At the top of his game, Bryant Pace has been on fire this year with his recent mount, Gunner, owned by Debra Sloan. Based in Newfoundland, New Jersey, at Sloan's Kebra Ranch, Pace has earned over $170,000 in National Reining Horse Association competition. He is a world-class rider, with accolades such as multiple NRHA World and Reserve World Champion titles in addition to the honor of an American Quarter Horse Association Senior Reining World Championship.
Most recently, he was named USET athlete of the month for May after winning the Intervet/USET Semi Finals at the National Reining Horse Association Derby on May 19 over 37 other entries. Here's what Bryant Pace had to say during a recent interview with Equisearch.com.
Q: How did you get started in riding and reining?
A: I've been competing in reining since 1969. I grew up around horses. My father was a horseman/cowboy, the local guy. When someone had a problem with a horse they asked my dad to ride it for them. He was the best horseman around; he wasn't a professional, but he just loved horses. My first job was at the Gregorys' farm in Maryland, Cuttin' Corners. After I returned from Vietnam, I really got into reining.
Q: Do you teach as well as ride?
A: I coach quite a bit. I have about 10 students of various levels and 50 horses. I have three assistants who help train and ride. I ride everyday, around 20 horses per day.
Q: Tell us about your recent and infinitely successful mount, Gunner.
A: Last year Dr. Sloan showed him and offered me the ride. Gunner is as good a horse that ever walked the earth. If I make a mistake, I can't beat anyone. But with no mistakes, he's capable of doing every maneuver and beating every horse. He's a serious horse and knows when you mean business. When you want him, he's there every time. I've had an amazing year on him. My highest score up until this year was a 224.5 and we have beaten that with a 229 in Florida and then a 233 at the NRHA Derby in May, which was apparently the highest score ever recorded.
Q: What are some of the techniques that make you so successful? What is your basic training regime?
A: Position, position, position. I am meticulous about the basics and position. I focus on a solid foundation. You must be straight and correct to do all maneuvers. It's also important to be persistent. You must do what you need to get the job done. Of course, I have great stock right now. You can be a great rider, but if you don't have the horse, you don't have much. I've been there too.
Q: Would you comment on the growth of reining? How do you feel that it has changed in the past few years.
A: There has been amazing growth in the sport. I remember when a good reiner could be bought for $1,500. But now it's way beyond what I ever imagined. The USET involvement has contributed to the sport tremendously and now it is leaps and bounds beyond what it was because of the new international scene.
Q: Would you share a bit about your international experience?
A: About five or six years ago Japan needed a horse trainer, so I went over there and trained for two years (1996-97) Though they are somewhat behind the times, they are gaining momentum and growing. It's not a big sport over there - perhaps only 50 reining horses in the country, but those who are involved are quite dedicated. I helped coach them and Japan brought a team to the World Cup last year, where they finished fourth. My wife is the current chef d'equipe for Japan and we are providing mounts for them. It has been a fabulous experience.
Q: What do you think about reining as a possible Olympic sport?
A: It will definitely get there, though I'm not sure when. I hope to still be around; I'd love to have that opportunity.
Q: What do you see happening several years down the road?
A: I'm 54 years old now, so I see another good ten years or longer. I have to stay healthy, most of all. And after I can no longer be competitive at this level, I plan to coach.