by Simona Diale

It all started back in the late 1970s when Roberto Cuoghi, fascinated by the newly imported “American breeds” in Europe, bought two Appaloosas from his friend, Jimmy Sani.
“I have always loved horses,” Cuoghi said. “One of my early memories goes back to when I was a little boy, and my father used to take me through the orchards on a horse-drawn cart. When, many years later, the first ‘American’ horses were imported to Europe, I was absolutely enthralled by them. They were incredibly docile, versatile and talented. Once the first Quarter Horse shows started taking place in Italy, I was hooked and there was no going back – I had to own a Quarter Horse.”

It didn’t take long before Cuoghi did own a Quarter Horse and, being the perfectionist he is, he didn’t settle for anything less than a champion. The 1987 NRHA Futurity Open Champion, Spirit
Of Five, was the first of what would become a long string of great horses in his name. “I liked her [Spirit Of Five] so much that I eventually also bought her mother, Continental Stormy. These two incredible mares are the foundation of my breeding program,” said the Italian breeder. “I bought Spirit Of Five from Eleuterio Arcese, the man who has made the biggest impact on Western equitation in Europe and definitely the man who has made the biggest impact on my life as far as horses are concerned.

“Eleuterio’s passion has always been, and is, contagious. Back in the early 1980s, we were the pioneers of this new and exciting adventure named ‘The Quarter Horse.’ He led us through America’s breeding and training facilities, and together we purchased Surprise Enterprise. We traveled across the U.S. at the speed of a tornado looking at as many reining and cutting horses as we could. In 1988, my wife, Marzia, and I traveled back to the States with Arcese and his daughter Paola. We had the best time, saw the best horses, and it was then that I came across the stallion that would change my life – Snapper Cal Bar.”

Achieving the goal
Cuoghi and the Arceses had stopped to visit Hanes Chatham in Texas, and the evening brought more than originally planned.
“My wife, who is a great cook, prepared a pasta carbonara for us,” he said. “As we were dining, I told Hanes that I was looking for a stallion to start my breeding program. In no time, he had Snapper Cal Bar saddled up, and at midnight, in the July Texas heat, we were all out looking at him work. I fell in love with him immediately and told Hanes that if [the owner] decided to sell him, I would buy him. Marzia and I left for California, and the first night we were there, we got a call from

Hanes at 4 a.m. Snapper was ours.” Initially, Cuoghi co-owned him with Arcese, but in 1992, he bought the stallion.
Snapper Cal Bar’s pedigree is a story in itself. He was sired by Cal Bar, an own son of Doc Bar out of Teresa Tivio by Poco Tivio. His dam, Cee Miss Snapper, was by Cee Bars, a son of Three Bars, out of Miss Gold 59, an own daughter of Hollywood Gold.

The winner of the 1984 NCHA Futurity Non-Pro with then-owner Merritt Wilson in the saddle, Snapper also made the Open finals. The pair went on to claim the NCHA Derby Open Co-Championship the following year and won more than $260,000 in NCHA competition, along with 12 AQHA points in cutting. “The opportunity to sell Snapper came at a time when my wife and I had plans to enlarge our family. I was young and knew that I could not have given this great stallion the opportunity to be promoted as he should have,” Wilson said.

When Cuoghi purchased Snapper, the stallion had already sired 108 offspring. The total eventually went up to 429 AQHA-registered foals, along with five APHA-registered get. When the bay stallion touched European soil, he immediately went on to win two European Cutting Championships at Americana (1988 and 1990). In 1991, he was crowned AQHA European Senior Cutting Champion in Aachen, and in 1992, he won the Italian Cutting Horse Association Maturity.

Cuoghi’s goal has always been that of breeding high-quality prospects, both in the reining and in the cutting industry. His facility, the Impresa Agricola Cuoghi, is set in the beautiful rolling hills on the outskirts of Modena, a medieval town in Northern Italy. Though built with class and elegance, the facility is highly functional and here, Snapper Cal Bar left his mark by siring great champions in both reining and cutting.

“Quality is what I look for at home. Results are what I look for in the pen, and you never know what you have until that gate closes behind your horse at the shows,” Cuoghi said. “It’s a difficult task and takes up a lot of time, energy and money, but I love it. There have been difficult moments, but I’m a positive thinker, and walking through the pastures, looking at my horses and at my land, fills me with joy and gives me the energy I need to move on.” Though quiet, calm and reserved, Cuoghi does not lack energy. He runs his family business, is a father of two – Cecilia, 18, and Riccardo, 16 – and has always had an active role in the Italian cutting and reining industries. He is a past president of the Italian Cutting Horse Association, and today, he is the president of the Italian Reining Horse Association.

One of his goals was hosting the first FEI World Reining Championship in Italy. “We first spoke about this project during the European Championships in Mooslargue, France, last year,” Cuoghi said. “It is a great honor for us to have been granted this opportunity by the FEI; it confirms that Italy has done a good job over the years, and I’m very proud to be a part of it.”

Another of his aims is that of further promoting the youth committee and supporting the first European Futurity, open to 4-year-old horses, sponsored by Arcese, which will take place in 2009. “The Italian reining horse industry has grown immensely, and I believe that the care that Italian breeders have put into their programs has paid off. We have all paid a lot of attention to our mares, and we have a long list of great sires in our country,” he said. “The stallion that has left an impact in my program has definitely been Snapper Cal Bar, and it will be very difficult to find another producer like him.”

Pedigree of Champions
In 2001, Snapper Cal Bar passed away at age 20 and left a long string of champions behind, as well as an empty space in the Cuoghi breeding program and in the Cuoghi family. “Losing Snapper was like losing a family member,” he said. “Neither of my children ride, but they love the horses. My wife does not have the passion I have, but shares the joys and the difficulties I face. When Snapper died, it was really difficult for all of us. No other horse will ever take his place, but of all his offspring, the stallion that reminds me the most of him is Mr Snapple. I really believe in this stallion and hope that he will follow the road his sire followed. And then, of course there is Master Snapper – winning the NRHA Derby Open was an incredible and unforgettable experience, and I can never thank Kelly[Zweifel] enough for making this dream come true.”

Mr Snapple was foaled in 1997 and is by Snapper Cal Bar out of Bretts Tari by Doc Tari. With Zweifel in the saddle, he made the finals in the Italian Reining Horse Association Futurity, Derby and Maturity. He won the NRHA of Germany Breeders Derby Open, was crowned 2005 IRHA year-end Open Champion and placed third in the prestigious 2006 Mallorca Western Festival Open reining. Though Mr Snapple stands in Italy, Master Snapper now stands in the United States at Green Valley Ranch, Aubrey, Texas. The dynamic bay stallion, out of Colonel Mistress by Great Master Wake, also won the Italian Futurity Open, Derby and Maturity, and earned the Italian Open Horse of the Year title in 2005, as well as the 2006 Americana Top Honor Award – all with his trainer, Zweifel.

“He is truly a phenomenal athlete, and I consider him a very special horse,” Cuoghi said about the stallion who boasts more than $77,000 in lifetime earnings. “I believe he truly deserves to breed to the best mares, and the opportunity of him joining the great team of stallions that stand at the Green Valley Ranch is an honor for him and for myself.”
Another great stallion owned by one of Europe’s greatest reining fans is Broadmoor. By Smart Chic Olena out of Bar J Jackie by Zan Parr Jack, the powerful 12-year-old stallion was shown by John Slack to the 1999 NRHA Futurity and 2000 Derby Open finals. Dell Hendricks then took the reins and won the 2001 AQHA Junior Reining World Championship and the 2002 NRHA Open Reserve World Championship.

Though actively involved in the reining industry, Cuoghi remains a keen cutting fan, and many prospects bred by him have been seen in the winner’s circle across Europe with Gianluca Munarini in the saddle. “Gianluca is a great trainer, a real horseman and above all, a good friend,” Cuoghi said. “When breeding cutters, I put in just as much love and passion as I do with reiners, and for me, in the cutting circuit, Be A Smart Hunter is the equivalent of Snapper Cal Bar in the reining circuit.”
By Dual Pep out of Little Lynx Huntress by Smart Little Lena, Be A Smart Hunter was purchased by Cuoghi in 2001 from Russell Harrison. Once the powerful stallion was shipped to Italy, the reins were handed over to Munarini, who cut his way to two Italian Maturity Championships, two European Open Championships and three year-end Italian Open Championships.

Today, 13-year-old Be A Smart Hunter is an all-time leading money-earner in the Italian Cutting Horse Association history, the ICHA’s all-time highest money-earning stallion, has won more Italian Open championships and open classes than any other horse, and is already the sire of a new generation of champions. In 2006, his offspring, Hunting With Class, claimed the Italian Futurity Limited Open Championship, Sweetly Huntress placed third in the Futurity Open and Miss Hickory Hunter won the first go-round of the Italian Cutting Futurity.

Joining this athlete and sire is Starlight Elan, by Grays Starlight out of Miss Elan by Doc O’Lena, whom Cuoghi purchased from Ascencion Banuelos at the end of 2004. Also under the guidance of Munarini, this stallion captured the attention of cutting fans after winning the 2005 Italian Cutting Horse Association Maturity, the Italian Open Championship and the European Championship in Augsburg, Germany, at the 2006 Americana show.

The First Woman to Win the NRHA Derby Open Division

When the first woman to win the NRHA Derby, Kelly Zweifel, was growing up in Evansville, Wisconsin, she was determined to have a career training reining horses. Kelly’s parents, Ron and Suzy, were not enthusiastic. But Kelly was determined, and she pursued her goals at the University of Wisconsin, River Falls (UW-RF) with the guidance of Larry Kasten, recently retired Instructor of UW-RF Equine Science program.

Upon graduation, Kelly worked for renowned horseman Jack Brainard, then apprenticed with NRHA Two Million Dollar Rider and NRHA Hall of Fame member Tim McQuay. While working for Brainard, Kelly met Pietro Artinghelli and returned with him to his native country, Italy. For the past eight years, Kelly and Pietro have worked for Roberto Cuoghi at Impresa Agricola Cuoghi, a facility that has consistently bred, raised and/or trained winners.

In European Reining competition, Kelly and Master Snapper have accumulated earnings of approximately 50,000 euros. Kelly and Roberto felt the time was right to ride in the US. It was a move they will not soon regret.

On Saturday night May 20th, Kelly, 34, became the first woman to win the NRHA Derby Open Division and Master Snapper became the first European born, bred, raised and trained horse to win the title. Kelly also earned another entry in the NRHA history books when she became the first rider to win the Open, Intermediate Open and Limited Open divisions in one Derby.

by Tonya Ratliff-Garrison

In what was probably one of the most competitive NRHA events ever, it took a 221.5 to qualify for the open Derby, and, for the first time at a major NRHA open event, four women made it back out of 27 finalists.

So maybe it was to be expected that history would be made on the evening of May 20. By the time the dust had settled in the Oklahoma State Fair Arena, a new Derby champion had been crowned, and for the first time it was a woman, who won not only the open event but was the first rider to also win the intermediate and limited open titles.

But it doesn’t stop there. The horse she maneuvered to a 232 was a 5-year-old stallion that was European-bred, -born, -raised and -trained, which had never happened at a major NRHA competition.

When Italian, Roberto Coughi, decided to send his stallion, Master Snapper, to Oklahoma City for the NRHA Derby, many of his friends told him he was crazy to spend all that money to compete against the Americans. But when he approached his trainer, Wisconsin-native Kelly Zweifel, she told him to do it now.

“I said if you want to do that, don’t wait until he’s got too many shows on him. Let’s go ahead and do that while he’s still fresh and doing so good,” said Zweifel, who has trained out of Cuoghi’s stables in Vignola, Italy, with her husband, Italian Pietro Artinghelli, for the past eight years. The American riders and horses didn’t intimidate Zweifel. “You have to think you can win every time you go in,” she said. “If you’re going to bring a horse over here, you have to think that he’s tough enough to compete. Otherwise, it doesn’t pay to do it.”

“Goccia” had already proven his worth in Europe, having won about 50,000 euros with his wins at the 2004 Italian Reining Horse Association Futurity and the 2005 IRHA Derby and Maturity. But neither event was sanctioned at the time by NRHA, so the bay stallion entered the 2006 Derby with zero earnings to his name.

By Snapper Cal Bar and out of Colonel Mistress by Great Master Wake, Goccia was bred to be a cutting horse in Europe. However, when he didn’t take to the sport, he was sold to Cuoghi as a reiner. Zweifel remembers seeing the then-2-year-old bay stallion for the first time.

“He caught your eye,” she said. “He had such style.” Although Zweifel has exclusively shown Goccia, his European wins also didn’t count for the 34-year-old trainer. She came to the Derby with $28,617.52 in NRHA lifetime earnings, which she achieved while apprenticing for trainers Jack Brainard and Tim McQuay in the mid-1990s. Because of the lower earnings, Zweifel qualified for not only the open event but also the intermediate and limited open.

In the preliminaries May 18, Zweifel and Goccia were in the second group of 188 horses entered in the open NRHA Derby. Todd Crawford and Mister Nicadual were leading from the first group the day before with a 225. “I knew I was going to have to mark big to make the finals because by the time I went there were like 13 horses already over 220. I knew we really had to run,” Zweifel said. And run they did, marking a 227.5 and taking the lead, which held for the remainder of the preliminaries. It didn’t take long for people to start asking who this woman was.

Zweifel was 12th in the open draw, and by the time for her go, 2006 National Reining Breeders Classic open champions Shawn Flarida and Einsteins Revolution were leading with a 226. As Zweifel and Goccia walked into the arena, many in the Derby crowd began to cheer. Moving into their first circle, it wasn’t long before everyone joined in, and applause, whistles and shouts of approval filled the coliseum.

“He was running so hard in that circle, he pulled his shoeoff,” Zweifel recalled. But it didn’t bother the little bay stallion, as he continued his astonishing performance of high-speed, precise spins and explosive stops. As Goccia completed his back-up, Zweifel stepped out of the saddle and began to walk out of the arena. The crowd erupted, rising to its feet to give the duo an ovation it genuinely deserved. As Goccia reached over to give his trainer a nudge, NRHA announcer Keith Bradley’s trademark lilt filled the coliseum.

“The score … ,” as Bradley paused for effect, “ … for No. 235, Master Snapper ridden by Kelly Zweifel … a 232.” The coliseum erupted with cheers and applause. Many in the crowd stuck around to see Zweifel accept the Derby trophy and become the first woman to win the championship title.

Although Zweifel is proud she made history, she was happier for Cuoghi and Goccia. “I think this win is going to keep them quiet (in Italy),” Zweifel said with a smile. “They were thinking, ‘He’ll go over there. That’s really nice his owner can afford to send him. But he won’t win.’ This win made it all worth it.

“As for being the first woman, yeah, that’s great but it really doesn’t make a whole lot of difference. When it comes down to it, we’re all reiners out there.”