Dakota Kirchenschlager won the 2022 ARHFA Redbud Spectacular Heading aboard the Rancho Rio Sale graduate Make Ita Double, owned by Kansas roper Eric Dunn, notching another major title for Kirchenschlager’s DK Performance Horses in the futurity game.
The horse—a 6-year-old son of Whizkey N Diamonds out of the Little Bay Starlight mare Starlights Sugarwhiz—separated himself from the field with a 902.46, nearly seven points higher than second place’s Andy Holcomb and Shake Em Tanquerygin at 895.66. For the win, Kirchenschlager and Make Ita Double banked $11,750, including a $2,500 DT Horses bonus.
“That’s a good horse with a great owner,” Kirchenschlager, of Whitesboro, Texas, said. “Winning these is a lot of luck—you’ve got to manage your horses all year long and then everything has to go your way as far as the cattle and your partner and the conditions. It’s a frustrating and humbling sport, but for this horse on this day, we were able to do our jobs.”
How Did Make Ita Double Get to the ARHFA Redbud Spectacular Heading?
Originally bred by Rhodes River Ranch in Washington state, the gelding had two years of reining training. Alan Chappell bought him, and he sent him to Kirchenschlager to prep for the Rancho Rio Sale in March 2022. Dunn bought the horse there in Wickenburg, and he elected to keep him in training with DK Performance Horses.
“After the Royal Crown in Waco, I had to rethink my plan with this horse,” Kirchenschlager said. “I didn’t do how I wanted to in Waco, and I went home and practiced and worked hard at it because I knew he could be exceptional.
“A lot of horses, you have to know when you can push and when you can’t,” Kirchenschlager continued. “He really needed five to 10 steers run on him at a day a few times a week to prove to himself that he can complete the course. At the top level, it’s so competitive, that your horses have to be ready to compete—not handled like a lot of 4-year-olds. The 5 and 6 year olds need to be able to take that stepped-up intensity.”
Not Good Enough Yet for Kirchenschlager with ARHFA Redbud Spectacular Heading Win.
This marked Kirchenschlager’s second major ARHFA title in the heading, with his first being the 2020 ARHFA World Championship aboard X My Ich. But Kirchenschlager is far from satisfied.
“I won that big one by default when Trevor missed,” Kirchenschlager said of his 2020 win. “I won that one in Lincoln by default, too, because I had a big lead and I roped a leg in the short round but held on to win. It takes so much luck to win. I watch all these great horses and great helpers, and I feel like I am always learning. In the heeling, I messed up on all of our horses. I just had bad luck. And I was high call heeling (on CFR Arete Gun owned by Jared Crain), too, but our steer ran and I could have done better.
“At the end of the day, nobody cares who won second,” Kirchenschlager said. “It doesn’t matter what sport you’re in. I’m glad I had one win first and one win second, but in my mind I’d have done better if I placed on three head horses and three heel horses. I’d have more happy customers. If I have 10 customers’ horses at the show, I want 10 customers happy with their horses and with my work at the end of the weekend.”
Kirchenschlager also rode the gelding Whizkey N Diamonds son WND Affair through the Rancho Rio Sale in 2021 for Darren and Tara Johnson, where he was bought by Darren Baker and then sold to the Relentless Remuda. That horse went on to win the 2021 ARHFA World Championship heeling title with Joseph Harrison.
“All of the Whizkey N Diamonds I’ve ridden were really willing to learn,” Kirchenschlager said. “It seems like, though, when you get onto them for something, they stay timid for a bit before you get them back 100%. But a lot of horses are like that.”
Each horse will start out with a 70 score and go up or down from there. Judges score each maneuver from -5 to +5, and each penalty from 1 to 5. Eye appeal will be scored from -1 to +1. There is a 10-second penalty for any broken barrier and a 5-second penalty for roping a leg.
The maneuvers judged in the heading are: Box & Barrier, Run & Rate, Setting & Handling, Facing, Degree of Difficulty and Eye Appeal.
The 5-point heading penalties are given for Refusal to Enter the Box, Rearing, Running into the Steer and Refusing to Pull the Steer. The 1-5 point penalties are Turning Around in the Box, Getting Out Ran and Failure to Face Completely.
The maneuvers judged in the heeling are: Box & Barrier, Run & Rate, Position, Stop & Jerk, Degree of Difficulty and Eye Appeal. The 5-point heeling penalties are Refusal to Enter the Box, Rearing Up and Running into the Steer.
Time is the “third judge”, subtracting the total time from 80 to provide the third score.