Atmore native wins it big at Paint Horse World Show
By By Connie Nowlin Managing editor
Jill Ashcraft Pitts sees spots. But these spots have taken her to a world championship, not a doctor.
The spots are on her 6-year-old paint stallion, Right on Robin, on which she won the Paint Horse World Novice Reining Championship in Ft. Worth in June.
Pitts is an Atmore native, daughter of Harvey and Bernice Ashcraft. She is an oncology nurse at Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola.
When she and husband David bought the then-2-year-old horse, they took him to Jesse Chase, a trainer in Milton, Fla.
The horse had started out as a roping prospect, but was switched to reining. Since Pitts wanted to show him herself, she went into training as well. "I started out not knowing anything about reining," she said.
So she learned by doing.
"I trained hard for two years with Jesse, trained four or five days a week every week, schooling," she said.
The training started to pay off last year when she took the paint stud she calls Junior to the world show and won 13th place out of 70 competitors.
This year they won it all and Pitts has set some lofty goals for next season.
First, the pair is going to begin competing in the National Reining Horse Association. But the win at the Paint Horse World keeps them from starting out at the novice level. Instead, they will enter the highly competitive amateur ranks. Just entering is not enough for Pitts, though.
"I want to win Rookie of the Year," Pitts said. To that end she has already begun planning her show schedule for next year. And the plans don't end with NRHA show schedule, either.
She intends to begin training Junior for reined cow horse competition. That particular sport incorporates elements of cutting, in which a single cow is separated from a herd and kept from rejoining it, and reining, in which the horse is guided through a pattern.
Reined cutting requires horse and rider to separate a cow from the herd, then guide it through a pattern, including a full circle. Pretty tricky stuff.
So why would a young woman with a career choose to pursue a sport that is so demanding and expensive that to compete is something of a victory in itself?
"I just love it, it's what I want," Pitts said. "I want to get better and better at it."
To do that, she has made sacrifices. Training is going to be more difficult now because her old trainer has moved his operation to North Carolina and she is now splitting her training and schooling time between one trainer in Georgia and another trainer in Texas. That means more time on the road for Pitts and Junior.
"I don't shop or go to the beach," Pitts said. "We don't take vacations. This is what I love to do."
With that single mindedness of purpose, it is likely that the reining horse world will be seeing these spots for a long, long time.