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In his first ever NRCHA Futurity Open finals, Dustin Mills guided Jule Smart Rey to the Intermediate Open Championship and Open Reserve honors. • Photo by Molly Montag.

Jule Smart Rey & Dustin Mills Dedicate NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity Win to Friend

Dustin Mills and Jule Smart Rey blazed through this year’s National Reined Cow Horse Association (NRCHA) Snaffle Bit Futurity, winning the Intermediate Open Championship and Open Reserve Championship.

They did so in honor of one of the stallion’s former owners, the late Michael La Grande, who dreamed of owning a NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity Open finalist but passed away before he got a chance to try this year with the sorrel son of Dual Smart Rey.

“When he passed away it was pretty hard on everyone and we just wanted to help everyone out as much as we could,” said Hope Mills, Dustin’s wife. “And, just give him the opportunity to him to keep his legacy going.”

Mills and the horse, who is owned by his mother-in-law, Shawna Miller, did them all proud with a composite of 666.5 (222 herd/219 rein/225.5 cow). The only horse-and-rider pair to mark a higher composite during the finals was Futurity Open Champions Zak 34 and Justin Wright, who scored a 670.

Jule Smart Rey had been progressing steadily since this time last year, seeming to really start to put things together around the time of last year’s NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity, Mills said.

“Then, all winter he just got better and better and then next thing you know, we’re in summer and he’s rocking and rolling,” Mills said. “So, it’s pretty cool.”

This was the first NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity Open finals for Dustin Mills, who made the cut with two horses. In addition to his accolades with Jule Smart Rey, he finished twenty-second in the Open and eighteenth in the Intermediate Open with his second horse, Ohh Brother, owned by HM Horses.

Mills grew up near Houston, Texas, riding cutting horses with his dad, trainer Mark Mills. He later began riding reined cow horses with EquiStat Elite $3 Million Rider Todd Crawford, who was his employer for several years

During the cow work finals, Mills said he got an assist from NRCHA President and EquiStat Elite $3 Million Rider. At many horse shows, it’s common for competitors to yell out encouragement for other riders, and Mills happened to hear Cushing yelling for him during the run on Jule Smart Rey, and decided it was pretty good advice.

“Corey Cushing was right there at the gate and he kind of said some words that … he was talking me through it. Probably not on purpose,” explained Mills. “But, he was cheering for me and it really kind of helped me out a lot to just know when to be, ‘OK, I need to go,’ or ‘Hey, I need to slow down.’

“So that was pretty cool. Big thanks to him for that little moment.”

Jule Smart Rey’s Family

When combined with his previous earnings, the $140,000 Jule Smart Rey earned for the Open Reserve and Intermediate Open championships pushed his lifetime earnings to more than $165,858, according to EquiStat.

That makes the horse bred by Garth and Amanda Gardiner the leading earner for his dam, Soula Jule Forever. Bought earlier this year by Teton Ridge, Soula Jule Forever (by Soula Jule Star) now has a lifetime EquiStat produce record of more than $579,811.

Her other top money earners include 2017 NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity Open Reserve Champion Bet Hes Black ($145,154, by Bet Hesa Cat) and Pepe Le Wright ($72,413, by Hes Wright On).

The win also doubled the lifetime earnings for Mills, who now has an EquiStat record of more than $285,220.