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KNOW THE PRO

Idaho-based trainer Callee Miller didn’t start out intending to train reined cow horses, but ever since trying out the sport 11 years ago she’s been hooked.

SBF Smart Lil Boon
SBF Smart Lil Boon

By Kristin Pitzer – NRCHA May/June 2021

Callee Miller has always enjoyed the Western lifestyle. Her dad rodeoed and trained rope horses, and while still in high school she started training horses herself.

Originally from central Oregon, Miller studied accounting at Lamar Community College in Southern Colorado. She paid her way through school by working for cutting horse trainers and learning from instructors like J.J. Rydberg, who trained cutters and tie-down roping horses. Though she enjoyed her accounting classes, Miller soon discovered that her passion was training horses and she changed career paths.

Miller dabbled in reining and cutting and worked for other trainers, including Chet Burrows, Cody Duvall and Doug Milholland before starting her own business in 2003. For the first few years, she mostly rode colts and general horses, but then she was given a cow horse as payment for a training bill. Intrigued by the sport, she went to her local affiliate to try the discipline.

“Lo and behold, I was on the board within a year, and I’m still on that board!” Miller said.

Eleven years later, Miller is still hooked on cow horses. She still uses Rydberg’s philosophy in her program and credited Duvall for influencing her colt-starting methods. With nearly $40,000 in lifetime earnings, Miller appreciates the versatility of reined cow horses, the camaraderie of the people and the history behind the sport.

Miller rode SBF Smart Lil Boon, owned by Dave and Rebecca King, to the Limited Open Reserve Championship at the 2020 Utah Reined Cow Horse Association Derby.

Reined Cow Horse News: When you travel to a show, do you have a favorite restaurant?

I don’t like eating in restaurants! I like to prepare and take my stuff with me, because I don’t like going anywhere else. I kind of like being at a horse show and not having to leave, to be quite honest. I’m not a picky eater by any means, but I am a eat-and-go kind of person, so just having my stuff with me, I enjoy that better on the road. To stop what I’m doing to go eat some dinner just drives me crazy.

What makes you smile every day?

I’m just blessed to be able to get up every morning, walk out the door onto a piece of property that me and my husband [Jack] own, and be able to do exactly what I said I was going to do when I was 5 years old. I probably didn’t know that I was going to be a cow horse trainer, but I’ve had the horse passion my entire life, and I always wanted to be a trainer, even though my mom thought I was crazy. That makes me smile probably the most. Having a really good set of people, clients and friends, and the close connections that I have in the industry—those are probably the biggest things.

What would you do if you didn’t train horses?

I went to school to be an accountant, but I couldn’t sit in an office. It helps me in my business, and I do some consulting on the side with more financial advising than I do accounting, but it’s still something that I’m passionate about. I think it’s one of the biggest things I see in the industry—you might be a really good trainer, but you also have to be a really good business person and manage some stuff so that you don’t end up at the end of your career having nothing. I wish there were more opportunities for younger trainers coming in to have some tools to help them make more financial decisions that help them in the long run of their careers. Q A with NRCHA Pro Callee Miller

What would be the theme song for your life?

Probably AC/DC’s “Who Made Who.” I’m always questioning what comes first and what’s going to happen next!

If you could ride any cow horse, living or deceased, in the show pen, which horse would you pick and why?

It would probably be Travelin Jonez. Just listening to Chris [Dawson] and his stories about that horse, he seems like the horse that I started out on. It would be awesome to feel the power and cow sense he had. That horse always seemed like he was a high energy horse, and I love high energy horses. Trying to get high energy directed into a positive way has always been a challenge that I love about a horse. He looked like he was a lot of fun down the fence.