The final field is set for The National Reined Cow Horse Association World’s Greatest Horseman competition taking place Saturday night Feb. 18 in the Will Rogers Coliseum in Fort Worth.
Leading the field of 16 riders is ARHFA competitor and last years’ champion Corey Cushing, with fifth-seeded Tyler Merrill topping both the reining and steer stopping portion of the prelims with a 225.5 and 231.5, respectively. Both have deep connections to the roping industry.
The World’s Greatest is considered the crown jewel of reined cow horse with a gauntlet of four events including cutting, reining, fence work and steer stopping challenging even seasoned horsemen—and those with a team roping background might just have a leg up on the field.
And every year, plenty of cowboys with deep roping ties throw their hats into the ring with hopes of claiming the coveted title, and that tempting $150,000 purse.
(Editor’s note: Yes, we agree—$150K is a good little check to get you through until the Ariat World Series of Team Roping Finale where they pay out the big bucks.)
The event takes grit, the ability to read a cow, handle a rope, flow through a reining pattern and most importantly—a horse that can hold up to it all. Becoming the World’s Greatest Horseman is no small feat—think Cinch Timed Event Championship but for the cow horse world.
Team ropers have stepped up to the plate to try their hand at the event—which plays to the strengths of full-time cow horse competitors and cutters. But ropers have the steer stopping on their side, which is often the barrier of entry for a cow horse competitor.
Here are the 16 riders who beat the rest and advanced to the clean slate finals, with the five team ropers and their connections highlighted.
#1 Corey Cushing
- Composite: 891 (herd 222/rein: 221/rope: 228/fence: 220)
- Horse: Hesa Dual Bet (Bet Hesa Cat x RJJ Miss Viagra Pep)
- Team Roping Tie: Corey Cushing is the National Reined Cow Horse Association President, 2022 World’s Greatest Horseman Champion and competed in the 2022 ARHFA Sun Circuit in the Limited Header Division.
“I was lucky enough to grow up roping,” Cushing told Team Roping Journal in 2022. “I didn’t go to a bunch of them when I was younger, but got a lot of good advice and did it mostly for fun. With the great horses being bred these days, by the time I get done with my cowhorse training, they take to roping like a duck to water. The only thing that gets in the way is my catching percentage.”
#2 Phillip Ralls
- Composite: 889 (herd 222.5/rein: 217.5/rope: 226.5/fence: 222.5)
- Horse: Call Me Mitch
#2 Kelby Phillips
- Composite: 889 (herd 220.5/rein: 222.5/rope: 227/fence: 219)
- Horse: Kreyzy Horse
#4 Boyd Rice
- Composite: 887.5 (herd 225/rein: 219/rope: 225/fence: 218.5)
- Horse: Quahadi
#5 Tyler Merrill
- Composite: 886 (herd 216.5/rein: 225.5/rope: 231.5/fence: 212.5)
- Horse: Bet Hesa Boon (Bet Hesa Cat x Flo N Blu Boon)
- Team Roping Tie: Roping.com coach Tyler Merrill was born into a cutting family and considers roping to be his outlet. The North Texas roper is neighbors with Ryan Motes and Winston Hansma.
#6 Chris Dawson
- Composite: 879 (herd 216.5/rein: 221/rope: 227/fence: 214.5)
- Horse: Reyzinette
#7 Shawn Hays
- Composite: 877.5 (herd 210/rein: 219/rope: 221/fence: 227.5)
- Horse: Moonshineandtwoadvil
#8 Jared Jones
- Composite: 876.5 (herd 217.5/rein: 217.5/rope: 221/fence: 220.5)
- Horse: PRF Peptos Smart Cat
#9 Abbie Phillips
- Composite: 875.5 (herd 220.5/rein: 217.5/rope: 212/fence: 225.5)
- Horse: Peptos Stylin Time
#10 Clayton Edsall
- Composite: 875 (herd 221.5/rein: 220/rope: 223/fence: 210.5)
- Horse: Bet He Sparks (Bet Hesa Cat x Sparking Train)
- Team Roping Tie: Clayton Edsall grew up doctoring and branding calves in Montana. The $1 million rider won the event in 2016 on Skeets Oak Peppy (Skeets Peppy x Oak Ill Be). For years, california rope horse trainers considered him the source for rope horse prospects.
#11 Jake Telford
- Composite: 874.5 (herd 218/rein: 215.5/rope: 221.5/fence: 219.5)
- Horse: Northern Metallic
- Team Roping Tie: Jake Telford is a 7 header and 7 heeler, and he trains futurity rope horses in his spare time. He is good friends with Ryan Motes, and when he’s in town for the Snaffle Bit Futurity, he stays at Motes’ and ropes in between rounds.
#12 Brady Weaver
- Composite: 874 (herd 211.5/rein: 220.5/rope: 222/fence: 220)
- Horse: SJR Reygun
#12 Brad Barkemeyer
- Composite: 874 (herd 216/rein: 218/rope: 224/fence: 216)
- Horse: CR Tuff Taffy (Woody Be Tuff x Peptocandy)
- Team Roping Tie: Brad Barkemeyer is a jack of all trades, training horses and teaching students in team roping, reining and reined cow horse. Barkemeyer is a Horse and Rider On Demand coach and regular at the Ariat World Series Team Roping.
#14 Todd Bergen
- Composite: 872.5 (herd 217/rein: 220.5/rope: 225/fence: 210)
- Horse: Smartly Starstruck
#15 John Swales
- Composite: 868.5 (herd 216/rein: 218/rope: 217.5/fence: 217)
- Horse: Cats King Badger
#15 Nick Dowers
- Composite: 868.5 (herd 216/rein: 222.5/rope: 224/fence: 206)
- Horse: Time For The Diamond
Watch the event live here, and find the event schedule here.