Shadd Parkinson’s Road to Reno
In late September, reined cow horse enthusiasts will be filling the seats at Reno Livestock Events Center and taking over the “Biggest Little City.” They will be coming from all over the country to watch or compete in the super bowl of cow horse events—the NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity. One trainer and one three year old will win $100,000 and the coveted title of Snaffle Bit Futurity champion.
Kimes Ranch will be represented by four elite trainers vying for the championship. One such trainer is an easy going guy with a dry sense of humor, humble attitude, and the feel for quality horses named Shadd Parkinson.
Originally from Montana, Parkinson grew up in the horse show world, and was very involved as an AQHA youth competitor.
“I always had horses growing up,” Parkinson says. “(My family) started in the appaloosas and slowly got into the quarter horses. We did the all around stuff, both Western and English.”
From the all around events, Parkinson gradually moved into the Western Performance Horse world, starting with the reining as a teenager.
He recalls, “When I was 14, I got my first Reiner, because I always wanted to do the reining. She worked cows too, so that’s kind of what got me into the cow horse. I ended up winning the youth world in the reining once, the cow horse twice and went on from there.”
Though there is a degree of difficulty and danger to the reined cow horse sport, the transition was natural for Parkinson.
“When you start as a kid, you don’t really know the difference, so it all goes hand in hand, I guess. When I started, I went from the horsemanship to the reining, to cows. It all kind of went together.”
Parkinson made the move to Arizona as a senior in high school and was opened up to a new side of the horse showing and training world. After high school, he decided to turn his passion for horses into his profession.
Parkinson says, “You know, when I was growing up my dad always said that I needed to get a job so I could afford this. Realistically, I was going to be able to get that job. But, then I’d be spending all the money I made on the horses. So,” he says with a grin, “I thought, I might as well just train them and cut out the middle man.”
Parkinson has built a strong program focused on training reined cow horses, cutters, and reiners, as well as coaching non pro riders. He trains out of Bella Vista Ranch in Scottsdale, Arizona alongside fellow cow horse trainers Corey Cushing and Brad Barkemeyer. This year, he has a few in the barn that he’s excited to show on the big stage.
“I’ve got a bunch of horses to show at the World Show and the Snaffle Bit,” Parkinson says. “I’ve got a lot of non pros I’m coaching. I’ve got a really good group of three year olds this year, I think. We’ll find out when that comes around. So far, I’m excited about everything.”
Having great horses that love their job is the reason Parkinson continues to train and continues to show.
“We’re always looking for that ‘one horse’, the one that you can win everything on. And that’s what kind of pushes you.” Parkinson goes on to say, “In the mean time, you just want a lot of good ones you can go show and hopefully that one shows up and you’ll win.”
Perhaps that “one horse” will be in Parkinson’s trailer headed to Reno in September. He will be showing three horses at the Snaffle Bit Futurity as well as coaching some non pro riders.
When asked about the three horses he will be showing in Reno, Parkinson responds, “We’ll roll the dice and see how that goes.”
The road to Reno is a long one. On top of young three-year-olds going through the intense training needed to compete in three events, there is a three month gap between the last major NRCHA show and the Snaffle Bit Futurity. On top of that is the grueling weather put forth in the months of July, August, and September—the hottest months of the year for most U.S. regions. A trainer has to be inventive is his preparation process.
“It’s a fine line where we live because it’s so hot,” Parkinson says. “You want to have them broke before then, so you can just work on little stuff for Reno. Sometimes I’ll take them to a quarter horse show and show them a little bit, just to see where they are. Basically, you’re just trying to keep them all in one piece until its go time.”
Parkinson has been part of the Kimes Ranch Company since its conception. Currently, he is wears the Watsons and the Dillons.
“The durability is what I like,” says Parkinson. “Before that, you had the cinch and you’d always wear a hole in the butt. They wouldn’t last very long. The Kimes Ranch Jeans-- they’re tough. You can’t wear them out.”
Follow Shadd Parkinson’s road to Reno the 2016 NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity kicks off September 18th and runs through October 1st.