• Photo by Molly Montag.

15 Invited to The Run For A Million $150,000 Cow Horse Event

Fifteen of the top cow horse riders in North America received invites to the inaugural $150,000 Invitational Fence Work Challenge at this summer’s The Run For A Million.

Show producer Amanda Brumley said invitations were recently sent to the top 15 riders on the National Reined Cow Horse Association (NRCHA) open eligibility list. She said competitors can ride any horse in the event, so long as it is a bridle horse as defined by NRCHA rules.

The class held during The Run For A Million, which is scheduled for Aug. 18-21 in Las Vegas, consists of a single fence run, also called cow work. There are no preliminary go-rounds, and riders will not the complete rein work or herd work runs traditionally held during a reined cow horse competition. Brumley said the class will not be NRCHA approved.

This is the first time cow horse riders will compete at The Run For A Million, which debuted in 2019 in conjunction with Paramount Network’s The Last Cowboy reality show and is centered around a $1 million invitational event for reiners.

Brumley said bringing reined cow horse is part of the overall goal of The Run For A Million, which was founded by Yellowstone television series co-creator Taylor Sheridan to promote the Western way of life. Organizers had planned to incorporate reined cow horses in 2020, but that show was canceled due to restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have brought in the Fence Challenge to add an exciting performance to the event for spectators as it follows our objective of highlighting the Western lifestyle,” Brumley said. “Our intention is to continue expansion in the future to additional Western lifestyle disciplines to include cutting and team roping.”

Top Riders

The list of invitees for the inaugural Invitational Fence Work Challenge includes some of the biggest names int he sport, including winners of the NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity, World’s Greatest Horseman and NRCHA World Championships.

Invitee Justin Wright said he was excited to see the growth of the sport, and to have a big, one-run event like spectators will see at The Run For A Million. He wasn’t sure which horse he would ride in the event.

Who was going to ride what horse was the talk of the town for reiners leading up to the inaugural Million Dollar Invitational, which saw one owner fly a horse back from Europe to compete in the 2019 show and others contemplating comebacks for top horses in retirement.

“I’m not sure what I’m going to do,” Wright said, contemplating his possibilities. “We’ll have to kind of play it by ear, and I’m sure that up until the last few hours [when] I have to decide, I’m probably going to bounce that around 500 times.”

NRCHA Executive Director Anna Morrison said the association was excited to see reined cow horse and 15 of its top riders take center stage at a special event during The Run For A Million.

“Reined cow horse has seen its share of cross-over competitors, with several Open reining and cutting riders becoming cow horse competitors,” she said. “The Fence Challenge is a great addition to The Run For A Million, and is sure to entertain audiences who partake at South Point or when the show airs. We are excited to showcase what makes reined cow horse the fastest growing event on dirt – the cow work!”

Invitational Fence Work Challenge Invitee List:

Invitees (list in order they appear on NRCHA Open Eligibility list):

  1. Corey Cushing
  2. Justin Wright
  3. Kelby Phillips
  4. Clayton Edsall
  5. Lance Johnston
  6. Sarah Dawson
  7. Nick Dowers
  8. Matt Koch
  9. Chris Dawson
  10. Zane Davis
  11. Luke Jones
  12. Erin Taormino
  13. Boyd Rice
  14. John Swales
  15. Clay Volmer