After watching the World’s Greatest Horseman in Stephenville, TX as a kid, Kelby Phillips learned what the reined cow horse discipline was all about. He showed in the ranch horse classes as a high schooler and wanted to explore the sport so he went to work for Ken Wold who introduced him to the Snaffle Bit Futurity. He also spent time with Bozo Rogers in New Mexico and later Zane Davis.
Phillips has an impressive list of wins and accomplishments. In 2020, at 32 years old, he is the youngest NRCHA rider to hit a million dollars in earnings. Phillips has won just about every major title including the 2014 Derby, the 2013 Intermediate Open Futurity, 2018 World’s Greatest Horsemen, and the 2016 Open Snaffle Bit Futurity.
Phillips recently moved from Arizona to Weatherford, TX and is training for the public.
What is your training philosophy?
“Try to get the most out of each horse. Every horse is a different individual but I try to bring out the most potential in every horse. They’re just like us, everyone of them is a different type of athlete, different mindset. It’s intriguing how every horse is different and then trying to figure out how to train them. I do different stuff on every one of them, I don’t have a set thing I do on every horse. I would say my main philosophy is max out their potential and do what’s best for the horse.”
How do you define feel?
“Something you can’t teach. Everybody has such a different feel. It’s fun, to me, to watch people riding because we are all obviously after the same type of thing and we have different styles. But everybody’s feel is so different. For a young person, if you stick with a program that you like, you’re going to learn the feel of that horse, of the finished product of the guy you’re working for. People will see [another trainer] do something and try to copy it, you really can’t copy that because it’s their feel.”
What is the most rewarding thing about being a trainer?
“To me, the finished product. Because we work so hard…everybody works so hard at trying to win. Obviously that’s the most rewarding thing, because when you go in there and your product does win. The finished product of you grinding it out all year and you teaching that horse to do things the way you want them to and then when you go show them everything comes into place. To me… when it finally just clicks for them…seeing the progress in the horse.”
What inspires you?
“To win. I do it because it’s my job, but I don’t really look at it as a job. My main goal is to win… I hate being second, everybody does, but it’s not a very fun feeling. Whenever you know you’re right there close and you think ‘well, what if I’d done this’ throughout the year. Maybe it just wasn’t meant to be.’”