Ron Ralls is a National Reined Cow Horse Association Million Dollar Rider following his Intermediate Open win aboard One Time Edition (One Time Pepto x PG Special Edition x Playgun) in the Tres Osos Cow Horse Derby at the 2021 Celebration of Champions show in Fort Worth, Texas. With official NRCHA earnings of $1,001,161.64, the two-time World’s Greatest Horseman and NRCHA Hall of Fame member achieved another goal in his lengthy reined cow horse career.
“To be honest, it wasn’t even on my mind [before the show],” said Ralls. “I had no idea how much money I lacked to make it, though I knew it wasn’t a whole, whole lot. We won just under $17,000 [in the Derby] and it was enough. I wanted to get there officially, the way the NRCHA sees it. It was a sigh of relief—a weight lifted off my shoulders.”
When Ralls ventured out as a horse trainer, he was bolstered by the kindness of Monty and Pat Roberts, of Flag Ranch in Yucca Valley, California. The Roberts helped him set up a training facility and helped him find clients.
“I never really worked for a horse trainer,” Ralls said. “For no particular reason, [the Roberts] got me a training facility, outside customers and horses to ride. After about five years of struggling along, I met a guy in California named Tom Shelly. I did with him what I think all young people getting established should do—I became friends with him and rode with him all the time. He taught me things, and Monty taught me things, that is still my foundation. It is still what I do. [My career] would have turned out differently if I hadn’t met those two. There are others, too numerous to mention, that have helped me along the way. But those two guys, they gave me a lot.”
Ralls’ career has spanned three decades, with his first recorded earnings of $400 in 1987, and his first entry into the Open Bridle class held at the NRCHA Snaffle Bit Futurity® in 1995 riding Infant Dial (Fannys Oskar x Daffy Dial x Invade). Since that initial $400 won cutting, Ralls has ridden horses to top honors in every major NRCHA event, from futurity and derby-aged horses in snaffle bits, to hackamore and two-rein titles, to bridle aged champions.
For Ralls, creating a well-trained horse is the ultimate reward and his goal.
“I love the horses. I love to see the progress. I am a very slow trainer,” he said. “Foundation is the most important thing to me. I probably go slower on them than I need to but I think long term. There is life after the Futurity and life after the Derby years for a horse, if you do things right. That is more important to me than winning the Futurity.”
The Gainesville, Texas, based horseman is quick to credit Shelley and the Roberts for his start, and to thank his wife, Patty Ralls, for keeping him rolling down the road. Achieving Million Dollar Rider status, Ralls joins 19 others in the NRCHA Million Dollar Club, including his son, Phillip Ralls.
He offers the same advice he took to young trainers wanting to go far in the business: “Find a trainer that [you] like their style and ethics. Get hooked up to learn all you can learn from them. It doesn’t mean you have to work for them, but get in there somehow and learn all you can. Beyond that, I think something that is important in the business and with your customers is honesty and integrity, all the time. That goes a long way in any business, especially the horse business.”