Arena All-Star Topsails Rien Maker
Photography by Darrell Dodds
âSliderâ started small, but has paid off big for his owners. The leading reined cow horse of all time, he has carried Russell Dilday to three Worldâs Greatest Horseman titles.
A big personality and even bigger talent arrived in a small package when Topsails Rien Maker was foaled in 1999.
The sorrel colt, with his distinctive snip nose and inquisitive nature, was bred to be a cow horse. Sired by Topsail Cody, he is out of Jameen Gay by Toby Gay Bar, a son of Gay Bar King.
When then-owner Dana Roulet took him to trainer Russell Dilday in Porterville, California, when he was a 2-year-old, Dilday was immediately taken by the colt.
âHe just had a lot of personality,â Dilday says. âHe was very easy to train, but had a lot of quirky stuff. Heâd sling his head around and play. Of course he was a stud, but we hauled him in the stock trailer with all the other horses, and he never acted like a stud. Heâs constantly squirreling out of his halter. If youâre watching him, heâll just stand there. When youâre not looking, heâll rub it off his ear.â
The fact that Topsails Rien Maker didnât get any special attention probably helped him develop his relaxed nature. But Dilday discovered much more than that; he found that the horse had talent to spare.
âHe was just too easy [to train],â he remembers. âThe stuff you get away with on him does not work with other horses. I really didnât do a lot of training on him. He just kind of did stuff.â
Roulet bought Topsails Rien Maker from his breeder, the Stellato Revocable Trust in Redding, California. Dilday began showing him in 2002 and won the limited open championship at the Fresno Futurity and reserve in the same class at the National Reined Cow Horse Associationâs premier event, the Snaffle Bit Futurity. In 2003, he began earning consistent checks at smaller shows. When Roulet decided to sell him, Dilday wanted to find a way to keep the coltânicknamed âSliderââin his barn.
â[Trainer and breeder] John Ward had a mare he was wanting to sell,â Dilday says. âI told John that Dana wanted to sell my horse, and he said weâd just trade [the mare] for him and partner on him. It was complex, but when it was all done John and I were partners on the horse. We owned him for a few months, then I sold Johnâs half to Kevin Cantrelle.â
Cantrelle, a longtime friend of Dilday and his wife, Tanna, was already a customer and had seen Slider at work.
âRussell called me quite a few times, bugging me,â says Cantrelle, who lives in Raymond, California. âAnd he just kept bugging me for about four months, until I said, âOkay, fine, I give in!â And here we are today.â
His investment, and Dildayâs belief in the horse, soon began to pay off. Between 2004 and 2007, Slider and Dilday won their fair share of big checks at premier events, including top five finishes at the Worldâs Richest Stock Horse competition and the Magnificent 7. In 2007, they finished 10th at the Worldâs Greatest Horseman contest, held during the NRCHA World Championship Show. Like the Worldâs Richest and Magnificent 7, the Worldâs Greatest Horseman competition pits horse-and-rider teams in four events: herd work, reined work, steer stopping and cow work. As it turned out, that year was just a warm-up for Slider and Dilday.
The trainer, though, says he didnât have Slider where he needed to be for quite some time, according to traditional vaquero methods of training first in the snaffle and then the hackamore before moving on to the two-rein and finally the bridle. Trainer and NRCHA Hall of Fame member Ronnie Richards encouraged him to get the horse better prepared.
âHe wasnât broke at all in the hackamore until the second year,â Dilday says. âRonnie helped me with some basic hackamore training. Slider got pretty decent, and then I went on to the two-rein. When I went to bridling him up, I got some help from Ronnie again.â
Dilday says he always knew Slider had something special; he just needed advice to get the most out of the horse.
âHis fence work was always spectacular,â he says. âThe first time I showed him, he had a huge fence work, and he just continued to do that.â
Dilday eventually turned to reining trainer Donnie Bricker to improve his reined work, and Slider responded.
âThere wasnât a ton of drilling on him,â Dilday recalls. âWhen I got my [technique] right, he did whatever I was asking. There are horses that you ride better, but they donât change, and thatâs a lot tougher to get around. With him it was instant gratification. He was wanting to do it right in the first place.â
When everything came together, it did so in a big way. In 2008, Slider and Dilday won the Worldâs Greatest Horseman and Worldâs Richest Stock Horse, and also took home the top prize in the open bridle class at the NRCHA Stakes.
Winning the Worldâs Greatest Horseman is tough to do once, but the four-event competition was something Dilday couldnât resist. In 2009, they again claimed the title, making Slider the first horse to claim back-to-back championships at the event.
In 2010, a few bobbles cost him and he ended up in fourth place. Dilday started getting help from cow horse legend Don Murphy, and it paid off.
âI felt like I got my fence work back. I had been slacking off there somewhere, but Murphy doesnât let you do that,â Dilday says with a laugh. âI went the third year because no oneâs ever won it three years in a row. I kind of dropped the ball. I didnât want to end on a note like that.â
The duo returned this year and managed an unprecedented third Worldâs Greatest Horseman championship. His winnings at that eventâwhich pays $30,000 for first placeâhelped make the 12-year-old stallion the leading money-earning reined cow horse in history, with earnings totaling $320,356.
Dilday says part of the key to Sliderâs longevity is that he doesnât take a lot of training between the preliminary rounds and the finals.
âIâve always had almost as much horse for the finals as Iâve had in the prelims,â he says. âThatâs a big thing with an older horse, especially.â
For Cantrelle, buying into a horse like Slider seemed like a gamble, but it was more like a sure bet. He just didnât believe it for a while.
âWhen you buy something, you always think youâre going to win,â he says. âIt usually doesnât work out that way, but youâve got a lot of hopes. Heâs been a lot of pleasure for us, a lot of excitement and some heartbreak. Bad things do happen once in a while. But you couldnât ask to have a better horse. Iâm just thankful we got the opportunity to end up owning him.â
As for Dilday, heâs enjoying riding some young horses sired by Slider, and doesnât discount heading back to the Worldâs Greatest Horseman with the stallion.
âIf he feels good, Iâll try it again,â he says.
Although he rode a mare named Miss Plain Plain to win the 2003 Magnificent 7 and take two reserves at Worldâs Greatest Horseman, he credits the stallion for his successful career.
âMiss Plain Plain was a big boost for me, and I had a couple of other pretty good ones, but heâs 80 percent of my career, easily,â he says. âI havenât learned as much off any three horses as Iâve learned from him. He has been spectacular. And he has such heart and personality, I canât not love him.â
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