Craig Johnson is a $1 Million Dollar Rider, a two-time National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) Reining Futurity Champion, an NRHA Derby and NRHA Super Stakes Champion, and a 15-time World Champion. He is also a trainer, coach, and internationally renowned clinician and operates Craig Johnson International in Gainsville, Texas. The following was published on Craig’s Facebook page on May 30th. It is reprinted here with permission. 

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Retirement??

I was asked the other day at a National Reining Horse Association (NRHA) event by one of the other million dollar riders if I had retired. Umm. No. But then I wondered what made him think I had. Maybe it’s because I haven’t shown at a major event reining in a couple of years. Perhaps it’s because after 40 years of showing horses competitively, I don’t necessarily feel the burning desire inside that makes me do whatever it takes to be sure I have a good one.

After having won so much, I’m not really interested in being another entry. Maybe it’s because the perception is that unless you’re showing at all the major events, that a person must have retired. Even if the showing was just a necessary evil to what was fun, the creation. Maybe it’s because I’ve developed a deeper and more important connection with horses that is far more valuable than another buckle. Maybe it’s because I feel so committed to going to the next level. Teaching others through clinics, lessons coaching, and events. Maybe it’s because I now travel so much that it’s not fair to the horses to be crammed with just a few rides a week.

But I have never retired, nor will I ever. It seems that’s not really an option for a horse trainer that loves horses.

Maybe it takes me longer. Maybe it always should have. Maybe it’s because I’ve been having so much fun simply putting foundations on horses. Maybe it’s because I’ve added ranch, trail training, and other disciplines to the horses and am inspired by the additional challenges they present. Maybe it’s because I’m no longer willing to do the things I used to, and things I’ve seen, in order to make a horse do what it takes. Maybe I’m not interested until I find a better way. Maybe I’m home experimenting with a better way. Maybe I think we should take longer, wait on horses, and create something that is broke, sound, and happy for years. Maybe I have enough buckles and would rather coach others into getting their own.

Maybe I’m not as selfish as I use to be. Maybe I’ve decided it’s more about the horse and what it wants to be rather than what I need it to be. Maybe I like selling horses I’ve raised and trained to others who want to go be competitive. Maybe I like staying home more as I get older. Maybe other things got more important. But I have never retired, nor will I ever. It seems that’s not really an option for a horse trainer that loves horses. Also, there isn’t a retirement plan. It’s either quit and work at Walmart or ride and teach till they take your boots off. I don’t like Walmart. I’ve put in nearly 50 years to this point so I’m obviously not quitting.

However, there is a downside to the perception of being retired. It’s really hard to get horses to train if you’re not out competing. It seems most people assume unless you’re showing, you’re not training. In reality, it’s two very separate things. I’m training better than I ever have and helping so many more people. My horses are better broke than they’ve ever been and that’s good enough for me. I do love the training. I love going to ranch shows and teaching horses to do multiple things. I like winning championships in new challenges that inspire me. Just don’t ever think that I’ve retired from reining. Don’t make the mistake of thinking I no longer know how to train one. Don’t get caught thinking I forgot how to train a horse to circle, stop, and spin.

Because someday, you may get caught with your pants down. If the right amazing horse that could win it all goes through my barn again, don’t underestimate me. I will come take your money like I have before, but I’ll do it the right way. It’ll be fun. If not, I’ll be home riding, coaching someone else, or doing a clinic for those who want to know what I’ve not yet forgotten.

No I haven’t retired, I have evolved.