By CATHY MOUNCE
Register Staff Writer
Cooke Country resident and horse trainer Pat St-Onge of Gainesville recently rode American quarter horse “Custom Banjo” to the finals of the 2013 Open Derby National Reining Horse (NRHA) Championship held in Oklahoma City (OKC) June 27-29.
Reining is a western performance event that is designed to feature the athletic capability of a ranch horse in a show ring setting.
The NRHA Derby runs for one week each summer in OKC as the world’s best four, five and six-year-old reining horses compete in front of thousands of spectators, exhibitors and horses attending. The Derby is one of two major events presented by the NRHA each year and includes not only aged event action but ancillary reining classes with event awards of over $650,000 in prize money.
Born and raised in Valleyfield, Quebec, Canada, Pat St-Onge did not participate in his first show until he turned 20.
“My father had horses and I had some success in Canada,” St-Onge said. “I found out that I was good at this to my surprise and eventually I turned pro.”
St-Onge soon learned that to become the best it was important for him be near the best so in 1997 he moved to the North Texas area which is recognized for producing some of the top reining horse contenders in the country. Participating at the high levels of competition, St-Onge grew in experience and knowledge and with his proven training methods soon put St-Onge trained horses at the top of many events during the past 20 years.
St-Onge’s training program is geared to the high dollar futurity events and derbies. He has participated in events sanctioned by the NRHA as well as shows approved by the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA). His horses are highly trained with consistent performances and staying power and many of his horses are still competing internationally.
St-Onge has been a past NRHA approved judge and with his renown reputation, has been asked to lead clinics worldwide in England, USA, Canada and Mexico. He also willingly teaches and coaches a few select nonprofessionals. His students are able to participate at every level from an owner enjoying his horse’s success while sitting in the stands to those competing in the arena.
St-Onge is planning to build a smaller 22-stall facility this year near the present much larger St-Onge facility located off FM 902 in southern Cooke County
He said, “ I am planning a smaller facility on 90-acres once the larger one is sold. I am putting together a good stable of mares and we have a great producing stallion and futurity champion ‘Hang Ten Surprise.’ I want to get more into the breeding of champions.”
Melanie Schuckers, owner of “Custom Banjo” nicknamed “Brad Pitt” because of his good looks, speaks high praise about St-Onge’s capabilities.
She said, “He has such high integrity and high regard for the horse. He communicates so well with riders as well as with horses. We would recommend him to anyone that needs a great trainer and rider.”
St-Onge is quietly humble but has a pretty high goal for himself to be a million dollar winner.
He continued, “I have set a pretty high goal but high expectations are important. One thing I never forget as a trainer is that it is not about me or the money, it is all about the horse and how I can make both horse and rider achieve their full potential. It is what I believe in and so far my philosophy has served me well.”
St-Onge also stays busy away from the barn with daughters Alexandra and Emma ages 12 and 8.
Congratulations also go out to 2013 Open Derby Champion Jordan Larson of Whitesboro who won top prize at the Oklahoma NRHA Derby riding HF Mobster for owners Heritage Farms.
Finishing second in the competitions was Jason Vanlandingham also of Whitesboro on horse ‘A Smokin Whiz’ owned by Sunrise Ranch of Arkansas.
Other North Texas open division finalists at this year’s derby were: Vanessa Strontmann, Carol Metcalf and Stefano Calcagnini of Pilot Point.
Tioga Texas finalists were Mirjam Giraudini-Stillo, Bud Lyon, Sam Schaffhauser, Ann Salmon, Dell Hendricks and Marco Ricotta.
Other North Texas finalists from Whitesboro were Adam Johnson, Sebastian Petroll, Matt Armenta, Todd Summers and Jimmy Van Der Hoeven.