2019 Congress Freestyle Reining

Spanish dressage and movie minions take top honors in freestyle reining at the 2019 All American Quarter Horse Congress.

2019 Congress

Dan James wins open freestyle reining with Don Magnum at the 2019 All American Quarter Horse Congress. | PHOTO: Larri Jo Starkey

Courtesy of AQHA

From minions to magic carpets, the freestyle reining competition at the 2019 All American Quarter Horse Congress dazzled the eyes.

Exhibitors put their imaginations to work crafting creative performances to earn the applause of the packed crowd – and the scores from the judges.

At the end of the night, Dan James of Midway, Kentucky, was on top with Don Magnum in the open division, while Frederick Win of Wayne, New Jersey, won the non-pro division with Friday Night Sailing.

For Dan, the inspiration for the freestyle came from his daughter Isabella, who loves the movie “Despicable Me.”

Dan and his palomino stallion rode through dancing minions, bouncing sprites and a trick pony as part of their routine.

“Last year, I did a thing with John Wayne in memory of my dad who passed away in Australia, and this year was for my little girl,” he said. “It gets tougher (to come up with new programs). There are so many talented people who are new out there and people who have been doing it for a long time. It’s been such a journey.”

Dan said he has been learning the importance of the reining maneuvers to the success of a freestyle program. As part of that, he worked with reiner Brandon Brant to improve Don Magnum’s skills.

“He has schooled this horse and shown him successfully a couple of times this year,” Dan said. “There was one turn I felt (the horse) stepped out of, but he ran down and stopped really big. He turned around really great without the bridle on tonight. I was happy. He’s a fun horse to ride, and I’m proud to get to own him and ride him and stand him at stud.”

Don Magnum is a 2011 palomino stallion by Magnum Chic Dream and out of the Hollywood Dun It mare Chex By Dunit. He was bred by La Kuka Ranch of Mexico.

Just days after capturing the para-reining title on Friday Night Sailing, Freddie Win returned to freestyle with a Spanish dressage-themed routine.

His wife, Lilia, danced a romantic pas-de-deux from the arena floor, touching the mare and interacting with her.

“I was lucky to have somebody like this,” Freddie said. “She never touched a horse before.”

Freddie’s horse is a 2012 sorrel mare by Friday Night Shiner and out of Sailazan by Topsail Cody. She was bred by Robert Santagata of Campbell Hall, New York. Freddie calls her “Stella.”

“You don’t have to be the horse whisperer,” he said. “She’s the human whisperer. She makes everybody comfortable.”

Freddie’s inspiration came from personal experience.

“I was in law school in the U.S., and I went to Spain to study European Union law,” Freddie said. “I always wanted to go watch people riding, and I saw they ride very differently. Even the dressage – Spanish dressage was different. Recently, I went back to Spain to see old friends, and I said, ‘It’s time to do it.’ ”

Freddie took photos of the costumes and changed his riding style to become more upright in imitation of the Spanish dressage riders he had seen.

“I’ve been training in dressage for six months,” he said.

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