BY TRACY WAGER / NOVEMBER 2022
Q - Did you foresee how competitive performance horses would become 20 years ago?
A - Competition is always competitive. The numbers have definitely gotten bigger, and with that there is a whole new level.
For example, the top 5 guys were super competitive 20 years ago and now there is the top 30 that are that competitive. So, yes there is a lot more competition out there. More than anything, it is the size of the sport now, as it is growing. The most exciting thing is that people that do not know anything about horses, they get to understand what Reining is and get familiar with the sport. That is the most important thing.
Q - Back then, would you have believed that the prize money would grow to what it is today?
A - No, never. $100,000 for the Futurity Champion, we thought that was the biggest thing around. We thought that was huge! More than that, we had the rest of the year where everyone was building up for the Futurity, because the Futurity was where you made your money for the year. Now there are so many other competitions that pay so much. There are people that can get close to winning $500,000 before they even get to the Futurity this year. It is pretty amazing where it has gotten to now.
Q - The American performance Horseman is taking Reining to the next level of competition and prize money. For you as a Teton Ridge team member, how does that make you feel?
A - I feel proud. That is why I wanted to connect my name with the Teton brand. I listened to Thomas Tull talking to me a couple of years ago about his vision, and I knew it was just a matter of time. I think this is just the beginning of where he is going to take his brand and all Western sports to an all new level. We have seen it already with Taylor Sheridan and he has done an amazing job. This is even the next step. In the next couple of years, we will even see Reining on mainstream TV. This is going to take everything to a whole new level. If we think that we have seen it all now, like how much the horses are selling for, the growth of the competition and the prize money, I think this is just the beginning. After listening to that man, and hearing what he has done before, and what he envisions for us going forward. I think there are, for sure, a lot more exciting things to come.
Q - That is really great to hear Andrea, I knew there was a reason why you did this.
A - Everybody in the beginning thought I got a new client with a lot of money. But for me, I have enough customers that can buy me horses, it is not about that anymore. I want to connect myself with people that make a difference in this sport.
Q - The NRHA Reining Futurity is an important event on the road to the American Performance Horseman competition. How tough is it today to win the NRHA Futurity, compared to when you first won it?
A - Winning is always tough, like I said earlier. But just making the finals today and getting into the semi-finals is tough now. To be in the Top 5 now is a great achievement. For me I have always been a Futurity type of guy. That is my passion, that is where I started and where I am at today. I am actually restructuring my program to concentrate more and more on just the young horses. I love the challenge. I love that the relationship between you and that young horse develops as you develop the mind and the body to perform at the top of the game on Saturday night. This year we have some nice horses leading up to the Futurity and I am really excited about it.
Q -Teton Ridge purchased the American Rodeo and is overlaying the the American Performance Horseman as a one day event on what will be the biggest stage ever for Reining. Thomas Tull has emerged as the newest and biggest patron of the performance horse world that we have ever seen in 44 years at Bridle & Bit. You are on the Teton Ridge team, can you share with us a little about what he is up to?
A - The competition is going to be amazing. It is going to unify our worlds of Reining, Working Cow Horse and Cutting. I think this is long overdue. We have done a lot of great things on our own, and we have achieved great things in the different Associations on our own. But I think that unifying all three sports with one common goal of bringing the entire Western industry to a whole new level is the only way to get it done. Thanks to Thomas Tull we have all been able to get together. I do think that the competition is going to be very exciting. We are bringing in a team competition as well, which we have never seen in these sports that have very much been about the individual. For the public looking in, I think it is something they can really relate to and really get into. Everything the way it has been structured, there is a purpose for it. Not to just do something new, but to get people that may be coming in just for the Rodeo and they get to see Reining for the first time. They can see and understand Reining, or Cutting and Cow Horse and get excited about the competition. With 30 horses doing a Reining pattern, it can be pretty boring to a person that does not have a trained eye. The way this is structured is for TV and for people to get excited. Make it quick, exciting and where they leave wanting more. I think they will achieve that.
Q -The American Performance Horseman is being presented as a sporting event, not a horse show. How do you feel about that?
A -I think it is great, and I think that is the way it should be. At the level that we are at right now, and with everything the sport has become, it should be considered more than just a horse show. It is an event, and that is the only way that it will be able to get to the next level. By presenting it as a sporting event, now you are going to get mixed up with the PBR and everything else. This is the only way to step it forward, and I do feel it was always a sporting event, not just a bunch of guys getting together to win a ribbon. We are trying to do something that has not been done before.
Q - We just caught up with you at the PBR Arizona Ridge Riders Days competition in Glendale, AZ. Thomas Tull with Teton Ridge owns the Arizona Ridge Riders PBR team. What did you think about that event?
A - That was my first time. I thought it was really cool. I have watched some of the clips before, but I really like the way they structured it. Once again it is a team event and that brings a lot of people together. Teton has definitely done a really good job with the Ridge Riders. They have a really cool deal put together and the people from Arizona are really into it. I really enjoyed it. It was great! It makes me very proud to know that I am part of that Team also.
Q - How did it feel to be featured in an exclusive editorial feature in Cowboys & Indians magazine in the October 2022 edition?
A - Once again, that is the vision that Thomas Tull had given me when we first met. All of this was part of that vision. The fact that he wanted me associated with this brand, that he wanted to bring my image to a whole new level. Tracy, you know better than anybody that thru my whole career I have tried to separate myself. I am not just a horse trainer. I wanted to be seen as somebody who could leave a mark on the industry and to help take the sport to a new level. I thought it was exciting and there are many other things that we are working on in the future that will not only help me but the entire industry. At this point it is not about just winning another event, it is about leaving a mark and about taking our sport to a new level. So, if I can inspire people to do what we do and make a life choice that can get them to have all of their goals achieved, like this sport has done for me, that is what I really aspire to do. That is kind of an exclamation point on the fact that we are seeing an evolution from just being a horse trainer to more of a public figure that can actually bring the sport to an all new level. I am proud to be a part of it.