Boyd Rice has earned nearly $5.4 million showing horses, but the road to success hasn’t been smooth or easy. He took it one day at a time, one horse at a time and strived for consistency. Rice could be called a horseman’s horseman. He’s a horse trainer, but he’s also a cowboy that lets his futurity colts gather and work cattle instead of being cooped-up in a stall. He let’s a horse be a horse and is always learning new ways to train them. The results speak for themselves.
In 1970, when Boyd was 5 years old, the Rice family moved south from Kansas and settled near Brenham, Texas. Boyd’s parents took a job training horses. Cutting horses are part of the Rice Family legacy. Boyd’s father, Sonny, and uncles Raymond and Ronnie, cousin Tag, and brother Matlock are all cutting horse trainers, most of them in the NCHA Riders Hall of Fame. So, it was in his blood. Boyd showed his first cutting horse at age 7 and hasn’t ever looked back. His story is the continuing of a family legacy, and his children are carrying the torch as well. Today, his two sons, Tatum and Tarin, are successful trainers and his daughter, Trea, shows as well, making them the fourth generation of Rice’s to do so.
When Boyd was a junior in high school, showing a cutting horse at the High School National Finals in Wyoming, he met a girl a few years his senior that was attending the event to watch her brother compete. Halee Reed hailed from Spearman, Texas, a town in the panhandle and about a day’s drive from where the Rices lived. They talked over the phone all fall during Boyd’s senior year. Due to the distance, Boyd and Halee never went on a date. By Christmas, they decided to marry and a week after Boyd’s graduation in June, that’s exactly what they did.
Cutting horse trainers often pay their dues and learn as much as they can from a head trainer with the ultimate goal being to be able to “go out on their own” and start their own training business. Your reputation is really important in order to acquire customers. But location is important too, and Boyd and Halee had settled in the remote Texas panhandle where cutting horse prospects were hard to come by. Boyd had to do a lot of things other than train horses to make it up there. He was riding a few horses, running a few cattle and shoeing some horses to make ends meet. National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) earnings were hard to come by. Of his experiences those early years, Boyd says, “I struggled for a long time. It was good for me, I imagine. It taught me patience.”
After that, Halee and Boyd started buying 2-year-old prospects out of the annual sale in Fort Worth and bringing them home to train. They’d sell the horses a year later, and Boyd started earning a solid reputation for the way he developed those colts that other trainers and non-pros took to the show pen.
Boyd has always been an avid student of his trade, learning something new from every person and horse he meets. Horses are about all he thinks about, “I love it,” Boyd says about training horses. “Besides my family, it’s all I think about, you know, riding horses.” That also makes him very approachable. He’s always wiling to share his knowledge. Most of his customers end up as lifelong friends of the trainer. He says he can learn something from anybody, whether it was something you want to do or something you don’t.
For 15 years, Boyd rode the horses that he could get. After other horseman saw how his colts turned out, he started getting more quality horses. In 1998, Woody Bartlett brought a horse to Boyd for cutting training. “Can You Handle It” was perhaps appropriately named for the enormous success that awaited Rice. After earning just $2,353 in 1997, Rice seemed to be on the fast track to the top over the next several years, multiplying those earnings 10x in 1998 and earning more than $112,000 in 1999. His annual earnings continued to climb with several years topping the half-million dollar mark. He had arrived, and he had done it from the high plains of the Texas panhandle, a long way from the cutting horse capital.
In 2001, Dick Pieper told Boyd about a competition he thought Boyd should think about entering. It was a new event being held in Guthrie, Oklahoma, called the “World’s Greatest Horseman.” The event required a horse and rider to compete in four events: roping, cutting, fence work and reining. Boyd had confidence in his ability to rope and cut. But the reining and the fence work (cow work), would take some time. Boyd missed the finals by a few points in Guthrie but got a taste of reined cow horses and wanted more. “I learned more about collection and about keeping my horses a little more supple,” Rice said. “I used those things in the cutting — from stopping with a cow, coming through the turns and keeping my horses a lot softer.”
He went on to purchase “Deltas Color” and steered him toward the 2002 National Reined Cow Horse Association (NRCHA) Snaffle Bit Futurity for reined cow horses that fall, where they finished sixth in the Open Division. “Paint” and Boyd also entered the 2003 NCHA Superstakes, making it to the Finals. The dual discipline rider had his first dual discipline horse when Paint won nearly $58,000 as a cow horse and cutter.
The highlights of Boyd’s career continued to mount as his cutting horses all worked better after he applied the cow horse techniques he had learned. The ultimate goal for a reined cow horse trainer is to win the Snaffle Bit Futurity held in the fall each year. It is a feat to train a 3-year-old to master three different events. “Oh Cay N Short” or “Coyote” would finally make Boyd the Snaffle Bit Futurity Champion in 2007 and earn him the title of World’s Greatest Horseman in 2014.
In the cutting pen, the highlight horse of his career so far has to be a stallion named Third Cutting. With the intention to purchase the horse as a Non Pro horse for his owner, Carl Smith, Boyd and Carl both agreed soon after buying him that he was an open level horse. Third Cutting went on to win two of the three legs of the NCHA Triple Crown, missing out only on the NCHA Futurity championship.
The only thing he hasn’t done in the cutting pen is win the NCHA Futurity. Boyd showed his first futurity horse as a sophomore in high school. It’s every trainer’s ultimate goal to win the show for 3-year-olds. But what if it doesn’t happen? “The main thing I want to do is train good horses. Every time, good consistent horses and go show them that way. If I win it, great. If not, that won’t bother me,” said Rice.
Boyd Rice is humble, likable, down to earth, exceptionally hard working, and passionate about his horses and his family. Success truly couldn't have happened to a better guy. With all three of his kids also in the cutting pen, the family legacy is surely in good hands.
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by Amy Quintana