As the last foal of an ailing senior dam, Magical Lena almost didn’t make it to her first birthday. Her mother, Swayback Magic, had cancer, which meant that when Magical Lena was born, she was undersized and puny – so frail, in fact, that her owners wondered if she’d ever amount to anything. Fortunately, the little brown filly by Little Lenas Legend lived up to her name, and then some. Today, Magical Lena is a legend in the reined cow horse industry, known for her talent in the show pen and as a producer of money-earners.
“Magical Lena is kind of a phenomenon, and it’s just a fun story,” said breeder and owner Joyce Pearson of Hailey, Idaho. “It’s fun to raise a horse like that.”
Magical Lena was trained and ridden by Pearson’s daughter, Annie Reynolds, who is a member of the National Reined Cow Horse Association’s Hall of Fame as well as an NRCHA Million-Dollar Rider. Together, the pair spent nine years competing, ultimately earning more than $153,000 in reined cow horse money and a pile of accolades. But back in 1995, when Reynolds first looked at the little brown filly sprawled at her dam’s feet, she had no idea what the future held.
“She was really small, and she looked like a runt,” Reynolds recalled. “I thought that Magical Lena would never grow, and I told my mom to put her down. But my mom thought she was cute, and we kept her.”
Eventually, Magical Lena grew up, and Reynolds began training her. The mare might have looked plain – she was a dark brown, with just a smidge of white in the middle of her broad forehead – but she possessed plenty of fire.
“She always felt like she might buck you off, but she never did,” Reynolds said with a laugh. “Riding her as a two-year-old felt like she was walking on eggshells. When she was three, I took her down to Scottsdale to ride with Todd Bergen and John Slack and learn something. In January of her three-year-old year, John Slack got on her and he turned her around a few times. Then he got off her, handed me the reins, and said, ‘You’re gonna have fun with this one.’”
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John Slack was right. Annie Reynolds did have fun with Magical Lena – but the mare didn’t always make things easy.
“She was very insecure about going to new places, so part of our routine was arriving a day early anywhere we went so that we could get her settled in,” Reynolds said. “But once she settled, she was ready to be good, especially if I was riding her. If I was on the ground, she’d be really insecure. But if I was on her, she was always very confident and happy.”
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With Reynolds in the saddle, Magical Lena blossomed. From cutting to roping to reined cow horse, no matter what Reynolds asked, Magical Lena proved she could do it and do it well. They won the 1998 NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity Non-Pro Championship, the 1999 NRCHA Stakes Non-Pro Championship, the 2000 NRCHA Derby Non-Pro Championship and Open Reserve Championship, and the 2001 World’s Greatest Horseman Reserve Championship.
Passing It On
After her career in the show pen, Magical Lena went on to become a quality dam. To date, she is the dam of twenty American Quarter Horse Association-registered foals, including 7 AQHA point-earners and 16 money-earners. Her offspring have won more than $670,000. According to Reynolds, Magical Lena’s best cross was with her own NRCHA Million Dollar Sire, Very Smart Remedy. That pairing produced Magicality, a 2010 stallion with earnings of more than $173,000 and a slew of titles, including National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) Non-Pro Futurity Co-Reserve Champion and NRHA Level 3 Non-Pro Futurity Champion.
Although Magical Lena passed away in July 2015, she continues to shape the industry through her offspring. She was inducted into the NRCHA Hall of Fame in 2018. Looking back, both Pearson and Reynolds feel fortunate to have been part of the remarkable mare’s story.
“I really felt like Magical Lena chose us. My mom spent her whole life breeding horses, but it was a miracle to have Magical Lena and to be able to do what we did with her,” Reynolds said.
Autor Allison Armstrong Rehnborg