Rising Starlight, ridden by Cushing, was sitting in a tie for first with Cushing's good friend, Jake Telford, of Caldwell, Idaho, and a fancy roan stallion named Nabisco Roan bred by Polo Ranch in Marietta.
The rules required each to work another cow, and both were held in suspense while the judges announced which horse and rider had won the “work-off.”
For Cushing and the Dunn family, both the Senior Working Cow Horse and “Superhorse” titles were on the line.
After several agonizing minutes, the announcement finally came that Rising Starlight was the winner; and about an hour later, Cushing galloped her into the arena without a bridle to pick up the trophy.
“To win the AQHA World Championship Show “Superhorse”, that's exactly what she is. She's one in a million,” Cushing said. “For it to end up the way it did — the work-off, the excitement, the energy … it's something we'll never ever forget.”
“What this award means to me is a legacy. You can't buy it. You have to earn it,” Dunn said afterward. “For my grandkids and their grandkids, this award is going to be sitting with my family forever.”
The $25,000 check that goes with the “Superhorse” title will buy a nice case for that trophy. As for Rising Starlight, her career being shown by professionals is over. Dunn says next year he'll try his hand riding her.
Cushing and Telford will put it all behind them, as cow horse guys generally do. Theirs is an old-school cowboy sport in which friendship still trumps titles. In fact, according to the announcers, they and their wives are headed for a vacation in Belize.
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