With over $100,000 in NRHA earnings, Matt McDowell continues to win title after title at National Reining Horse Association shows. His latest success was at the 2016 APHA World show in Fort Worth, TX, where he piloted, KR Gun Powder, to the World Championship in Senior Reining. The duo topped several talented horses and riders from all over the U.S.
Matt’s background includes wrestling where he became a two-time collegiate national champion. His competitiveness, hard work and determination on the wresting mat certainly has translated into the reining pen. Matt feels very blessed to have the opportunity to ride some incredibly talented horses and work for some absolutely wonderful clients.
Matt McDowell and his wife, Amber, started out in the horse industry showing halter horses, but it didn’t take long before they became bored with standing at the end of a lead rope. Their interest shifted to performance events and they eventually started riding reining horses in 2003. At that time, they were non-pro riders and they showed horses that Matt had trained himself. Unlike most open riders, Matt knows exactly what it’s like to be a non-pro. This unique perspective allows him to understand his client’s needs and expectations. Matt’s first big win was while he was a non-pro aboard Lil Ruff Tari, a gelding sired by Lil Ruf Peppy. Matt and Ruf won the Rocky Mountain Reining Horse Association Stallion Stakes futurity.
Matt is mostly self-taught. He spent countless hours reading books and watching training videos. He would even prop a camcorder on a barrel in the arena and video his own rides so he could analyze how to improve. During his early days with reiners, the McDowell’s owned and operated their own outfitting business which consisted of taking people on guided hunting and fishing trips in the Oregon wilderness. As you can imagine, running a business of that kind did not allow for a lot of extra time to ride. The only way they could run their business and ride and train reiners was to work 10 hour days at the pack station followed by 3-4 hours each night riding their reiners. They kept up that rigorous pace 7 days a week during the summer, all the while raising their children. The outfitting business was seasonal, so in order to make a living year round, they started buying reining prospects. Matt would put a good reining foundation on them and then resell them for a profit. They quickly learned what the market was all about, what pedigrees were the most marketable and how to train a good, broke horse that would appeal to the vast majority. All of their hard work and dedication paid off as they began selling their horses to NRHA professionals such as $5 million dollar rider Shawn Flarida, Brandon Brant, Matt Mills, Brian Welman, Shawn Church, and many more.
In 2010, Matt decided to go pro after the opportunity arose to sell their outfitting business. Since becoming an open rider, Matt has made the futurity finals at the RMRHA Summer Slide aboard Cashn Big Muddy Chex (owned by their good friends and clients, Dennis and Vicki Turin), placing 3rd in Level 4 and Level 3, and 2nd in Level 2. Matt and “Nitro” were also winners of the Big Sky Reining Classic Open Futurity. Matt and Docs Silver Shiner were the Oregon Reining Horse Association Futurity champions and the Legacy Futurity champions. He was the ORHA Derby champion aboard, Nu Gold Banjo, owned by one of their dearest clients, Nancy Brugato. Matt was the Northwest Affiliate Finals Open and Intermediate Open Champion aboard, Miss Silver Gun. He also went on to become the North American Intermediate Open Affiliate Reserve Champion, on Silver Gun. He was the Reining Alberta 5&6 yr old Limited Open Champion, aboard KR Ima Gunner and the HF Mobster Open Derby Champion Level 4 and Level 2, aboard FM Shine N Tag Chex. In 2015, Matt and “Lorenzo” were NRHA Open Derby finalists in the Level 3 and Level 2, finishing 3rd overall in the Level 2 and 6th in the Level 3. In 2016, Matt and Cashn Big Muddy Chex again enjoyed success in the show pen at the Slide Into Summer show in Livingston, MT. Matt and KR Gun Powder were L4 Reserve Champions and L2 Champions at both the Big Sky Reining Classic and the Low Roller Reining Classic.While Matt enjoys showing, his true love is training futurity prospects. There is nothing he enjoys more than starting colts and seeing them progress into successful show horses.
Matt and Amber live in Enterprise, Oregon with their four children; Madison, Mason, Gunnar, and Colt. Anyone who knows the McDowell’s can tell you that they have a strong family bond and wonderful children who love the horses just as much as their parents. God and family are priorities in the McDowell’s lives. They feel very blessed by God for the opportunities and experiences they have had.