by Nancy Degutis
"Go west" may have been a slogan to get settlers to move onto the Plains but for Paint horse owner and amateur handler Nancy Miernicki it meant going to the World Championship Paint Horse show and bringing two Worlds tricolors back to her family's Amity Acres home.
"All in all, it was an extremely good show," said Miernicki who does all the amateur showing in the family.
The Ringtown, PA woman, whose family has been raising and conditioning their horses at their Schuylkill County home for the past eight years, put their OBG Imprinted Mr on the line. "Murray," the 15.3 hand sorrel and white overo son of RH Imprint, won in the amateurs' two-year-old stallions class at the Fort Worth, Tex. finals.
She duplicated the feat in the amateur-to-handle three-year-old geldings' match up, taking the world championship there with RH Bentley, another sorrel and white horse.
"Bentley won across the board in amateur," she said, noting the 16.1 hand gelding got top scores from all five judges in his class. Under American Paint Horse Association rules, the highest and the lowest scores are discarded and the other three judges' marks averaged.
"He was first under all five judges," she said of the almost unheard of feat. "He won at the worlds last year and also at the Paint Congress in Wichita (KS)." He won the President's Cup at the Pinto worlds in Tulsa the week before Paint finals "and that made him the top halter horse at the (Pinto) show," she pointed out.
Their three year old chestnut mare, Touch Down For Cash, was reserve world champion breeding stock Paint mare after winning that class earlier in the season at the World Pinto Horse Championships.
Their nine-year-old stallion, Custom Imprint, earned the reserve world champion title in the aged stallions (amateur handlers) class. The 16.1 hand, sorrel and white stud, who is NN (free of a particular defective gene which horses with Impressive bloodlines can carry), won the open and the amateur halter classes as a four-year-old at the Paint finals. This year he was both the unanimous open and amateur world champion at the Pinto finals.
"Custom" was purchased by the Miernickis as a youngster. One of eight stallions the family stands at the northeast Pennsylvania farm, he has breeding and looks to go with the bloodlines.
"He has a neck on him that doesn't quit," said Miernicki, referring to the horse's long, graceful neck, "which is great for a halter horse."
Although the family breeds and trains their own horses, they also purchase horses from other sources to add outside blood to their herd. Presently they have about 60 broodmares.
"We bought him (Custom) as three-year-old from the Van Kampens in Michigan. He had such a strong maternal line, coming from a Triples Titan mare. His dam was sired by Triples Titan and she is one of the top point producing mares in APHA history. I think she is third now."
While her son, Douglas, who is active in the business, "likes the bloodlines of ones (horses) that are winning, he doesn't think you can get hooked on a particular bloodline," Miernicki said.
They should know since they have been in the Paint horse business 15 years, returning to their home state from a farm in Florida.
He Scores lived up to his name when the gray overo Paint and owner Donna Puhl won the amateur two-year-old geldings class at the World Championship Paint Horse Show. New Jersey trainer Jeffrey Pait took "Goose" into the open two-year-old geldings class and won there, giving his Ringtown owner two APHA world titles. The 15.2 hand horse and Puhl, who made the trip west with Miernicki, had also competed at the Pinto worlds. There he and trainer Mitch Leonarski took the open title in his age group while Puhl won the reserve world ribbon in the amateurs.
"That makes it four world's titles he brought home," she said of the son of The End Zone and My Elegant Lady.
A former Thoroughbred hunter rider, Puhl became interested in Paints through her association with the Miernickis. She began showing in halter three years ago but despite her experiences with show horses, the wait for her turn in the ring at the Fort Worth show seemed to stretch into eternity.
The class "was something important and I had to make sure I got it right," said Puhl, who runs a dog boarding and grooming business.
"The first time I saw (He Scores) was at the Worlds last year," said Puhl. "He was a really pretty guy, so I bought him as a yearling." Anyway, she admitted, "I am partial to grays. It is not a common color so you just don't see that many of them."
Entering the world of halter showing was "a new venture for me but Nancy and Doug (Miernicki) helped me and so did Mitch," a trainer she sent Goose to for his basic halter lessons.
With the ribbons and titles she and Goose amassed this year, they will be hard to beat. Her next stop along the show trail is at the APHA Congress in Wichita this autumn. "After that, we will go back (to the 2009 worlds) and do it all over again."