OWNED BY LEE MANCINI, HOWELL, MICHIGAN
RIDDEN BY LINDA FULLER , HOWELL, MICHIGAN
■ BRED BY B. CHEREE KIRKBRIDE, OCALA, FLORIDA
■ 2005 SORREL GELDING BY WHIZARD JAC X SMART LITTLE PRIZE
■ 2014 NRHA ROOKIE PROFESSIONAL EARNINGS $3,396.90
BY KATIE HENDRICKSON
LINDA FULLER AND KR OFFTOSEETHEWIZARD, A 10-year-old gelding by NRHA Million Dollar Sire Whizard Jac and out of Smart Little Prize, claimed the 2014 NRHA Rookie Professional Reserve World championship with $3,396 in 2014 NRHA Lifetime Earnings. They also placed fifth in the 2014 NRHA Limited Open Top 10.
Fuller, a trainer from Howell, Michigan, grew up riding and showing Arabian and Half-Arabian horses in Western and hunter pleasure. Throughout the years, she and her clients have won numerous Arabian Horse Association (AHA) national titles. However, it wasn’t until meeting her boyfriend and trainer Lee Mancini that she was introduced to the NRHA.
Her first NRHA show was in 2010 and that fall, NRHA Five Million Dollar Rider Shawn Flarida told Linda that he had a horse for her, KR Offtoseethewizard. Although she wasn’t looking for a reining horse, she liked “Ozzie” and made an offer. “I told him that we didn’t need a horse, but here’s my offer and 24 hours later we were taking him home with us,” she laughed. “In hindsight, we had no idea what we were doing, but thought maybe we’d get lucky. We definitely did.”
Throughout the next three years, Mancini successfully showed Ozzie and then handed the reins over to Fuller in 2014. At that point, she’d only shown in NRHA competition periodically since most of her focus was on her Arabian clientele. But with the talented Ozzie as her partner, she set a goal of making the NRHA Top 10 in 2014.
At their first show of the season, the Florida Classic, Fuller and Ozzie won the first rookie professional class and placed second in the second slate.
“I’ll never forget the smile and glow on her face after winning that first class,” said Mancini. “It’s so refreshing to see someone really enjoy showing and love what they’re doing.”
Three weeks later, Fuller earned her first NRHA Pewter trophies by winning both the rookie professional and limited open classes at the OVRHA Bluegrass Reining Stakes in Gordyville, Illinois. “Those wins were overwhelming. I was so excited that I couldn’t sleep!” she remembered.
However, that high didn’t last long, as they failed to get a paycheck in the second slate of classes and hit a slump that lasted until May.
To get out of the slump Fuller started asking Mancini a lot of questions. “He told me that when I’m right, my horse will show me that I’m right,” she said. “That really stuck with me because Ozzie was simply doing what I told him to do. I had to learn how to communicate more clearly with him.”
“Ozzie is an over-achiever and very smart,” added Mancini, “so Linda also had to learn how to keep him quiet. It was a matter of learning what tools are available, when to use them and when to quit using them.”
After going four classes without a paycheck, Linda came back to win the next class at the Delta Classic in Michigan. With that the duo hit a good pace again, placing second at the Carolina Classic Derby Show and first at the Michigan Slide II. By the time they arrived at the Central Ohio Reining Horse Association (CORHA) show in Findlay, Ohio, Linda was in the running for the World Champion title and told Lee, “Let’s try and finish it!”
Running for the title proved to be challenging because Fuller already had a full schedule of Arabian Horse Association (AHA) shows, which required her to take a month off to show in NRHA competition for the AHA Canadian Nationals in August. “We had to keep our business strong by not taking any AHA shows out of our schedule and only adding NRHA shows when we could,” she explained, “But I was having so much fun at the NRHA shows that I didn’t feel like I was working overtime. I was on such an adrenaline high that I was always excited to go to the next show.”
Fuller’s first show back after the AHA Canadian Nationals was the C.T. Fuller Memorial Show at Willow Brook Farms. It was also one of her most memorable competitions from the 2014 show season. After a solid run aboard Ozzie in the $1,000-added rookie professional class, they not only added $535 to their earnings, but they also won Linda’s first Morrison trophy. And it was her birthday.
“That day was unbelievable. I thought I was dreaming and was giddy about it all week,” she said.
The following weekend, Linda and Ozzie also won NRHA East Central U.S. Regional Affiliate Finals championships in the rookie professional and limited open classes and placed fourth in the intermediate open, which qualified them for the Adequan® North American Affiliate Championships in all three divisions. “I was on cloud 9!” she laughed.
The next six weeks were a blur, as Fuller and Ozzie competed in nine more NRHA shows throughout Michigan, North Carolina, Tennessee, and New York in addition to the AHA U.S. Nationals in Oklahoma. Fuller emphasized that she wouldn’t have been able to make it all happen without the help of Mancini, the support of her family and friends like Ronnie and Sherry Wayne and also 2014 NRHA Novice Horse Open Level 1 World Champion Bill Thomas and Deena Dunkle who helped haul Ozzie to shows.
“I really marvel at the friendship and support that was extended to us this year,” added Mancini. “The NRHA is a great industry with a lot of good people in it. We’re very blessed to be a part of it.”
By the end of that busy six-week stretch, Linda was securely in second place, but not close enough for a chance at the World title, so they decided to take a month off to rest before competing at the NAAC.
“Being in that position took all the pressure off of having to win a paycheck, so I was able to really enjoy my first time competing at the NAAC,” she said. The duo placed third in the NAAC Rookie Professional and tenth in the NAAC Limited Open. “It was very exciting to end the year so well,” she said.
Looking back on the 2014 show season, Fuller is quick to give credit to Ozzie. “He has so much heart, is an incredible athlete and very smart,” she said. “He’s a strong stopper and I never second-guess my lead changes on him. He’s taught me so much about Reining.”
She also learned a lot from Lee, her greatest supporter. “He’s my backbone and has always pushed me to be a better trainer, showman and horseman,” she said. “Just when I think I’m giving my all he always pulls a lot more out of me and Ozzie.”
For Mancini, watching Linda enjoy what she was doing so much made it worth all of the extra time, money and effort. “I’ve never seen someone enjoy showing horses as much as I have seen with Linda and Ozzie,” he said. “It makes it all worth it.”
So how did Linda celebrate such a successful show year? “I love my job and what I do, so every day of my life is a celebration. Yes, there are hard days. It’s a very physically demanding job, but I just enjoy what I do so much. Did we celebrate? Well, I don’t think I’m gonna stop celebrating!”