NRHA Professional Matt Mills Reaches Million Dollar Milestone

For Immediate Release – October 22, 2020 – Oklahoma City, Oklahoma – Amidst a fall show schedule packed to the brim, the National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) is proud to announce NRHA Professional Matt Mills is unofficially the newest NRHA Million Dollar Rider. This accomplishment comes after top-tier finishes at the National Reining Breeders Classic (NRBC) and the High Roller Reining Classic (HRRC).

This Scottsdale, Arizona, native was introduced to horses by a Shetland pony named Dizzy in a small round pen at the Lakewood Equestrian Center in Long Beach, California.

“My mom had horses as a kid and, for whatever reason, she took me for a riding lesson when I was 8 years old,” Mills said. “I showed in almost every discipline except for reining until I was about 18.”

Growing up, the hour-long trip via city bus was never a deterrent for Mills when it came to attending riding lessons. He headed to the barn every day after school and usually finished his homework on the bus ride.

The day after high school graduation, Mills was Arizona bound for what was supposed to be only a summer internship with NRHA Million Dollar Rider Dell Hendricks. That summer of 1997 internship stretched out for five years and essentially launched Mills’ career as a reining horse trainer.

“Easy Otie Whiz (Topsail Whiz x Miss Poco Easy) really improved the trajectory of my career,” Mills said of the late 1999 stallion who stood at Out West Stallion Station. “I made a lot of open level 4 finals on him and also attained my all-time highest score under five judges.”

Together, Mills and Easy helped win a gold medal for Team USA at the 2006 World Equestrian Games (WEG) in Aachen, Germany. Easy is just one of many horses who helped carry Mills to his latest monumental accomplishment.

“I’m going out in the arena as an individual, but this is a team sport,” Mills said. “I can’t stress enough how important the horses, owners, my family, and everyone on my team is to me. My team is really the key to my success.”

Although Mills is savoring reaching a goal he set for himself when he was just 21 years old, his competitive spirit compels him to begin focusing on his next million.

“I always stress the importance of setting goals,” Mills said. “But I also want to enjoy the journey along the way.”

2020 NRHA Futurity and Adequan® NAAC Judges Selected

For Immediate Release – October 18, 2020 – Oklahoma City, Oklahoma – As the temperatures drop, the excitement for the National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) Futurity and the Adequan® North American Affiliate Championships (NAAC) begins to build. NRHA is pleased to announce the officials for the 2020 event:

2020 Adequan® NAAC Judges
Doug Allen, United Kingdom
Rick Weaver, Pennsylvania
Cathy Luse, Texas
Marlin Holroyd, Michigan

2020 NRHA Futurity Judges
Filippo Masi, Italy
Van Luse, Texas
Terry Thompson, Texas
Eugenio Latorre, Spain
Margaret Fuchs, Ohio
Tom McBeath, Mississippi
Pat Wickenheiser, California
Ollie Griffith, Ohio
Bob Kail, Arizona
Shannon Fowler, Indiana
Brett Walters, Indiana
Harvey Stevens, Florida

2020 NRHA Futurity Stewards
Matt Lantz, Michigan
Lyle Jackson, Alberta, Canada
Walt Larson, Arizona
Shawn McClurg, Montana

Selection Process

The selection process for judges and stewards at each major NRHA event occurs several months before the first horse ever enters the pen. Both judges and stewards are selected at the same time using the same process. Here’s a synopsis of how your judges and stewards are selected:

  • Every eligible judge across the global is contacted for their availability of the event.
  • All available judges are compiled into a list and sent to each member of the judges committee.
  • The Judges Committee members make selections from the list to fill the allotted slots for the event.
  • These names are compiled into a short list and discussed on a conference call with all members of the Judges Committee. Nominations are allowed to be made on this conference call.
  • The committee members, except for the chair, then rank their choices and each ranking equates to a certain number of points. The points are compiled and submitted to the committee chair.
  • The committee chair reviews and makes recommendations based on the outcome of the vote and the needs of NRHA.
    1. Example: If five judges selected and all have judged an NRHA major event recently, the recommendation could be to move up a “newer” judge to replace the 5th judge on the list. If an inadequate number of international judges are selected, the recommendation could be to bring in the next highest-ranking international judge, etc.
  • The ranked list with the Judges Committee Chair recommendations is submitted to the NRHA Board of Directors for final selection.
  • Both judges and stewards

For a more detailed overview of the selection process, refer to NRHA’s statement of policy by clicking here.

2020 NRHA European Derby Postponed

For Immediate Release – October 17, 2020 – Oklahoma City, Oklahoma – After many negotiations with event management, the French government, and our European Executive Board, the National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) made the decision to postpone the 2020 NRHA European Derby until 2021.

Due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases in France, the French government made the difficult decision to cancel Equita, Lyon in an effort to keep the population safe. As it is now fall, and the story of this pandemic is not yet over, the European Executive Board and NRHA staff feel that moving the 2020 NRHA European Derby to 2021 is in the best interest of European members, riders, owners, breeders, nominators, and fans.

“This decision did not come lightly, as we know so many of you were ready to compete and have been waiting for this moment for many years,” said Samantha Oldfield, NRHA Director of Competition and Education and the European Liaison. “We know how invested you all are. We share your passion and are devastated that we cannot provide a European Derby in 2020.”

The European Executive Board, along with NRHA staff, are working tirelessly on a plan for next year. In 2021, the horses that were eligible for the 2020 European Derby will have the opportunity to run for the purse money their nominators invested in them for this pandemic year. The goal is to prevent those horses from losing the opportunity to compete in four NRHA derbies.

Updates on the progress of next year’s event will be available by the end of November.

“We want to thank our hosts GL Events and the entire team at Equita, Lyon for all of their efforts in trying to put on a 2020 NRHA European Derby,” Oldfield said. “Their hard work and dedication means a lot to NRHA and our members, and we are thankful for their time and energy.”

NRHA’s ReinerSuite Aids Move to Digital Transactions

For Immediate Release – October 5, 2020 – Oklahoma City, Oklahoma – The National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) is taking additional steps to streamline business practices, with the goal of improving accuracy and service to members. Thanks to the availability of online member tools to complete nearly all member transactions through NRHA’s ReinerSuite™, the following changes have been approved by the NRHA board of directors.

ReinerSuite provides an online, electronic tool that keeps records of every item submitted, ensures nearly all items submitted are complete, requires a valid form of payment to move forward, and provides a receipt/confirmation email. Given this valuable new tool, NRHA is no longer accepting nominations via email or fax. Member services representatives have been communicating this with customers and are assisting during a transition period.

“The option to email paperwork was put in place many years ago when we did not have an array of online tools. Unfortunately, emailed and faxed items are sometimes incomplete, unreadable and very easy to lose track of if not sent to a central account,” said Christa Morris-Stone, NRHA assistant commissioner. “With ReinerSuite, we now have the ability to provide a much more effective online option to our members.”

Since early 2020, NRHA members have been able to use ReinerSuite to access reports, apply for competition licenses, purchase memberships, transfer horses, obtain digital membership cards and competition licenses, and more. Early adoption and usage by members is strong and growing—generating many positive reviews.

Morris-Stone elaborated, “Nominations and memberships are completed as soon as the payment is processed in ReinerSuite, and it is not unusual for an online transfer or new license to be approved and completed, with a digital version emailed, within 24 to 48 hours.”

More NRHA members are encouraged to use this online platform, which gives 24/7 access to records and allows them to conduct many transactions outside traditional business hours. Beginning January 1, 2021, NRHA will enact a $10 in-office processing fee for items not completed through ReinerSuite by the member. The fax option will be discontinued for all paperwork starting January 1, 2021.

“This in-office processing fee is similar to the fee we have charged for years for North American nominations that have not been completed online,” said Morris-Stone. “In turn, NRHA will drop the $30 show rush for submitting licenses at shows so the $10 fee will apply to anything sent to us to be processed by hand in the NRHA office.” Rush fees now include the $10 handling fee.

NRHA will continue to offer free digital membership cards and competition licenses, and the NRHA Handbook is available online. Hard copies of cards, licenses or handbooks will be available for $5 each.

A complete list of fee policies can be found at

Million Dollar Milestones Reached During 2020 NRBC

For Immediate Release – October 4, 2020 – Oklahoma City, Oklahoma – The 2020 National Reining Breeders Classic (NRBC) proved to be a pivotal event for riders, owners, and equine athletes. The National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) is pleased to announce that both a rider and owner unofficially crossed the two-million-dollar mark after the dust settled in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Casey Deary

When NRHA Professional Casey Deary scored a 226.5 on Americasnexttopgun (Walla Walla Whiz x Americasnextgunmodel), his four kids cheered extra loud for the “puppy dog” horse affectionately known as Maverick. Winning the 2020 NRBC Open Level (L)4 finals clinched Deary’s status as an NRHA Two Million Dollar Rider.

“I knew I was close, but I wasn’t exactly sure how close,” Deary said. “I had three horses that could all potentially win the deal. It wasn’t stressful, it was exciting. That’s what we all work for at a show. I did the best that I could to get them shown and keep them out of trouble, let them do what they do best, and I just stayed out of their way.”

Deary also tied for second with a 224.5 riding Americas Supermodel (Walla Walla Whiz x Americasnextgunmodel). Both scores propelled Deary well over the two-million-dollar mark. His reining career hasn’t always been the one-two punch that it was recently, but this Weatherford, Texas, trainer has seen his fair share of the winner’s circle.

“It seemed like it took a lifetime to earn the first million,” Deary said. “Americasnextgunmodel was kind of my first elite athlete, not that I didn’t have good ones before that, but she got me to the level that I wanted to be at.”

By Gunner and out Cee Dun It Do It, Americasnextgunmodel and Deary won the 2012 NRHA Futurity Open L4 Championship together. This talented mare proved herself in the show pen and is now showing her stripes as a broodmare.

At the 2015 NRHA Futurity, Deary sealed his first NRHA million when he won the Open L4 on Shesouttayourleague (Walla Walla Whiz x Wimpys Little Chic). Deary was again at the reins when this mare became the 2017 NRHA Derby Open L4 Champion.

“The team of people around me is what’s made all this possible, with my assistants at home, down to my farrier and vet,” Deary said. “And, of course, my wife pulls more than her share of the weight to keep the business going and taking care of the kids. It’s certainly a group effort to reach these milestones.”

After unloading from Tulsa, Deary took those same three horses to Las Vegas. He again rode Americas Supermodel to a 224.5 to tie with NRHA Five Million Dollar Rider Andrea Fappani for the 2020 High Roller Reining Classic Open L4 Championship.

Lance Griffin

“Any cowboy can make a horse go fast, but it takes a horseman to get a horse to go slow,” said the newest NRHA Two Million Dollar Owner Lance Griffin. “I’m not a cowboy. I don’t look after cows. I’m a horseman. I look after horses. There’s a big difference between the two.”

Every employee who set foot on the Griffin operation heard those words. Not only does Griffin credit the horses for his recent milestone, but he also has an unending list of team members who helped propel the Griffin legacy to this point.

“To say I was gifted at picking a horse would be a huge exaggeration,” Griffin said. “Certain people, like Duane Latimer and Bob Loomis, got us started on this path. I’ve always had a fondness for quality mares, and I’ve believed that from the very beginning.”

Back in 2007, Griffin became the first NRHA Million Dollar Owner thanks to an unrelenting breeding program he built with his wife, Terry, and their daughter, Samantha Smith. Griffin Quarter Horses dispersed in 2013, but the legacy lives on as Griffin becomes the fourth NRHA Two Million Dollar Owner.

Leading up to the NRBC, Griffin was only $4,000 short of hitting the two-million-dollar mark. His daughter won more than $5,000 in the Non Pro finals between two horses: Drinkin Moonshin (Shine Chic Shine x Wimpy Little Girl) and Neverthoughtiwould (Pale Face Dunnit x Shine Tini).

Something Griffin might not divulge about his success as an owner is that he’s played a big part in it as a non pro competitor. He’s earned more than $400,000 in NRHA Lifetime Earnings (LTE).

“This isn’t a blind man’s game, but there’s enough luck to it that it plays a part and we took advantage of that luck when we got it,” Griffin said. “You get lucky and sometimes you get unlucky.”

Griffin found a majority of his luck in his mares. One of those was Pines BH (Great Pine x Ms Enterprise), also known as Shirlys Folly with the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA). One of her first foals to hit the ground running was The Great Whiz by NRHA Twelve Million Dollar Sire Topsail Whiz.

“I walked into the futurity prospect sale and bought that mare [Pines BH] without knowing anything about her,” Griffin said. “Her first foal [The Great Whiz] that I bred and raised out of her won the Open Level 4 at the 2003 NRHA Futurity. Many horses don’t work out, but in strange ways, they do. Our biggest reason for success has been consistently trying to have good stock and good help.”

Congratulations to Deary and Griffin for joining an elite group of riders and owners!