The National Reined Cow Horse Association’s (NRCHA) list of top money-earners continues to grow, as professional horseman Jay McLaughlin passes the seven-figure milestone to become the 12th NRCHA Million Dollar Rider. As of July 11, 2016, McLaughlin’s earnings were $1,005,276.
“Among horse trainers, the Million Dollar Rider is an awesome title. It’s cool to be at the very top, and it’s an honor I have always wanted,” McLaughlin said.
With the addition of his reining earnings, McLaughlin surpassed the $1 million threshold in Equi-Stat back in 2013. He has won more than $172,000 in the reining pen.
McLaughlin was born in 1974, into a Missouri family where horses were a primary focus. McLaughlin’s father, Mike, was a versatile professional horse trainer who prepared Quarter Horses for many disciplines, including reining, pleasure, halter, western riding, horsemanship, trail, barrels, poles and more. His mother, Julann, built a successful 4-H program from the ground up, and operated it for decades. McLaughlin credits her for instilling his strong foundation as a rider and competitor.
“When I was 10 years old, I wanted to ride in the ‘canter classes,’ as I called them. I didn’t want to do the walk-trot; I didn’t do the lead line. I always set my goals higher,” McLaughlin recalled. “Her rule for me was, I had to show in the horsemanship, the showmanship, all of that stuff, before I could do any of the reining or the barrels or the poles or any of the other fun classes. I think that has a lot to do with my horsemanship skills. It was fun for me because I’m very competitive, so I excelled at those too. I wanted to win. It’s hard for anybody to be second, but I really took it hard.”
McLaughlin’s competitive nature served him well as he grew up and followed in his father’s footsteps, starting his professional horse training career at age 18. His initial focus on reining soon turned to the adrenalin-fueled challenge of reined cow horse.
“The cow horse is the most difficult discipline that I’ve ever been associated with. You can only ride so many cow horses a day. You have to learn how to train those horses in three events, or two events, depending on the age of the horse, not burn them out, and strive to have something that will go mark a 75 in every event,” he said.
According to NRCHA records, McLaughlin earned his first reined cow horse paycheck in 1999. In 2004, he made his debut at the Snaffle Bit Futurity, enjoying success that few first-timers can claim by qualifying for the Open and Intermediate Open Futurity Finals on SS Rosa (Sailing Smart x Snowmans Rose x Snowman Doc), owned by Julie Gibbons.
“I can still remember my scores that got me into the Open finals the first year I ever went. I marked a 209 in the herd, a 217.5 in the rein work and a 219 down the fence. You can’t do that any more. There’s no way you could make the Open finals marking a 209 now. That’s how much I think it’s changed. It wasn’t very long ago, and it’s that much more competitive,” McLaughlin said.
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