Top Cutting Trainers Roll With the Changes

MattTaraGainesTara and Matt GainesRoger Wagner has ridden Stylish Martini to a lead in the 2013 National Cutting Horse Association Open Horse of the Year race and will soon become the 14th rider in cutting history to earn more than $4 million. He’s also looking for a new job.

Wagner’s most recent employer, Marvine Ranch recently sold its remaining 24 horses to David and Stacie McDavid, of Fort Worth, Texas. The 343-acre Aledo, Texas facility Wagner had worked from is up for sale. Several other top cutting trainers, including top all-time Open rider Matt Gaines, million-dollar earners Jeremy Barwick, 2012 NCHA Super Stakes Open Champion Clay Johnson, and 2012 NCHA Futurity Open Co-Champions Ronnie and Tarin Rice, have also made major changes recently.

“I’m kind of a free agent right now,” said Wagner after an NCHA Summer Spectacular Classic/Challenge Open win in Fort Worth with Stylish Martini.

Recently Wagner has been working alongside the McDavids’ lead trainer, Clint Allen, with some of the same horses Wagner formerly trained for Marvine Ranch. He’s glad to have the transitional situation, but said he’s still seeking his next full-time gig.

Tarin Rice, formerly lead trainer for Third Cutting owners Carl and Shawnea Smith, in Jacksboro, Texas, recently accepted an offer from Center Ranch owner Finis Welch. He joined his great uncle, Ronnie Rice, training horses in Centerville, Texas. Tarin, 24, and Ronnie, 65, were 2012 NCHA Futurity Open Co-Champion riders aboard He Bea Cat and CR Tuff Hearted Cat, respectively. Their partnership started Aug. 1. The pair will share Center Ranch horses, and each will retain a few other clients and horses, both riders said. Ronnie and his son, Tag, also worked together for a while. Tag earned cutting’s limited-age “Triple Crown” riding Chiquita Pistol in 2002-03. Ronnie won two of his three NCHA Futurity Open titles while working with his son.

“That will probably never be duplicated, but we’d sure like to emulate it,” Tarin said. “We will have his experience, and there will be a lot of horsepower there. We liked where we were at, but this is a good deal, and we’re looking forward to it.”

Ronnie said he’s looking forward to working with Tarin, too. “He’s full of energy and just fun to have around. He’s also a really good hand. He’s just a young man, but he’s been around horses a long time, and he has the timing and the mindset.”

Cutting’s top-earning all-time Open rider, Matt Gaines, found himself in a different situation. Starting Aug. 1, he and his wife, Tara, became the lead trainer and breeding operations manager, respectively, for Reata Cutting Horses LLC, owned by Los Olivos, Calif. cutting couple Chuck and Stephanie Roven. Placing all their horses with one trainer will allow the Rovens to spend more time with them, Gaines said. The Gaineses will remain at their same Weatherford, Texas facility. By the end of this year, 25 to 30 horses from California will join them, making the Rovens the largest single client Gaines has trained for.

“It’s still Matt Gaines Cutting Horses. It’s just instead of having 20 different customers, we’ve narrowed it down to one with several horses, and a few others,” said Gaines, who will still train for other clients on a select basis.

Jeremy Barwick and his wife, Candace, recently purchased Western Bloodstock, a move that didn’t allow Jeremy time to keep training for his many loyal customers. A three-time NCHA Open World Champion and NCHA Hall of Fame Open Rider, Barwick brought in longtime friend and respected trainer Clay Johnson to take over his practice and train from his Stephenville, Texas ranch. Johnson won the 2012 NCHA Super Stakes Open with KR Isadora.

“They were happy we did what we did, and noboby left. He [Clay] has trained some good horses,” said Barwick, who considers himself “semi-retired” as a trainer. “He can obviously handle the job. He’s a hard worker, and he’s easy to ride behind. “Would I like to show again some day? Yes. If the time comes and I have the time to do it, I will, but I won’t take anything away from running this company,” Barwick said of his new role at Western Bloodstock.