Freestyle reining has long been a dynamic and entertaining event that brings the sport’s enthusiasts to their feet. Its growing popularity among some of the industry’s leading competitors at TRFAM has only increased the excitement.
This year, it was NRHA Professional Arno Honstetter and 12-year-old stallion Wimpys High Bid that gave spectators chills. The judges were equally as impressed, scoring the run a 228 for the Farnam Invitational Freestyle Championship, worth $7,750.
“When we got qualified for the big [Million Dollar] event this year, my wife [Laura] said, ‘You’re going to do it,’ and entered me in the freestyle,” Honstetter said, admitting he wasn’t altogether on board with the idea at first. “She came up with the song and costume and everything.”
Performing to Michael Jackson’s seven-time platinum single “Thriller,” Honstetter evoked the spirit of the late pop singer with a bright red jacket and some of Jackson’s trademark hand gestures.
Wimpys High Bid (Wimpys Little Step x Lucky Little Jewel), who was retired to the breeding shed after the 2020 NRHA Derby, came “back to life” as a performer and kept the “Thriller” theme going with his zombie-esque appearance, which Honstetter achieved by tying tattered fabric in the horse’s hair and painting the stallion’s bright palomino coat with dark colors.
While the choreography of the team’s run was well-executed, Honstetter said he only practiced his routine to the music three times — twice in paid warmups at another event and once after arriving in Las Vegas for TRFAM.
“I started riding the horse a bit more at home because he was retired, but he’s such a nice horse and easy,” Honstetter said, thanking owner Brenda Joyce of NRHA Corporate Partner Story Book Stables for allowing him to ride Wimpys High Bid. “I was going to do it without a saddle, too, but I changed it a little bit because I didn’t realize it’s more about real reining maneuvers than just creativity.”
While this win raised Wimpys High Bid’s NRHA LTE to nearly $163,000, the coolest part of the stallion’s performance was giving fans a chance to see him in his element again.
“We take such good care of these horses, they could still show every day,” Honstetter said of the older reining horses that have returned to the show pen for TRFAM in the last few years. “They are so special to their owners and us trainers, and they’ve done enough for us, but something like this is fun. We only did it because it was for a special event like this.”