This One is for the Girls
October 15th, 2019Tweet
By: Barbara Aitken Jenkins
"She walked into the gates head-up, back straight, focused on the prize. Marking a 222, she was named the champion, breaking the ceiling on her way out."
Shannon Quinlan-Santos is no stranger to the winner's circle.
From a young age, Shannon's goal was to be at the top of the game and the best in the business. Her parents are professional trainers ranging from Hunter Jumpers refinement to Reined Cow Horse grit. She grew up in training to become a winner. And that is what she became.
Earlier this week, Shannon prepared for the Open Reining with her gelding Ruf N Shiney as she prepares for each competition. She was focused on the end goal: showing the horse to his greatest ability.
She walked into the warm-up pen, barely noticing she was a minority amongst men. She visualized the pattern in her mind, worked through each cue in her head. She warmed up her gelding, touching base with his mind and body.
She walked into the gates head-up, back straight, focused on the prize. Marking a 222, she was named the champion, breaking the ceiling on her way out.
Shannon is the first woman to win the Open Reining at the 53rd All American Quarter Horse Congress.
She, her husband Vincenzo, and Dr. Stein purchased Ruf N Shiney at the NRBC in Katy, Texas, earlier this year from trainer Jason Vanlandingham (The Last Cowboy cast member and top placer at the Run For The Million Reining event). Since his purchase in April, the gelding has pushed over $20,000 in NRHA earnings, which is impressive for a 4-year-old. "Biggie" earned his barn name due to his unusual size of 15.2 hands.
Biggie was one of eleven horses Shannon and her crew brought to the Congress this year.
They noticed earlier in the week that Biggie was not acting himself and was running a temperature. They contemplated the idea of scratching him from the class because his health was the top priority. Biggie improved, and by show day, he was healthy. However, since he was feeling poorly earlier in the week, Shannon was not expecting him to show full force.
Biggie defied their expectations.
"He's a pretty phenomenal horse. It's really cool going through the gate, knowing that you have the horsepower to do some pretty serious stuff. And he's super consistent, and he's really, really reliable in the pen. He doesn't have a weak maneuver. You can trust him and just let it all hang out. And he loves coming out, licking his lips and knowing he did his job."
Shannon has been attending the Congress since 2014, making a splash one year after the other. In fact, she won the 2016 Open Freestyle Reining and the 2018 Open Level 1 Ranch Riding.
In addition to winning the Open Reining this year, she was also named the Reserve Champion in the Senior Ranch Riding.
She hopes that the industry is beginning to notice her strength, tenacity, and resolve to be at the top.
"I think sometimes being a woman and being young means you get discredited a little bit.
However, I thrive on the pressure of being a woman in a world dominated by men. It pushes me to do better. And every time I'm running the pen, I always want to show the big boys that I'm here, and I didn't come to play. I came to win."
She continued, "It's always been a dream of mine to be able to compete with the best and prove to myself and others that I'm capable. Thanks to this horse, that dream became a goal. I've dedicated my whole life to horses and being the best I can be, while this is just a checkmark on my long list of goals, it feels amazing to be a young woman and able to compete at a high level in a discipline dominated by men. I can't wait for an even bigger 2020."
You can follow Shannon's journey at iSlide Performance Horses on Facebook and Instagram.
For more information and stories about the 2019 Congress, tune into Facebook and Instagram as well as www.quarterhorsecongress.com.