Matt Gaines - Cutting Horse Rider

Matt Gaines

Matt Gaines - Cutting Horse Rider

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Matt Gaines from Weatherford, Texas has earned more money as an Open division cutting horse rider than anyone else with nearly $6 million lifetime earnings in 2011.

That's not bad for someone who initially attempted to launch a business career, at the urging of his parents, but then discovered he had to follow his heart.

"I never would have thought when I started training horses that I would have been able to win this amount of money at this time in my career," said Gaines, a 1992 Tarleton State University graduate. He spent five years in college classrooms, then attempted to start a business career his first year out of school.

After he tried something else, working for the horse accessories company Cowboy Tack for nearly a year, Gaines knew for sure he just had to take a shot at horse training. "I tried something different, I wasn't happy, and I decided that I had to give it a try,'" Gaines said. "If I wasn't good enough, I'd know and I'd be able to go on and do something else and not worry about it any more.'" Gaines has won numerous limited aged events across the country and has a lot more to win. The consistent Weatherford, Texas, trainer has topped $500,000 five of 10 years, between 1998 and 2007. At ages 29-38, from 1998 through Jan. 9, 2008, he amassed $4,451,033 in Equi-Stat cutting earnings.

"God has blessed me and I think gave me a talent to do this," Gaines said. "He's given me great horses and a lot of great people to work with. Without those, you don't win anything." While his father, Byers, Texas, horse trainer Dick Gaines, and his mother, Pam, tried to guide him toward a different career, they understood his passion for horses. They thought that he might earn money elsewhere and then perhaps compete as a non-pro.

"They wanted me to get a college degree and have something to fall back on," Gaines said. A year after he graduated from college and gave the business world a try, Gaines had a talk with his father again. "He said, 'You've got a degree. Try it [training horses].' They just wanted me to have all my bases covered."

Gaines and his wife, Tara, work together. They own a 151-acre facility just south of Weatherford, Texas, that Matt has utilized as a horse-training base since the late 1990s. Matt also has a daughter, Lauren, 18, and a son, Garrett, 16, from a prior marriage.

"I know now that this is what I'm supposed to do," Gaines said. "I love being on the back of a horse. It's where I feel at home. It's where I'm comfortable."