Alexis Stephas rode fourth out in the first set of the $15,000 Novice/Non-Pro finals at the NCHA Eastern Nationals, presented by 6666 Ranch, on Wed., March 17, aboard her horse Once You go Black to secure the Championship with a 219-point run.
The 6-year-old horse, better known as “Zorro,” was one of two mounts Stephas brought back to the 28-horse field. She also finished in the top 10 of the finals on Peeka Spice Cat.
“It’s been a really good week,” Stephas said of her time in Jackson, which she stamped as one of her favorite shows. “It’s always a fun show. I love it here. It’s a big show for all the weekenders. It’s like a big family get together.’
Last year, Stephas and the appropriately named black stud made the $15,000 Novice/Non-Pro finals as well, but had some tough luck. This year, Stephas was glad to not only win, but also to stay vertical.
“He fell on me last year during our run. So I told my help that I really didn’t want to crash and burn again. I wanted to stay on all four feet. So we managed to do that,” she said with a laugh.
Stephas bought Once You Go Black two years ago when he was named RA Black Cat. The horse was shown by Ed Dufurrena and it was on the Dufurrena family’s recommendation that Stephas initially tried the horse. To date, the horse has earned just over $70,000.
“I told them if I got him he needed a cool name since he was a black stud. We came up with Once You Go Black and everyone knows the rest of it,” she said with a laugh.
Stephas, soon to turn 23, is from Chattenooga, Tenn., and started cutting at the age of 10. She started hauling on her own at 16 because she said her parents aren’t “horse people.” She has since earned more than $400,000 in NCHA earnings. In learning to keep her horses tuned up, she has spent a lot of time riding with Walt Erwin. She said he, along with several others, have helped her tremendously. She also relies on the help of Cullen Chartier, who has had this horse in training for the past six months. According to Stephas, he’s a small horse with big moves.
“He’s only 13 hands,” she said. “It doesn’t take very much and it feels like he’s on his belly, and he snakes around. He’s fun to show. I feel like I’m on a pony.”
Stephas expressed gratitude to Erwin, Chartier, Randy Chartier and Steven Oelholf for helping her in Jackson, where she picked up $5,603 for her win in the $15,000 Novice/Non-Pro.
While she primarily competes at weekend shows, Stephas said she will focus this year on showing “Zorro” in aged events since this is his last year to compete. Then, she said, it’s possible he will be one of her weekend warriors.
“I’m a horse hoarder, so I’m sure I’ll fine something for him to do,” she laughed.
Page Bowman, Simpsonville, Ky., rode Roamin Cat to a 215.5 to claim the $15,000 Novice/Non-Pro Reserve Championship in Jackson and $4,468.