Ken Wold Cracks the NRCHA Million Dollar Rider Mark
By: Kate Byars
When Ken Wold rode Brother Jackson into the John Justin Arena on February 20 for the Open Bridle Finals at the Kalpowar Quarter Horses Celebration of Champions, he knew he would ride out the newest National Reined Cow Horse Association Million Dollar Rider. But Wold didn’t take it easy. He and the 2009 stallion earned third place, and not only hopped Wold across the earnings mark, but jumped him into the Million Dollar Rider Club.
“Brother Jackson, since we’ve had him, has been one of those once in a lifetime horses,” said Wold. “I’ve rode lots of good horses and they’ve won a lot of money to help get me here, but to be on Brother Jackson when I went over the top was great.”
The Wilton, California, trainer has molded cow horses into show horses since his first show in 1971, following graduation from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. As a young man, Wold had aspirations to be a professional roper, but an accident shifted his career goals and reined cow horse became his focus when he settled into his first facility in Sonoma, California.
Before the NRCHA grew to national status, Wold cut his teeth on the California Reined Cow Horse Association, earning titles at the famed San Francisco Cow Palace and competing against other legends of the sport. He served two terms as NRCHA president and was inducted into the NRCHA Hall of Fame in 2008.
“To me, the highest level of training at that time in the Western division was always in the cow horse, no matter what year or time. It was never an easy win or a pushover! As the training techniques improved, the horses improved, and the scores got higher, and people got better. But it’s always been tough,” Wold said. “There was never a cow horse show I can recall that didn’t have Greg Ward, Les Vogt, an Ingersoll, Stan Fonsen or Smoky Prichett. They were winners and you were always competing against the top. We have a whole different group of trainers that are tough, but it has always been that way.”
While the purses weren’t as large then as now, Wold earned a solid number of titles and checks that put him at the top of his game. However, when the NRCHA office burned down in the 1980s, many of the older records were lost. It was sort of like starting the journey to a million dollars over again, but Wold was not deterred.
“I think there are a lot of riders from that time when the purses weren’t nearly so big and I competed against them, they would be million-dollar riders today. I feel like I kind of brought those guys with me and glad I stuck with it,” he said. “During this I thought, by God I don’t care how many times I gotta do it, I’m going over a million! I’m tickled to death.”
Throughout his career, Wold earned several titles, including the 2017 CD Survivor Memorial Open Bridle Spectacular on Brother Jackson, third in the NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity® Finals on Playgirls Miss Grace in 2008, the Reno Snaffle Bit Futurity Intermediate Open title in 2018 on Jule Of A Time, to name a few. Wold says, truth be told he doesn’t remember all the horses he trained, but each helped him to this milestone.
But the person that most helped Wold to this honor is his wife, Ramona, a former basketball coach who put those skills to use for her husband’s benefit.
“When we got married, I told her I wanted her to coach me, and she did,” Wold says. “Throughout our marriage and really through the last third of the million, she’s pushed me, watched my runs and critiqued me. She wants me to do my best. Without her, I could not have achieved what I have. She’s a good coach, even though she’s shown and done well, she’s always come backed to helping me. Without her coaching and standing by me, I don’t think I’d have achieved this marker.”
For Wold, the years of doing what he loves are worth more than the money earned. Yet, reaching the million-dollar mark is a profoundly satisfying experience.
“I love what I do. It doesn’t matter if I’ve won a million or $50,000,” he said. “I love riding a reined cow horse from a 2-year-old to a horse that is like perfection. You never quit learning, and if you think you’ve got it all figured out, that is when you get stagnant and don’t reach your goals. If there is one more thing you can keep reaching for, that is how you stay hooked.”
Wold will be honored as a Million Dollar Rider during the 2023 NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity, presented by Metallic Cat, in October in Fort Worth, Texas. For a complete list of Million Dollar Club members, visit nrcha.com.