Avila World’s Greatest Horseman

February 26th, 2007

Bob Avila, Temecula, CA, rode Light N Fine to win the the 2007 National Reined Cow Horse Association World’s Greatest Horseman division and $30,000 on February 25, during the NRCHA World Championships in Stephenville, TX. Avila, a three-time NRCHA Snaffle Bit Open Futurity champion, as well as a National Reining Horse Association Open Futurity champion, also won the World’s Greatest Horseman on Paid By Chic in 2000.

The World’s Greatest Horseman competition tests horse and rider abilities in herd work, rein work, steer stopping, and cow work “We all say it’s the event we love to hate,” Avila said.

“It’s so nerve racking. You have to have a cutting horse at one minute, then bring the tempo down and have them be a reining horse. Then you have to go catch (a steer) and then the cow comes again.”

In the 28-horse preliminaries, Avila and Light N Fine placed fourth in both the herd and rein work, seventh in the steer stopping, and third in cow work. They returned to the clean-slate finals to win the championship by one-half point over Shawn Hayes, Saint Jo, TX, and Shine Smartly, by Shining Spark.

“We knew the cattle were going to be wild down the fence,” noted Avila. “Being first, I just tried to be safe. He was a little strong in the rein work … and really good in the roping. In the cow work, I stayed on that first cow so long, I didn’t know if I had enough horse left. And when they blew the whistle on that second cow, I was out of horse.”

A former NRCHA Open Stakes champion and Open Derby reserve champion. 8-year-old Light N Fine, owned by Alan and Kay Needles, Temecula, and sired by Grays Starlight, is now officially retired from competition.

“I really wanted to win (the World’s Greatest Horseman) on this horse,” Avila said. “He deserved a big title and this is it. I’ll let him ride into the sunset with this one.”

Avila grew up in California in the 1950s and 1960s with mentors such as Don Dodge, Tony Amaral, Harry Rose, Clyde Kennedy and Jimmy Williams, who influenced his direction as an all-around Quarter Horse trainer of 37 world title holders in multiple performance events, as well as in halter.

“I’m sure a lot of other kids looked up to those horseman, too,” said Avila. “But thanks to my parents involvement with horses, I didn’t have to admire them from afar. I was around them almost constantly, at all the shows we went to. They helped raise me.

“They were truly horseman,” he added. “There was no such thing as specialization in those days. To survive you had to be able to train anything and everything. To this day, I enjoy producing a good all-around horse and that comes partly from the influence of my childhood heroes.”

Avila, who received the first AQHA Professional Horseman Award, is one of only four riders to have earned more than $1 million in NRCHA competition. He has combined NRHA and NRCHA earnings of $1.5 million.

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