The Run For A Million is undoubtedly one of the most anticipated events in the Western world. With the original goal of celebrating and bringing awareness to the sport of reining, the successful event is now expanding to include even more Western performance horse disciplines.
The competition takes place at the South Point Arena and Equestrian Center in Las Vegas, Nevada from August 17-20, 2022. For the main event, sixteen riders, including some of the most accomplished NRHA professionals in the history of reining, will compete for a purse of $1,000,000. In addition to the million-dollar reining competition, there is now a $170,000 Cow Horse Challenge, $150,000 Open Shoot Out, $50,000 Bull Fighters Only Fight for Fifty, $30,000 Cowboy Invitational, and a $50,000 Non Pro Championship and Bloomer Rookie Championship. The addition of disciplines is bringing riders from a multitude of backgrounds together at one competition and is one of the richest events in the Western performance horse industry.
Our Horse&Rider OnDemand expert Brad Barkemeyer was one of eight riders to qualify for the $170,000 Cow Horse Challenge. We sat down with Brad to see how he’s preparing himself and his horse CR Tough Taffy (aka Tough), owned by Vaqueros Venture, for the big event.
1. It’s Not All Technical
Brad says that one of the most important factors in his training plan for The Run For A Million is to keep Tough in good physical condition. He’s a laid-back horse who knows his job and doesn’t require constant training.
“He’s easy to train. I don’t have to work him really hard to keep him tuned up. He wants to be good and he knows his job. I don’t have to pound day after day to prepare for an event.”
Rather than drilling the maneuvers needed for the competition during every ride, Brad says he stays more focused on keeping him in good condition, making sure his endurance is where it needs to be, and keeping him sound and ready to go.
“As far as the technical training part of it, we’re always working towards perfection so I’ll work on little things here and there but for the most part I can rely on him when I need him to be there with me.”
After returning home from The Derby in June, Brad decided to give Tough a break before The Run For A Million. He says Tough had about a month of relaxation so he could rest up. Since then, he’s been focusing on his overall physical condition and making sure he’s strong and fit enough for the competition.
“I think long trotting is an integral piece of conditioning a horse to where they keep their muscles moving and their legs working properly. It helps get their endurance up so they can catch their breath during a long run.”
Operating out of Scottsdale, Arizona, Brad says he rides Tough out in the desert and trots in the deep sand to give him a good physical workout while letting his mind stay relaxed.
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2. Stay in the Right Mindset
Something that is very different about this event from when Brad is normally competing is the media coverage, large crowds, and overall hype during the competition. This is something that can really affect the mindset of the rider not only as the event gets closer but during his ride.
“For me mentally, I’ve been focusing on not getting wrapped up in the hype of the event. I have to remind myself that it’s just another horse show. It’s a one-run with rein work and fence work, which I’ve done a thousand times.”
Brad says he has to keep his mental focus and not let the hype get to him so he can keep doing what he would normally do with his horse. With all of the media coverage and social media posts surrounding the event, it’s been difficult to block it out, but Brad knows it’s important to separate that from the actual competition.
Because Brad is only competing with one horse at The Run For A Million, he’s going to have a lot more free time than at normal horse shows. He normally has many other horses and clients to work with rather than just focusing on himself. While Brad could arrive at the facility a few days before the event starts, he plans to arrive just two days early to give himself time to prepare. He doesn’t want to be there long enough that the stress and environment impact their performance.
3. Prepare For Noise
The large audience and the excited crowd is something that Brad and Tough aren’t used to during most competitions. Luckily, Brad rode Tough in the World’s Greatest Horseman competition just a few months before. Brad thinks this will be a big advantage for the pair going into The Run For A Million because it will be a similar atmosphere.
“The World’s Greatest finals was a pretty electric atmosphere, so I feel pretty good about him being in that kind of environment.”
He also says he is going to experiment with ear plugs to see how Tough handles them and might consider using them during his run. Brad also plans to blast loud music in his indoor arena at his barn to try and introduce Tough to more outside influences so he learns to stay focused and not get distracted by the noise.
He says that part of the reason he chose to compete on Tough is that he’s an experienced show horse who doesn’t become overly stimulated easily by outside influences. Keeping this in mind, Brad still plans to introduce Tough to some new sounds and environments to try and prepare as much as possible for the unique atmosphere this event will bring.
We’re excited to cheer Brad on and stay tuned for more news about his experience at The Run For A Million.
To learn more about Tough and how Brad plans to prepare for the $170,000 Cow Horse Challenge, tune in to Episode 70 of The Ride Podcast.