Being a True Horseman
Matt Mills strives to be a trainer and competitor with the reputation of being an overall good horseman. He showed in the all-around events as a youth, but was quickly drawn to the reining discipline. He began his own business, Matt Mills Reining Horses, in 2001.
“In reining you get to go fast,” Mills said. “I was sick of going slow all the time. You have to go slow part of the time, but you do get to go fast in a reining pattern. The run in, sliding and spinning was something that really attracted me. Then the fact that there is a scoring system is good and it’s not just go around the rail and basically let a judge say whether they like you or not. There’s a pretty complex scoring system with reining and after each run you see how they scored you, and to me I think it is more fair.”
Since his start 17 years ago, Mills has done many great things with his program. One route he has taken is putting on clinics and creating online training videos. He used to do numerous clinics in the U.S. and internationally. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been able to do them lately. Most of us in the equine industry know that time is an issue and training 25-30 horses year-round takes up almost all of your time! Mills decided to create online training videos to substitute those clinics he didn’t have the extra time to do.
“People wanted me to do them, but I just didn’t have the time. What I did was just come up with these tutorials with a lot of the same drills and exercises that I would do at a clinic. I just put it into video form and offered that as a service, so people can at least get on and kind of keep up with what I’m doing and how I’m doing it. I tried to make it really simple and easy to follow, but I also added parts to allow you to progress and be as advanced as you want for training and maintaining a horse. I’ve taken some of my colts and we have actually videoed me starting them. I go from step one in the videos. You kind of have to get a little philosophy from the very beginning to understand the end because it all ties in. It’s pretty much A to Z. There’s a little bit of everything on there.”
The videos offer a subscription option, which gets you a discount and more access to Mills. It’s definitely more beneficial in the long run.
“The videos come out monthly,” Mills said. “You can buy specific videos, but what I really encourage is the monthly subscription. You get a 20% discount if you buy it annually. If you are a subscriber I give you access to me throughout the year. If you are at a show and you have a question with a horse, you want to watch me ride it or you want to come to my facility and come ride with me, I allow you to do that. I don’t do outside lessons. That comes back to the lack of time thing. If you are a subscriber I’ll know you kind of understand my lingo already and we can get right to work. It’s not just someone showing up and you have to try to explain 50 things in one hour. I like to be interactive with my subscribers. Sometimes those people will send me videos of an issue with their horse and I will email them back or even do a tutorial video the next month going over that issue and how to solve the problem.”
Mills met Matt Kimes at a young age and they quickly became friends. They lived in the same area and saw each other at shows constantly. Mills recently joined our team and is a huge fan of his Kimes Ranch Jeans. He prefers to wear the Dillon 2.0 style.
“I’ve been sitting back and watching as he has been growing Kimes Ranch,” Mills said. “I’ve always been interested and then Matt brought in a good friend of mine, Garrett Cooper. The whole company is made of people I have been friends with for 20 plus years. They are right down the street from me. It was just a no brainer and easy transition. I know how professional Matt is and you can see how the company is just growing. The quality is great and it’s made in the U.S. There’s not a whole lot you couldn’t like about what they are doing. Right away it just feels like you are a part of the team. The jeans are fantastic, but it’s great to be part of something that is building and growing. It makes you proud to feel like you’re part of that group.”
When asked what his greatest showing accomplishment was, Mills said hands down it was winning the gold medal for Team USA at the 2006 World Equestrian Games. When it comes to his personal biggest accomplishment, he believes it is developing an uplifting program with the reputation of being a good horseman.
“To me my biggest accomplishment is that I have the ability to take a horse and get the maximum potential out of it and to not burn through a lot of them,” Mills said. “I’ve created a program where a horse that might not be a superstar can get as trained or broke as he possibly can, without being crippled or burned out at the end. That’s probably what I am most proud of. With that if you have the right caliber horse, you’re going to win those titles. I’ve made the futurity finals and a lot of other things, but title wise the gold medal pans out more than anything. At the end of the day I would rather be judged as being a good horseman. If you came and wanted to ride a horse behind me, you or anyone else could ride it.”
The World Equestrian Games are held every four years usually alternating between the U.S. and Europe. This time it will be held in North Carolina. Mills is hopeful for the opportunity to compete for Team USA once again and win another gold.
“This year is the qualifying year,” Mills said. “This is going to be a huge deal. I’ve got a horse called Wimps Cool Breeze that we’ve gone through the process of getting qualified and now we are down to the team selection trial in May. I have to be in the top six at that competition. If that happens, this fall the World Equestrian Games will be in North Carolina at the Tryon International Equestrian Center. It’s huge. That will be amazing to get a chance to try to compete for the U.S. team again.”
We wish Matt Mills Reining Horses the best of luck on the World Equestrian Games and the other shows for the 2018 season! For more information about Mills visit his website and social media outlets below.
~ Courtney Hall, Photos Courtesy of Karen Mills