be on the west side of the Equidome. Sun Circuit exhibitors may purchase rodeo tickets online at SunCircuit.com.

Saddles will be awarded to Circuit Champions or High Point Champions in the following classes:  Jr. Reining, Sr. Reining
Amateur Reining, Amateur Select Reining, Novice Amateur Reining, Youth Reining, Jr. Working Cow Horse, Youth Cow Horse, Sr. Working Cow Horse, Amateur Boxing,Youth Boxing, Open Team Roper,  Amateur Team Roper and Youth Roper. The generous sponsor of Sun Circuit make these wonderful saddle awards possible.

The All Around Open and Amateur Cowboy/girl will each be awarded $1,000 compliments of Bella Vista Ranch for their outstanding performances. Amazing Sun Circuit champion rings, custom crafted by Sami Fine Jewelry, will be awarded in an array of classes at Sun Circuit 2017. There is much more to win. Check online at SunCircuit.com to see all the award offerings.

Ranch Riding has a strong following at Sun Circuit. 2017 will offer classes in all divisions. There is also a full slate of Versatility Ranch Horse Classes that will be pointed by the AzVRHA along with an All-Breed division running concurrently.

The month of March offers Arizona’s best weather. It’s one of the most popular times for visitors. AZQHA CEO and Sun Circuit producer Doug Huls said, “We’re encouraging everyone to book hotels, RVs and RV spaces early because its considered the best time of year in Scottsdale.” Great weather, world class facilities and loads of points; Sun Circuit has everything to keep it on everyones “Must Show” list. The Arena Schedule Hotel and Reservation information is online at SunCircuit.com.













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