Stock horse riders win rich experiences
April 27, 2021
By Mary Crawford, NCTA News
Competing at a national ranch horse contest over the weekend at Amarillo, Texas, was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for Addison Villwok and her filly, Luna.
“Amarillo, Texas did not disappoint!” says the Randolph, Nebraska native.
“For me, personally, it was an all-around amazing experience and to ride the filly that I have built through the NCTA training program at one of the largest collegiate horse shows was a new level of awesomeness.”
Villwok spent three semesters training her filly, Luna, and competing on her gelding, Baxter, while studying equine management at the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture in Curtis.
She graduates on May 6 with her associate degree and will return to northeast Nebraska, joining her parents at managing Villwok Farms near Randolph and Bar S River Ranch near Brewster.
First, however, Villwok and nine teammates of the NCTA Ranch Horse Team got to experience a pinnacle at the National Ranch and Stock Horse Alliance National Collegiate Championship.
In 2020, the pandemic robbed the NCTA team their chance to compete a national show.
Last weekend, encouraged by their Ranch Horse Team Coach and Professor Joanna Hergenreder, they grabbed the opportunity, navigated the stress of a national contest, and came home Sunday as winners.
Aggies winning mindset
“This experience was incredible! We were able to not only compete against other colleges we don’t normally see but we got to experience a national show,” said Annie Bassett, sophomore from Gothenburg.
Like Villwok, Basset is majoring in equine industry management, as are some teammates. Others study livestock management, veterinary technology, agribusiness, or diversified ag. Sophomore Villwok graduates, sophomores Bassett and Jessica Burghardt will return for a third year, adding a dual major in agribusiness, and the other seven are freshmen.
These nine plan to return to NCTA next fall and compete on the Ranch Horse Team.
“I’m excited to be coming back to next year and seeing how we improve,” Bassett said.
Not a stranger to horse shows in Nebraska, Colorado and Wyoming, Villwok made her first visit to Texas.
Eleven colleges competed in Amarillo, one of the nation’s largest venues for equine and rodeo events.
“Altogether, the team went into the weekend with a winning mindset and came through with an incredible new perspective,” said Hergenreder.
“As a team, we had the opportunity to ride against some of the best riders and horses in the industry,” Villwok said. “We discovered a newfound hunger to come back to the championships next year and show them what NCTA is all about.”
Ranch Horse riding
Ranch or stock horse programs signify ranching traditions and heritage, and the versatility of horses in working with livestock.
Events include reining, cow horse, pleasure riding and practical maneuvers on a trail course. Riders train their horses for practical skills to safely ride and work aboard a saddled horse.
Collegiate riders are in three categories: Collegiate Non Pro, Collegiate Limited Non Pro, and Collegiate Novice. They competed in four events and two arenas: cow work and reining in the largest arena, and trail ride and pleasure in second. Horse stalls and tack rooms were located between the two buildings.
Hergenreder provided commentary on her team's success:
Collegiate Non Pro: Cauy Bennett, Elwood, and his mare, Katy Sugar Lena, finished top 10 in pleasure the first go round and Top 10 in trail the second go. This was an incredibly talented division!
Collegiate Limited Non Pro:
Connor Crumbliss, Fairfield, and his mare, PR She’s Packin, finished 2nd in pleasure in the second go round. This division was large with 35 entries and very well-prepared competitors!
Macy Zentner, Cedar Rapids, and her gelding, Blue, had a top 20 finish in the cow work for the first go. This division was super tough!
Addison Villwok, Randolph, and her freshman filly, Luna, made only their second trek in the show pen and came out with huge progress. Keep your eye on these two in the future!
Devry Bellomy of Keyes, Oklahoma, and her gelding, CD Bar Booger 3, had a huge show! This duo finished top 30 in the reining for go two in the largest division of the weekend. They climbed and improved each time in the pen.
Annie Bassett, Gothenburg, and her mare, Annabelle, showed great progress all weekend! This duo finished in the top 35 in reining and realized success of objectives that they’ve been working on all year.
One of the horses, Peptos Seven Six, was injured in the trailer while traveling to the show so we withdrew it from competition. Her rider, Ayden Long of Lebanon, Kansas, cared for her over the weekend as well as helped the team prepare for classes and lined up support. This mare will be okay and should be back to work in a few weeks.
Three team members attended, on foot, Hergenreder added, describing them as essential to team success:
Jessica Burghardt, Fedora, S.D., called contestants for classes and reset the arena used for pleasure and trail classes both days.
Brook Bradford, Burwell, was a go-to member, assisting Coach Hergenreder, helping team members prepare, and operating the video recorder.
Alexis Digrigoli, Brule, was a runner and ensured all Aggie contestants were video recorded for each team member to critique later.
“NCTA ‘s Ranch Horse Team will definitely be back to the championships next year!” Hergenreder said.
The Aggies will compete this weekend, May 1-3, at the Northeastern Junior College Showdown held at Holyoke, Colorado.
Part of the University of Nebraska system, the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture is a two-year institution with a statewide mission of preparing students for successful careers in agriculture, veterinary technology and related industries. NCTA is known for its affordable tuition, high job-placement rate for its graduates, and for the success of student teams in competitive activities including crops judging, ranch horse events, livestock judging, shotgun sports, stock dog trials, and intercollegiate rodeo. The college is consistently ranked as one of the best two-year schools in the nation.