Melissa Miller, of Belton, Texas, admittedly felt a bit apprehensive and had butterflies in her stomach as she rode back into the show pen on 12-year-old Little Bunny Fou Fou for the Boxing finals. The pair had narrowly escaped a disastrous wreck during their prelim run when “Bunny” tripped during run-in pattern.
“I almost thought we were going to DQ [be disqualified] because she was almost on her knees, but she pulled it out!” said Miller, who guided the mare to the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) Adequan Select Boxing World Championship with a 442.5 (219.5 rein/223 cow). Miller also rode Genuine And Stylish (Playin Stylish x Genuine Cross Tie x Smart Retsina), a 10-year-old homebred mare, to a 10th-place finish in the Boxing.
“I loved our [finals] dry work,” Miller said of her run on Bunny. “Her circles were good, she stopped great. I was just very, very proud. That was probably the best dry work we have ever had.”
This year marks the fifth time Miller has competed in the Select World Show. In 2017, she and Bunny (Meradas Money Talks x Lucky Baylite x Grays Starlight), bred by Gary and Kathy Benton, of Benton, Kansas, were the Boxing Reserve World Champions and they won the Ranch Riding World title.
“She’s just a great-minded mare, and she’s really cowy,” Miller said. “She always tries for you; there’s just no quit in her.”
Miller, who has ridden with trainer Brad Lund for 10 years, said she is probably the only “weak link” in the program.
“If I just stay out of Bunny’s way, she’s going to put me at the top.”
Miller has owned Bunny since 2014. Previous owner Kim Laser, who is Lund’s sister-in-law, also won a Boxing World title on the horse. But the impressive accolades don’t stop there. Lund’s wife was the Open Ranch Riding Reserve World Champion one year on Bunny, Miller said, and the mare carried Lund to a Senior Heading World Championship.
Bunny has been bred via embryo transfer and has several offspring on the ground already. Her oldest progeny, a 2-year-old, is in training with Lund.
Miller admitted Bunny’s retirement from the show pen looms ahead, but she’s not quite ready to make that call.
“She’s won nine AQHA [World] globes between the Open, Amateur and Select World shows,” Miller said. “I’d like to try and get that 10th one, so I can say she has 10 globes. I’m probably going to retire her after next year, but I know I’ll never be able to fill her shoes. She definitely owes me nothing; she’s been a great one!”
Miller and Bunny are already qualified for next year’s Select World, Miller said, so the mare will stay at home for now to get some well-deserved rest.
Although Miller has qualified for this year’s AQHA World Show, she said she will forego competing herself and just be there to support Lund, who will be showing a number of cow horses and rope horses.
“I love to go watch Brad show,” she said. “I get away to watch him more than I do to show myself. He gives you everything he has. He’s so good with his customers; I’ve never met a more honest and giving horse trainer. There’s nothing that he wouldn’t do for his clients. He bends over backwards to get the horses ready and to be there for you.”