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.”

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!

Two Top NRHA Sires Cross Million Dollar Milestones

For Immediate Release – September 4, 2020 – Oklahoma City, Oklahoma – After a slow start to the 2020 show season, it was unclear if any sires or dams would cross milestones this year. As COVID-19 restrictions were reduced in certain regions of the U.S. earlier this summer, shows resumed and entry numbers skyrocketed. As a result, sires and dams are making moves up the NRHA million-dollar ranks. The National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) is pleased to announce two top NRHA sires have recently crossed major milestones.

Gunner

Commonly known as Gunner by the Western performance horse industry, the influential sire is registered as Colonels Smoking Gun with the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) and Colonels Smokinggun with the American Paint Horse Association (APHA). Gunner recently made history when he became only the second NRHA Twelve Million Dollar Sire, just on the heels of Topsail Whiz who reached this accomplishment in 2018.

This legendary sire is by Colonelfourfreckle and out of Katie Gun. Before becoming a top sire for Tioga, Texas, owners Tim and Colleen McQuay of McQuay Stables Inc., Gunner saw his name in lights in the show pen. He was the 1996 NRHA Open Futurity Reserve Champion, the 1998 NRBC Open Reserve Champion, and the 2001 United States Equestrian Team (USET) Festival of Champions National Reining Champion.

First becoming an NRHA Million Dollar Sire in 2007, the snowball effect took over for Gunner in 2010 when he earned his two-million-dollar title. His offspring have annually earned a million dollars, subsequently moving Gunner to a new milestone each year.

Although Gunner boasts $173,000 in NRHA Lifetime Earnings (LTE) of his own, he’s also the sire of more than 1,500 reiners. Many of Gunner’s offspring join him in the NRHA Hall of Fame and in the ranks as million-dollar sires themselves.

Gunner’s top-earning offspring are:

• No Smoking Required (out of Icing Required): $490,714 NRHA LTE
• Custom Made Gun (out of Custom Made Dunit): $419,984 NRHA LTE
• Tinker With Guns (out of Tinker Nic): $344,117 NRHA LTE
• Gunners Tinseltown (out of Miss Tinseltown): $305,307 NRHA LTE
• Americasnextgunmodel (out of Cee Dun It Do It): $289,486 NRHA LTE

Walla Walla Whiz

Walla Walla Whiz’s reputation precedes him in the simple fact that he’s by NRHA Twelve Million Dollar Sire Topsail Whiz and out of Shiney Walla Wanda. Walla Walla Whiz is building his own legacy as he recently became an NRHA Three Million Dollar Sire. He crossed his first million-dollar milestone in 2015.

The 2003 stallion boasts an impressive show record that puts his NRHA LTE just over $187,000.  Ridden by NRHA Six Million Dollar Rider Shawn Flarida, Walla Walla Whiz raked in several top-notch finishes in a short amount of time. His show career started when he was 3 years old and wrapped by 2008.

Some of the most noteworthy placings Walla Walla Whiz earned include being crowned the 2007 NRHA Level (L)4 Open Derby Champion, the 2006 Tulsa Reining Classic L4 Open Futurity Champion, and taking third place in the 2007 National Reining Breeders Classic (NRBC) L4 Open Derby.

Owned by Arcese Quarter Horses USA, Walla Walla Whiz is the sire of more than 600 NRHA offspring. He’s still standing in Weatherford, Texas, at Oswood Stallion Station alongside many other influential NRHA sires.

Walla Walla Whiz’s top-earning offspring are:

• Shesouttayourleague (out of Wimpys Little Chic): $252,470 NRHA LTE
• Isnt She Perfect (out of Miss Silver Gun): $170,109 NRHA LTE
• Americas Supermodel (out of Americasnextgunmodel): $135,755 NRHA LTE
• Made In Walla (out of Hollywood Made): $133,077 NRHA LTE
• ARC Walla Dun Did It (out of Dainty Dunit): $114,180 NRHA LTE

Congratulations to Walla Walla Whiz and Gunner on these outstanding achievements!

NRHA to Recognize Mike Carrier with Lifetime Achievement Award

OKC CVB head to receive honor from equine sport’s Oklahoma City-based organization

Following the presentation of the National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) Hall of Fame Committee’s recommended nominees, the Board of Directors and past Hall of Fame inductees voted to approve the late Sally Brown and the late Jerry Kimmel for induction into the NRHA Hall of Fame, a project of the Reining Horse Foundation (RHF). Also announced was selection of Oklahoma City Convention and Visitors Bureau President Mike Carrier as the 2020 NRHA Dale Wilkinson Lifetime Achievement Award recipient.

The Dale Wilkinson Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes people and horses who have contributed significantly to the sport or the NRHA. Nominees also must have a personal passion for the sport and have impacted reining in a positive way. They do not need to be NRHA members, active or former competitors, owners or breeders.

The award is named in honor of Dale Wilkinson, a multiple NRHA Futurity champion remembered as the “father of reining.” He was of the NRHA’s founding members, and an educator, promoter of the sport and mentor to reiners – professional and non pro – on how competitors should conduct themselves, and train and exhibit a horse.

The honorees will be recognized during the 2020 NRHA Futurity and then formally celebrated at a future banquet after COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.

Mike Carrier

Impact on reining, passion for the sport, and a record for drawing people to the industry are all selection criteria for the NRHA Dale Wilkinson Lifetime Achievement Award and the 2020 recipient, Mike Carrier, checks all the boxes. It’s hard to imagine where NRHA would be in recent years had he not been an advocate for the sport.

Mike is not a reiner, doesn’t own horses, and only recently got a really great hat, but he has been a champion of the association as a whole. As President of the Oklahoma City Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), Mike promoted both NRHA and the reining horse. Over the years his face has become familiar to reiners from around the world and his ebullient spirit and engaging personality have endeared him to those who have come to know him.

Mike’s retirement in the fall of 2020 marks the end of an era, and he will long be remembered for understanding the importance and impact of reining, not only to Oklahoma City, but to the entire equine industry throughout his 13 years with the Oklahoma City CVB. Whether through a corporate partnership, the NRHA Futurity Freestyle sponsorship, assisting with the NRHA Convention, or simply advocating for the association and its members at the government level, Mike has always been loyal to the association.

He was instrumental in helping secure the new Coliseum to be built at State Fair Park, and several years ago, recognized NRHA as a “Hometown Hero,” an award proudly displayed in the NRHA Office. Most recently, Mike was vital in conversations with the city and Mayor David Holt regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and pushing for NRHA to be able to hold the 2020 NRHA Derby. That was not unusual – he has consistently been a resource to the association by sharing introductions and contacts to help position NRHA as a pillar of the business community.

On a personal level, Mike has supported the nonprofit RHF and is a member of its Reiners Club recognizing unrestricted gifts. He regularly attends reining meetings and events and loves introducing his staff, friends, and family to the sport.

His contributions will have a long-lasting impact after he steps away at the professional level.

NRHA Announces 2020 Hall of Fame Inductees

Following the presentation of the National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) Hall of Fame Committee’s recommended nominees, the Board of Directors and past Hall of Fame inductees voted to approve Sally Brown and Jerry Kimmel for induction into the NRHA Hall of Fame, a project of the Reining Horse Foundation (RHF). Induction is recognized as the sport’s highest honor.

Also announced was the selection of Oklahoma City Convention and Visitors Bureau President Mike Carrier as the NRHA Dale Wilkinson Lifetime Achievement Award recipient for 2020.

These honorees will be recognized during the 2020 NRHA Futurity and then formally celebrated at a future banquet after COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.

Sally Brown

Sally Brown was first involved in breeding cutting horses but when she switched to reining, she changed the industry forever. Her vision, innovation, knowledge of pedigrees, and innate management style put her far ahead of her time, in an era when reining breeding programs did not yet exist.

Although an accident left her unable to ride, she impacted the industry with leadership and influence that will continue for generations. Of course, she is known for co-owning Hollywood Jac 86, reining’s first Million Dollar Sire, but as singular as he was, that was just the tip of the iceberg.

When Sally and lifetime partner Buck Hazledine moved her operation to Maple Plain, Minnesota, establishing Fox Meadow Farm, things began to take shape. With guidance from neighbor and friend NRHA Three Million Dollar Rider Tim McQuay, who counseled that having a great stallion was only part of the equation, Sally and Hall of Famer Richard Greenberg formed the Jac Pac breeding partnership. The Jac Pac alliance did center around Hollywood Jac 86, but it also included broodmares brought to the partnership by both parties.

Sally continued actively working to promote reining in Minnesota and supporting the local NRHA Affiliate, the North Central Reining Horse Association. She is credited, along with Tim and Colleen McQuay and Jim Robins, with initiating the NRHA Derby in St. Paul. Former Fox Meadow head trainer Troy Heikes said, “Many members told me that when they were putting that show together the question would come up, ‘How are we going to pay for that?’ and Sally would reply, ‘I’ve got that covered.’”

The ensuing decades brought more success and laurels to Fox Meadow Farm. Hollywood Jac 86 would ultimately be inducted into the NRHA Hall of Fame. In 1999, Whizard Jac, a product of Sally’s breeding program, won the first United States Equestrian Team (USET) Reining Championship in Gladstone, New Jersey.

Her breeding program continued after Hollywood Jac 86’s passing as she booked her great mares to sires such as NRHA Four Million Dollar Sire Shining Spark and NRHA Twelve Million Dollar Sire Topsail Whiz. Sally was known for supporting local trainers throughout the area – and across the US. She wanted to give everyone and their career a chance with a good horse. Her generosity gave a jump-start to the careers of many young professionals.

She became the NRHA’s Leading Breeder and her program produced champions of every major reining competition and program that existed, but she remained humble about the accolades. No matter whether they were a champion or beginner, Sally always took the time to talk about horses with anyone she met. She wanted nothing more than to bring new people into reining and her kindness and love for the industry is still remembered – both in the hearts of reiners and on the pedigrees of great horses.

In 2008, the year after her passing, Sally was honored as the recipient of the first NRHA Dale Wilkinson Lifetime Achievement award in recognition of her contributions to and support of NRHA across so many platforms.

Jerry Kimmel

Jerry Kimmel is the hundredth inductee into the NRHA Hall of Fame. An extremely successful businessman who immersed himself into the horse world upon retirement, not even his vision could have predicted the impact he would have on the reining industry.

Jerry was born and raised in Marshall, Michigan, where he began a business called Kevco Inc. with his friend Bill Everett. Over three decades, the business expanded to become one of the country’s leading distributors of plumbing and building materials, and its headquarters were moved to Fort Worth, Texas. It continued to grow and went public in the 90s. Jerry thrived in the corporate world but after decades of hard work, retired and settled down with his wife, Carmen, on a 225-acre ranch in Granbury, Texas.

Shortly after his retirement began, Jerry got involved in the world of western pleasure with trainer Cleve Wells. He may not have stayed with that discipline, but its moniker accurately defined exactly what he got from horses – sheer pleasure. He once stated, “I retired totally from business. For me, horses are just fun.”

After making his mark in the western pleasure pen, Jerry began to pour his heart, soul, and wallet into the reining world.  Along the way, his love for horses created a legacy of friendship and goodwill that has seldom been replicated.

It all started with one reining horse, Indy Star Dun It, which Jerry showed in NRHA Non Pro competition, but it was soon apparent that one would never be enough. He loved showing as a Non Pro, and a finalist slot earned at an event like the National Reining Breeders Classic (NRBC) would have him bubbling with excitement. Through Jerry’s ability to make friends and the success of his horses, Kimmel Reining Horses became well known to reiners worldwide. His longtime relationship with NRHA Three Million Dollar Rider Tim McQuay and McQuay Stables centered around showing and breeding great horses and ultimately focused on his two beloved stallions, Dun Gotta Gun and Mister Nicadual.

His home base, J Bar C Ranch in Granbury, Texas, worked in tandem with McQuay Stables to produce top reining horses. Jerry and Carmen lived on the property and their granddaughter Lindsey Raymond subsequently oversaw much of the breeding and fitting operations.

Jerry’s love for the discipline expanded and he became an avid supporter of reining and reiners at all levels. Whether it was an auction for youth activities or a fundraiser for a fellow reiner in need, he was all in. His dream for reining was to have full stands and engaged fans, as he wanted to give others an opportunity to enjoy the horses he loved. Jerry became involved with horse show production, partnering with Ray Roles to found the Scottsdale Classic Futurity and Quarter Horse Show. Later he joined Colleen McQuay and Anne-Marie Burns in creating Global Reining Sport Group, which produces the Tulsa Reining Classic. He also was a donor to RHF and a member of its Reiners Club in recognition of his unrestricted annual gifts. In 2014, he was honored with NRHA’s Dale Wilkinson Lifetime Achievement Award.

A defining moment for Jerry came with the 2006 Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) World Equestrian Games when he paid for Team USA to travel to Aachen, Germany. His son, Greg Kimmel, recalled. “They couldn’t raise all of the money for the trip, and Dad said, ‘We’re going. We’re doing this.’ He told everybody on that team, ‘Pack your bags. We’re going!’”

It was the trip of a lifetime. With Tim McQuay aboard, Kimmel’s stallion Mister Nicadual won team gold and an individual silver. It was a treasured honor and a proud moment for the unassuming man who had literally made it happen from behind the scenes.

The man who “loved horses and the people who love them” passed away this year at the age of 82 but his impact on the reining horse world will live on forever. Kimmel Reining Horses is still in operation thanks to Jerry’s daughter, Chris Pearce, who relocated the business and its horses to her ranch in Weatherford, Texas, in 2018.