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2023 Run For A Million Champion

TRFAM’s Million Dollar class was held in Las Vegas on Aug. 20, 2022. Piper earned his spot in the Million Dollar class in March at the Cactus Reining Classic, where he piloted Shannon and Hershel Reid’s Patriot to a 227.5 for a third-place finish in the qualifier. The duo rode that wave of momentum to April’s National Reining Breeders Classic (NRBC), where a final-round 222 landed them second in the Level 3 Open.

Patriot and Piper were primed and ready when they arrived for TRFAM at the South Point Equestrian Center, but the Million Dollar field was stacked. 2019 Million Dollar Invitational Co-Champions Cade McCutcheon and Craig Schmersal were both on the roster, as was 2021 runner up Shawn Flarida with Spooks Gotta Spark — the only horse to compete in the Million Dollar class all three years. NRHA’s all-time leading rider Andrea Fappani had a seat at the table alongside 2022 NRHA Level 4 Open Derby Champions Casey Deary and Americasnexttopgun, as well as 2021 NRBC Level 4 Open Co-Champions Dany Tremblay and Tinker With Dreams.

The pressure was clearly on, but it didn’t faze Piper and Patriot. The team ran into the arena on fresh ground from draw five and held nothing back.

“I don’t remember much, but it was incredible,” Piper said of the performance. “It felt great, and he was on. It was so loud, but you have to tune it out. I kept hearing it [the crowd], and then trying to tune it out as I was running.”

The audience had reason to scream and cheer; they were watching something incredible unfold with every maneuver. In the end, the judges ushered Patriot and Piper to the top of the leaderboard with an incredible 235.

On a normal day at a normal show, winning with a score like that is typically a sure thing. But TRFAM isn’t your average reining. The best of the best in both horsepower and horsemanship converge for some of the sport’s biggest payouts; it’s not surprising the class has since been called the best reining in history by many industry veterans.

One after another, the competition pushed hard in pursuit of the win. The scoreboard when the dust settled was unprecedented; the top six marked a 230 or better, and the next seven teams scored above a 225.

“I feel so blessed,” Piper said after winning. “I just praise the lord Jesus for helping me get through this day. This is the biggest reining, and it’s amazing. I can’t describe it.”

Piper, who turned over his non pro card to become an NRHA Professional in 1999, now boasts nearly $1.6 million in NRHA money. Many horses have carried him to success in his career, but none so much as Patriot. The stallion, bred by Toyon Ranch LLC, is responsible for nearly half of Piper’s lifetime earnings.

There’s no question that Patriot is comfortable in the limelight. The 7-year-old stallion’s record surpassed $834,000 in Las Vegas, landing him squarely at the top of the standings as reining’s all-time leading show horse. He’s followed by 2021 TRFAM Million Dollar Champion Gunna Stop, another Toyon Ranch-bred stallion.

“We have the most special bond,” Piper said of Patriot. “We’ve been together since he was 2. A bond like that is once in a lifetime.

“His intelligence is beyond belief; I think he’s smarter than I am,” the Whitesboro, Texas-based trainer added. “I’m serious; he has an intelligence that I have not seen in another animal. And he’s intelligent in a good way. He doesn’t try to cheat me. He’s right on the money. He knows more than the average, and he’s honest.”

Patriot’s been “on the money” numerous times since his debut four years ago. His 3-year-old season included a top 15 finish in the Level 4 Open and a sixth in Level 3 at the NRHA Futurity. In 2019, the stallion tied to win the Level 4 Open at the NRBC and finished third in the same class at the NRHA Derby with a 230.5. Later that year, he won the American Quarter Horse Association Junior Reining World Championship.

A strong showing at the 2021 Cactus Reining Classic ushered him and Piper into last year’s TRFAM Million Dollar competition, where they marked a 224 for seventh. Coming back for a second shot at victory was special for the Reids.

“It’s been supernatural,” Hershel said. “We’ve never experienced anything like this. We’re really blessed.”

“I don’t have the words to say how blessed we are. He [Patriot] has been a gift from God from day one. The horse is just a dream come true,” Shannon added. “He’s sound, sane, happy, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. He’s just an amazing animal.”

Patriot began breeding mares last year, and his first foals hit the ground this spring. Piper said although they’re still young, he can always spot one of the stallion’s offspring because “he’s putting his mark on them.”

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