National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) Professional Jason Vanlandingham recently reached what many riders consider the “crowning achievement” in an NRHA competitor’s reining career when his NRHA earnings topped the million-dollar mark. “It’s a big honor and a tribute to all the people who have supported you and all our clients who have put us on great horses,” Vanlandingham shared while discussing his recent achievement. “We have been blessed by God to be in a business that we love and be successful at it. It’s a very humbling thing.”
Vanlandingham earned his first paycheck in 2000, when he guided Happy Moonshadow (PT) (Ris Key Business [PT] x Miss Midget Win x Tailwinds Trump) to a fifth-place finish in a Limited Open ancillary class at the NRHA Derby. That $41 paycheck was the seed money that began his trek toward $1 million dollars.
Along the way, Vanlandingham piloted some outstanding reining horses and won his share of events. Aboard Gallos Stylish Star (Gallo Del Cielo x A Stylish Queen x Docs Stylish Oak) he was the 2008 NRHA Derby Level 4 Open Co-Champion and third in the 2005 NRHA Futurity Intermediate Open. Riding Whizin Off Sparks (Topsail Whiz x Setting Off Sparks x Shining Spark), he was 2007 Derby Intermediate Open Champion. A Smokin Whiz (Topsail Whiz x PF Nu Miss Royal Rsk x Royal Silver King) carried Vanlandingham to the 2011 NRHA Derby Level 3 Open Championship.
There were many more horses, as well as trainers that helped Vanlandingham earn his million-dollar rider status. “It’s a great business to be in when the guys you’re competing against are willing to help you out,” Vanlandingham said.
In 2013, Vanlandingham had what he described as “the most memorable ride as well as his biggest accomplishment on the back of a horse.” He created quite a stir when he began showing Vaughn Zimmerman’s Not Ruf At All (A Sparkling Vintage x All Ruffed Up x Lil Ruf Peppy) in the fall futurities.
The pair debuted at the Hollywoodstinseltown Futurity Open in Tulsa, Oklahoma, winning the Level 4 Open. Their next stop was Las Vegas, where they topped the High Roller Reining Classic Futurity Level 4 Open. It was on to Oklahoma City and the NRHA Futurity, where they once again bested the rest of the competition to claim the NRHA Futurity Level 4 Open Championship, banking $156,750.
They hardly missed a beat in 2014, heading for Katy, Texas, and the National Reining Breeders Classic, where they earned more than $23,000, placing seventh in the Level 4 Open. Back in Oklahoma City, the duo claimed the NRHA Derby Level 4 Open Championship, adding another $61,000 to their substantial bank accounts. And they won again in Las Vegas, taking the Lucas Oil Derby Level 4 Open. Together, they’ve earned $328,149.
Vanlandingham attributes his success in the show pen to God. “It’s a humbling business, but it’s awesome to know that we have been blessed by the good Lord to have the success we have and to get us through the tough times,” said Vanlandingham. “If we didn’t have Him we would have nothing to live for.”