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Three years ago, Marjie Robinson faced the grim possibility that doctors might amputate her left leg. Today, that almost completely-healed leg helped her ride her gelding, Smart Circle Cat (WR This Cats Smart x Circle N Show Girl) to the NRCHA Stakes Level 1 Limited Open Championship in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Robinson, Oak View, Calif., rode the 2008 gelding to a 646 composite score (214.5 herd/217.5 rein/214 cow), which also earned a berth in the Open, Intermediate Open and Limited Open Stakes finals on Saturday. The Level 1 Championship came with a $1,351 paycheck, a Gist buckle and C.R. Morrison Trophy.

“It’s a very emotional day,” Robinson said. “It’s so exciting to be able to ride and compete again. I just can’t believe it, and making the Open finals was something I never even considered!”

Robinson, who is married to NRCHA Hall of Fame Horseman and seven-time Snaffle Bit Futurity Champion Ted Robinson, suffered a crushing injury to her lower left leg in a horse-related accident in 2010. At one point, doctors recommended amputation, and although the leg was saved, it has been very slow to heal. Robinson was unable to walk for 14 months, enduring six surgeries and a setback when the leg re-broke last fall.

“It’s been a nightmare, just a mess. They couldn’t get it healed. The fact that I’m able to walk and ride is amazing,” she said.

Robinson switched to Chinese medicine, acupuncture and an improved nutrition program four months ago, which has helped her recovery.

“The traditional medicine wasn’t working and the prescription drugs were wreaking havoc on my body and mind, so I got off all that and started acupuncture. It’s made all the difference in the world,” she said.

Her long-awaited return to the cow horse arena came with some mental challenges as well as physical ones.

“Especially with the fence work,  I had to really think about trying to stay strong, if a cow bumps my leg, because it was so long getting healed, or if I hit the fence – it was a big mental game for me to try and let go of all that and hope for the best,” she said.

The uncomplicated and talented Smart Circle Cat helped build her confidence, and she knew “Woodrow,” trained primarily by Tucker Robinson, was ready to step up to the challenge in Las Vegas.

“He’s amazing. I love that little horse. Tucker did a great job with him, and of course Teddy helping me doesn’t hurt either,” Robinson said, smiling.

Marjie Robinson
Marjie Robinson, Oak View, Calif., won the NRCHA Stakes Level 1 Limited Open on her gelding, Smart Circle Cat.

The NRCHA Stakes, one of the five NRCHA Premier Events, boasts a payout of  nearly $300,000 each year. Part of the event’s success is its tie to the NRCHA Subscribed Stallion program. Subscribed stallion owners pay a fee every year, and their 4- and 5-year-old offspring are the only horses eligible to show at the Stakes.

Stakes entries are shown in a snaffle bit or hackamore, competing in herd work, reined work and cow work. The event attracts many top Snaffle Bit Futurity horses from the past two years, as well as those who might have missed the Futurity but are now ready to perform competitively. Besides paying lucrative checks to the Stakes winners, the NRCHA also presents a monetary award to the nominator of the Stakes Champion’s sire in each division.

The NRCHA Stakes continues through Saturday, March 30, and also features a full slate of NRCHA horse show classes, a Bridle Spectacular, and American Quarter Horse Association-approved classes. For detailed information about the NRCHA Stakes, visit