While Matt has been working his way up the ladder of success in the show pen, 2006 was a standout year for Matt when he won the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) Reining Championship in Lexington, Kentucky. Riding the beautiful and athletic Easy Otie Whiz, a stallion by top sire Topsail Whiz, Matt won the event with an amazing 231.5, punching his ticket to the World Equestrian Games in Aachen, Germany. Matt credits ‘Easy’ with being a big reason for his success. “He was my breakthrough horse,” Mills said. “He’s done more for my career than any other. I was right there knocking at the door until that time, and he spring-boarded my career to the next level.” At the World Equestrian Games, Matt and “Easy” scored a 224.5, earning the Team USA Gold Medal and placing fourth in the Individual competition.
Reining, unlike horseracing or steeplechase, is the rider’s mastery of a symbiotic relationship between horse and rider. Together, they perform a routine of maneuvers that must satisfy a five-judge panel. Athleticism, beauty, and precision are the very definitions of reining, and like any athlete, Matt works hard to be an expert at his trade. ”You have to prepare for it just like athletes prepare for football, basketball or any other widely exposed sport,” Matt explains.
Matt operates his training operation from Bar A Ranch in Cave Creek, Arizona where he trains horses and non-pro riders. At the ranch, Matt manages a rigorous day of training horses as well as mentoring assistant trainers.