Top Western performance horse industry trainers participated in a recent episode of Yellowstone. They are (from left to right): Kelby Phillips, Todd Bergen, Bob Avila, Corey Cushing and Tracer Gilson. • Photo courtesy of Corey Cushing.

Who They Rode: Trainers Bring Top Horses to Yellowstone TV Show

When the actors and actresses from the hit series Yellowstone walk the red carpet, reporters ask who they’re wearing. When horse trainers appear on the show, horse people ask — who were they riding?

In last week’s episode of Season 3 of Paramount Network’s hit series, Western performance horse trainers Bob Avila, Todd Bergen, Corey Cushing, Tracer Gilson and Kelby Phillips all appeared on camera on Episode 8, “I Killed A Man Today.”

The premise for the Yellowstone episode? Character John Dutton, the family patriarch played by actor Kevin Costner, is looking to buy a horse. And, he wants it to be a working cow horse.

The riders presented him quite a lineup to choose from, ranging from veteran bridle horses with long and accomplished show records to younger horses still competing in the sport’s top limited-age events.

The Yellowstone episode included earners in the National Reined Cow Horse Association (NRCHA), National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) and point-earners through the American Quarter Horse Association(AQHA).

Quarter Horse News talked to the trainers to get the skinny on who rode what:

Bob Avila: Not My Day Job

Pedigree: 05G (Smart Zanolena x Shining Sprats Vanna x Shining Spark)
Owner: Dana Avila
Breeder: Matt & Lesley Day, of Bend, OR
Lifetime Earnings: $16,832
Career Highlights: Not My Day Job, aka “Brutus,” has done a little bit of everything since his show career began in 2008. Bob has won with the horse in the NRCHA, as has his wife, Dana, and the horse also is a money winner in reining. He’s got a wide and varied AQHA show record, earning points in roping, halter, reining, working cow horse and ranch events.
Notes: Bob rode the horse’s father, Smart Zanolena, to the 1999 NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity Open Championship. The Avilas bought him the roan gelding yearling, and have been showing him ever since. “We head on him, heel on him, show him in the cutting, the reining, the cow horse, the halter,” Bob said. “She does all the ranch versatility stuff on him. He’s a Superior cow horse, Superior reiner, AQHA Champion, he’s won lots and lots of stuff, and he can do anything.”


Todd Bergen: Smartly Starstruck

Pedigree: 12S (Very Smart Remedy x Katie Starlight x Grays Starlight)
Owner: McSpyder Ranch
Breeder: Cinder Lakes Ranch LLC, Valley View, TX
Lifetime Earnings: $73,625
Career Highlights: An NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity Open finalist at 3, Smartly Starstruck now regularly places at the top of the bridle horse ranks. Earlier this year, he and Bergen were fourth in the World’s Greatest Horseman competition in Fort Worth – and his previous top finishes include the Open Bridle Championship at last year’s NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity and the Reserve Championship at the 2016 NRCHA Hackamore Classic.
Notes: With more than $2.9 million in progeny earnings, his father, Very Smart Remedy, is nearing $3 Million Sire status. His mother, Katie Starlight, is an NRCHA Hall of Fame horse who was the first horse to win the World’s Greatest Horseman competition.


Corey Cushing: Metallic Memorey

Pedigree: 16S (Metallic Cat x Memorey x Dual Rey)
Owner: Eric & Wendy Dunn, Norwich, KS
Breeder: Albert & Colette Benson, Lac La Biche, CN
Lifetime Earnings: $28,264
Career Highlights: Finalist at the 2019 NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity and the National Stock Horse Association Snaffle Bit Futurity. Also made the finals of the Tres Osos Derby at this year’s NRCHA Celebration of Champions.
Notes: His father, National Cutting Horse Association Futurity Open Champion Metallic Cat, is an Equi-Stat Elite $35 Million Sire who himself is slated to be on an upcoming episode of Yellowstone. The horse’s mother, Memorey, was a cutting horse who won $77,820 and ranked in the top 10 in the 2016 NCHA World Standings in both the $5,000 Novice and the $5,000 Novice Non-Pro classes.


Tracer Gilson: High Class Trash

Pedigree: 15M (Gunnatrashya x Taris Little Vintage x Peppy San Badger).
Owner: Loren Booth, Orange Cove, CA
Breeder: Loren Booth, Orange Cove, CA
Lifetime earnings: $10,097
Career Highlights: Even though she went down the fence in Yellowstone, High Class Trash’s money-winning starts were all in reining. She and Gilson competed at the 2018 NRHA Futurity, and made the Open and Intermediate Open finals of that year’s High Roller and Best of the West futurities.
Notes: High Class Trash’s father, Gunnatrashya, is the 2009 NRHA Futurity Open Champion and the father of earners of more than $3.8 million. Her mother, Taris Little Vintage, is a National Reining Horse Association Hall of Fame member who is the mother of $776,125 in winners – and is the maternal grandmother of the winners of $873,737.


Kelby Phillips: Nineteen Ten

Pedigree: 16S (Hickory Holly Time x Lil Miss Shiney Chex x Shining Spark)
Owner: DT Horses & Dean Tuftin
Breeder: Carol Rose, Gainesville, TX
Lifetime earnings: $142,877
Career Highlights: Nineteen Ten and Kelby were the Open Reserve champions at the 2019 NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity, and made the Open finals at this year’s Tres Osos Derby and NRCHA Derby.
Notes: Phillips rode Nineteen Ten’s father, Hickory Holly Time, to the 2018 World’s Greatest Horseman Championship and $231,020 in career earnings. The horse’s mother, Lil Miss Shiney Chex, has produced 13 money-winning performers with total earnings of $631,319.