2024 The American Performance Horseman Results: A Championship Night

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After a groundbreaking debut in 2023, The American Performance Horseman returned to Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas — the home of the recent World Series champion Texas Rangers — on March 8, 2024, to display the talent of the western performance horse on a grand stage with $1,000,000 in prize money on the line. Featuring the top horsemen and equine athletes in the sports of cutting, reining and reined cow horse, the competition thrilled the crowd gathered in the ballpark-turned-arena.

Adan Banuelos on cutting horse Storyteler at the 2024 American Performance Horseman
Defending champion Adan Banuelos aboard the cutting horse Storyteler at 2024’s The American Performance Horseman. Photo by Mary Cage

A creation of Teton Ridge, The American Performance Horseman takes place during The American Western Weekend — a multi-event western showcase known for its title event, The American Rodeo. With support from the American Quarter Horse Association, American Paint Horse Association, National Cutting Horse Association, National Reining Horse Association, and the National Reined Cow Horse Association, The American Performance Horseman remains the only event to showcase each of these three western performance disciplines in the same night at the same venue. 

Following the same format as its debut last year, The American Performance Horseman saw the top five horsemen from the NCHA, NRHA and NRCHA battle head to head. A team format sent one horse and rider pair into the ring per discipline, with five horses and horsemen facing off per event for a total of fifteen performances. An individual winner was crowned for each respective discipline, and the cumulative final of all three disciplines determined the winning team.

2024 American Performance Horseman Teams

Burnt Orange Team

  1. Morgan Cromer and Cool Guitar – Cutting
  2. Brian Bell and Gunna Whoa – Reining
  3. Corey Cushing and SJR Talkin Diamonds – Reined Cow Horse

Racing Green Team

  1. Wesley Galyean and Nineteen 42 – Cutting
  2. Andrea Fappani and All Bettss Are Off – Reining
  3. Matt Koch and Smart Ladies Sparkle – Reined Cow Horse

Royal Blue Team

  1. Adan Banuelos and Storyteler – Cutting
  2. Casey Deary and Down Right Amazing – Reining
  3. Clayton Edsall and Bet He Sparks – Reined Cow Horse

Imperial Purple Team

  1. James Payne and Summer Time Fun – Cutting
  2. Jason Vanlandingham and Gunnabebigtime – Reining
  3. Justin Wright and Scooter Kat – Reined Cow Horse

Regal Red Team

  1. Austin Shepard and Kittennish – Cutting
  2. Cade McCutcheon and Finals Bound – Reining
  3. Sarah Dawson and Smart Chic An Tari – Reined Cow Horse

Cutting

The cutters were the first up to bat, delighting the crowd with their athleticism as they separated cattle from the herd. The audience roared with cheers and whistles as the cutting horses dug deep in the dirt and turned on the dime while working the cattle.

Ultimately, it was Adan Banuelos who defended his title as The American Performance Horseman Cutting Champion. Banuelos clenched the victory with a score of 230 aboard the AQHA/APHA double-registered stallion Storyteler, an eye-catching sorrel whose agility in the cutting pen was remarkable.

At the awards ceremony as a large crowd gathered, Banuelos was clearly touched by what this fan-focused event has done for western performance sports.

“Thank you for acknowledging the fact that horses are the original athlete in here,” Banuelos said. “I’m very grateful. I love you guys very much.”

Banuelos and Storyteller cutting
Banuelos and Storyteler scored a 230 to win the cutting. Photo by Mary Cage

Reining

After an intermission that featured a performance from jazz-infused rock band Ghost Hounds, reining was on deck. Performing NRHA Pattern 10, each horse and rider team galloped down the center of the arena before coming to a sliding stop at the beginning of their individual performances, setting up the excitement.

Medleys of classic rock and current pop hits roared through the ballpark as each horse displayed their athleticism and ability to be willingly guided. The audience howled at the thrilling maneuvers of sliding stops, electric spins, brisk circles and powerful rollbacks.

Yet again, a title from the original 2023 event was redeemed in 2024 — this time aboard the same horse. Last year’s The American Performance Horseman Reining Champion Casey Deary aboard the AQHA/APHA stallion Down Right Amazing performed an outstanding pattern, earning a score of 226.5.

For Deary, it was all about protecting the talented horse’s reputation. When asked what makes Down Right Amazing so special, he had nothing but admiration for the flashy sorrel stallion.

“His temperament is fantastic,” Deary said. “Nothing rattles him. He shows up to work and is just a real honest horse.”

Casey Deary and Down Right Amazing defending their reining title at The American Performance Horseman in 2024
Casey Deary and Down Right Amazing defended their reining title at The American Performance Horseman. Photo by Mary Cage

Reined Cow Horse

The final inning of The American Performance Horseman featured the reined cow horse competitors, where horse and rider must prove their ability to work a cow. Though this event combines reining and cow work, the reined cow horse competitors performed their rein work earlier in the day, saving the exciting cow work for the Friday night crowd.

The tension in the air was palpable as the crowd watched each horse and rider team maneuver their assigned cow, first holding it at one end of the arena (boxing), before then running the cow down the rail of the arena and turning it back (fencing), and finally pushing the cow into tight circles (circling).

The athleticism of these western performance horses was vividly on display in this event, and one gleaming palomino stood out from the others. Wowing both the crowd and judges was the duo of SJR Talkin Diamonds, an AQHA/APHA stallion, and Corey Cushing, a legendary name in the reined cow horse industry with more than $3 million in earnings and a collection of important titles to his name.

Though their first cow required a call by the judges to reassign a new cow, that official performance from Cushing and SJR Talkin Diamonds was stellar, scoring a 220.5 (for a total of 439) to claim the win.

“I believed in that horse ever since I started taking him down the fence as a 3-year-old,” Cushing said in his winning interview. “We’ve been the bridesmaid quite a few times but never the bride, and tonight was his night. If I had to do it all again, I’d turn right around and call on him again to give me everything he got again.”

Corey Cushing and SJR Talkin Diamonds in reined cow horse
Corey Cushing and SJR Talkin Diamonds added a win at The American Performance Horseman to their resume. Photo by Mary Cage

Team Results

With repeat wins in their divisions, Adan Banuelos and Casey Deary yet again boosted their team — Team Royal Blue — to victory. Joined by reined cow horse rider Clayton Edsall, who had a good start in his cow work but unfortunately ended up with a bumpy performance, the trio stepped on stage before the large crowd to accept their hardware and give a nod to the horsemen they’ve had the chance to work with and learn from.

“Just on our way up here, I learned a reminder that we all have ups and downs,” Banuelos said. “[Edsall] is one of the best horsemen I know, and him handling a day like today and supporting us the way that he did. I know that it wasn’t a good go at it, but he made the most of it and got us a win. And that’s what it’s all about to me. It’s all about family, it’s all about keeping your chin up, about making somebody feel good on their way out of the arena. And we’re very grateful for this man right here.”

Deary also acknowledged the teamwork that went into play with this event.

“Every single point counts toward that deal,” Deary said. “The first one counts just as much as the last one.”

The winning team on stage at The American Performance Horseman
The winning team on stage. Photo by Mary Cage

This article about the 2024 The American Performance Horseman is a web exclusive for Horse Illustrated and Western Life Today magazines. Click here to subscribe!

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