Total Earnings: $1,819,116
Justin Wright recently claimed the crown jewel of the cow horse world: the 2021 NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity championship aboard Zak 34. Cow horses have been a family business for Wright. His dad, Walter Wright, had shown horses and his brother, Greg Wright, won the Snaffle Bit then moved onto cutting. After a successful non-pro career, Wright took his open card in 2009 and started training full time. Between his open and non-pro careers, he has shown a futurity horse every year for 20 years.
Wright never worked for anyone but his family but had help from many friends and mentors along the way. He still rides with Todd Bergen when possible. The current facility Wright works out of is home to five other trainers. If Wright needs a watchful eye, he doesn’t have far to travel. When Wright is not training champion cow horses he enjoys spending time with his young family.
What is your training philosophy?
“I try to do the best for each horse. We have to learn as much about the horse as they do about us. It’s taken a long time to get comfortable in my own training program. It’s a constant battle to get better. I’ve ridden with a lot of great guys and learned from everybody.”
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve gotten?
“Wake up and ride your horses everyday… Keep working and grinding it out but don’t over do it. Ride them every day and try to get a little bit more from them every day and next thing you know you’ve come a long way.”
What are your goals?
“To get better… Every year around this time of year I try to pick something apart that hopefully we can do better next year… And stay consistent and try to do a good job on all of the horses. The gravy is when we get an exceptionally good horse. It makes it a lot easier when you have that special one. But to have a consistent program where we can kick out more than one or two a year would be great.”
How do you define feel?
“I think a person has to teach themselves feel…. There have been hundreds of moments in my career where a light bulb just triggered…That’s just the evolution of trainers. We’re never going to have it perfect. Feel is something you gain overtime but I think you can give yourself a head start depending on who you surround yourself with. At the end of the day it’s a lot of hours of practice… You can learn from riding horses other people have trained.”
“When I was a kid working on a breeding facility people would send nice show horses. I would sneak out and ride them around to ‘catch a feel’ as I called it. I was very much self taught so whether it was climbing on one bareback with a halter or hanging a snaffle in it. Sneaking on it for a couple of minutes I would just turn them around and try to figure out how those trainers got them to do those things.”
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