The NILE ‘Opens’ its horse futurity |

The NILE ‘Opens’ its horse futurity

Each year leading up to the Northern International Livestock Exposition (NILE), horse owners prep their young horses for the annual futurity. This year, in celebration of the fiftieth year of the NILE, in Billings, Montana, the horse committee has added an Open Horse Futurity to the schedule of events.

Typically, futurities are limited to yearlings through five-year-olds that were sold in prior Nile Gold Buckle Select Horse Sales. A foal of a nominated stallion also qualifies for all futurities. This is the first year that the Open Horse Futurity, for horses aged six and older, is being offered, unless it is a big hit. Both futurities are Thursday, Oct. 19.

“Typically, to qualify, a horse had to go through NILE sale,” McCall Linke, NILE Equine & Communications Director, said. “We cut it off at 5-years-old, but this year, in hopes of getting some older horses, we’re extending it to show you can buy quality horses at the NILE that are still being used today.”

“The NILE is about livestock, and horses are a pretty integral part of it,” Horse Committee Chairman Gordon Radke said. “Last year we asked, ‘Can we add something that has horses to the NILE for the people that have showed? We wanted to continue the futurity, because most have run out of eligibility. We wanted to add something to it, something for them to add on to their career a bit.”

The Open Horse Futurity is separated into several categories: youth, non pro, or pro, which is more than $5,000 in lifetime earnings. Pre-entry is encouraged, though entries will be accepted until the actual show, and will pay a late fee if not entered early.

The class is a morph between American Quarter Horse Association and National Reined Cow Horse Association rules. Participants will “do a pretty basic reining pattern and cow working. Depending on whether they are youth, pro, or non-pro, scoring changes a little bit based on difficulty,” Linke said.

“Over the years, we have kind of tweaked our futurities,” Radke said. “NRCHA doesn’t have year-old futurities, and we went with softer rules in three year-old. Four- and five-year-olds go into NRCHA rules.”

In addition to a few smaller prizes like jackets and buckles, typically the NILE offers payout for the winners of the futurities, with close to $20,000 in payouts this year.

“It should be some incentive for people to get in there,” Radke said. “It’s something people can shoot for because it will pay out reasonably well for each class.”

Almost 73-year-old CT Ripley, of Huntley, Montana, has shown in the NILE’s futurity for nearly a decade. He buys mostly yearlings at the NILE, begins playing with and training them as two-year-olds, then shows them in the futurities that same year.

“I mainly do it as an incentive for me to get off my butt and ride them,” he said of participating. “I start selling them as they get a little older. I’ve got 15 horses right now that are between two and four. I don’t get too many five years or older. I’ve already sold them by then.”

Ripley said he does have two seven-year-olds that qualify for the Open Horse Futurity and he plans to show them.

“I’ve enjoyed doing that, enjoyed competing. I’ve done fairly well at it, and it’s a source of enjoyment having these young horses and seeing what they can do. I’m still learning, I’ve got a lot to learn yet,” Ripley said.

He decided that, at the age of 63, he was going to pursue his dream of buying horses. “I said, ‘It’s time,’ and I started buying them,” he said. He owns a small irrigated farm where he raises hay and horses.

Ripley has been pleased with the quality of horses he has purchased through the NILE sale. “I used to go to sales out of state, clear to Nebraska, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota,” he said. “Now I don’t feel the need to do that. I can buy all I need or want at the NILE sale. People bring some well-bred colts. I’ll be 73 in another month and I still start four or five colts a year.”

Becky Bateman, of Etna, Wyoming, has also shown in the futurities several years and has overall been pleased with the quality of horses she and her husband Lance have purchased at the sales throughout their 14 years of going and showing.

“I have enjoyed the honesty of the people we’ve gotten the horses from,” she said. “No one has steered me in the wrong direction.”

She said she plans to enter the Open Horse Futurities and hopes others will come back to show as well.

More information about the futurities or other NILE events, visit