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Rich rewards

Hard work, dedication and talent add up to success for Temecula-based reined cow horse trainer Roy Rich

From Horsetrader staff - May 1st, 2018 - Cover Story

1805A CoverTEMECULA — May has been marked on the calendar at Roy Rich’s barn since winter, and for good reason.
Last year, he enjoyed a record year that culminated in the National Reined Cow Horse Association Open Bridle Championship with Very Smart Luck (Very Smart Remedy x Gunna Be Lucky x Gunna Smoke). But just before the NRCHA Celebration of Champions in Fort Worth, Texas, the 7-year-old gelding underwent colic surgery and was forced to the sidelines until this month.

Very Smart Luck, owned by Rocking J Ranch, was acquired from Annie Reynolds as a yearling, and the pair’s success has been a testimony to the hard work, dedication and talent of the Temecula-based trainer.
We took an opportunity to talk to Roy between rides.

Roy, what sets last year apart for you?
It’s the first time that I’d won an Open Bridle year-end with SCCRHA, and it’s really the first big open bridle stuff that I’ve won. I’ve been second a few times in the local level and I’ve placed, but I’ve never had a real big win in the Open Bridle, so that’s a big accomplishment for me.

What does the NRCHA Open Bridle National Championship mean to you?
To win it, you have to show a lot and place. So it just means that the horse was a strong contender every time he showed. Consistency is hard to find in a horse that is shown a lot. Sometimes they get pretty smart in the show pen and other things like that. To have him just be “on it” everywhere we went last year was a big accomplishment.

You just credited the horse for everything, Roy. As the trainer, what can you do to help keep that edge all year, like you did?
One of the big things when you show in the ring is to be a little more patient — in between maneuvers, in between your stops and your spins — be more patient. Walk a little ways before you lope off. Those are little things that they are not going to hit you for. You don’t lose points. But, it makes your horse be relaxed when you show him, and it gives him a chance to think in betwwen maneuvers. Then, they dont get rattled in the show pen and you can keep showing. Stay real correct and don’t “ride around” anything, especially if you are at a little show that maybe doesn’t mean as much to win. If you need to fix something, go ahead and fix it, and then it pays down the line for the bigger shows.

Are there any trainers who have influenced you more than others?
The biggest is Don Murphy. He’s helped me a lot and currently helps me. And I worked for Doug Williamson for two years, and there is so much knowledge in Doug as far as ways to think about approaching animals and the way animals think and how to shape their minds to be on your side. It really sunk in back then, and I still go back to that everytime I approach an animal.
It’s good for handling, cattle, too. Never let your cows learn something bad. Never let your cows run short in the pen. Always make your cows run long, and then they’ll run long for quite a while. Same thing with the horses. Never let them learn anything bad — always show them the right way.

So if a horse learns something bad, it’s your own fault!
“Exactly. You missed a step somewhere, overlooked something or you rode around something. Its an awareness. You got to be aware of the horse’s mind at all times. You take a second off, and things get sloppy.

How long have you been in cowhorse
Since about 2001.

What are your goals.
“My biggest goal is to feel like I’ve gotten the most out of my horses and I’ve trained them to be the best horses they can be. I’m just not there yet. That’s the biggest goal. Then, after that, the winning would happen. But I just want to get to where I have every detail covered with my horses and they are just trained and showing to perfection. I don’t feel like I’ve even gotten close yet.

That search for perfection is what gets you up in the morning, isn’t it.
“Yep. It sure does.”

What else gets you going?
“I have the best customers in the country. All of them — all my amateurs, all the people who own my open horses. Candy Flock. Rocking J. Paul Yoder. They believe in me and they believe in my vision. That’s an important thing when you are doing this — that everybody has a cohesive vision. Just to go and be the best and do what you have to do to get it done. Don’t weaken. Dont let short-term goals get in your way. Always think about the big picture. Keep focused on that.

Speaking of long term, what about the bridle competition itself and the aged events.
“To have a bridle horse that you’ve shown and it’s shown in the bridle for quite a few years successfully and honestly, it just means you did your job right, in the planning in the years prior. You didn’t skip any steps and everything was done right in the first five years in the horse’s training– and then you went on with it and kept everything honest.

I imagine the satisfaction level is pretty deep when you do accomplish that.
“Yes, it is. And it’s a pretty fun process along the way. There is so much for us to show them in as 3-, 4- and 5-year olds, and then older. There are so many things we can do with them, and it’s fun to get to show them as young horses in the futurity and derby experience, and then go show them with the big bridle horse stuff.

Will we see you show Very Smart Luck at events the rest of the year?
“You know, he had colic surgery at the end of January, so he gets to go back to work the first of May. I’m hoping he can make it to the NRCHA Derby for the Bridle Spectacular, and then we’ll show him the rest of the year. I’d like to try him at the World’s Richest at the NSHA show in August.

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