Rusty Rea: Kentucky trainer puts success of clients first

Source: Text by Corrine S. Borton • Photos by Larry Williams and Crystal Holman

Make no mistake, Shelbyville, Kentucky trainer Rusty Rea likes to win. But it’s not his whole life. What’s more important to him is the success of his clients.

“My favorite part is watching customers find moments of success with their horses whether it is in the show arena or at the farm,” he explained. “It is especially rewarding when they have been struggling with a problem and something finally clicks.”

Rea has been training full time for nearly a decade now but he’s been riding all his life. Both Rea’s parents trained horses so he was actually born into it and he said it was just natural that he started riding and showing horses.

In 2009 Rea’s mother expressed an interest in retiring from training horses and asked Rusty to take over her business. Over the years, he has expanded his facility to include a 27-stall show barn, six turn-out lots, a 150-by-60-foot indoor arena and a 150-by-200-foot outdoor pen, all situated on 15 acres between Louisville and Lexington.

Rea’s program focuses on the preparation of All-Around contenders but his passion is Trail.

“I mainly like to focus on young Trail horses that aren’t going to make their living solely as a pleasure horse,” he said.

Rea attended the University of Louisville in the SPEED School of Engineering for two years, then transferred to Middle Tennessee State University in the Ag Business Program while working as a trainer for his parents. He learned most of what he knows from them but rides with other trainers every chance he gets and often asks for help from his colleagues at shows.

Mr Range Rider

“When I’m at big shows I watch the warm-up arena as much possible,” he said. “If I see other trainers doing things that I am struggling with, I try to stop and pick their brains, if I think they have time. That is probably how I have learned the most about finishing my show horses.”

That’s exactly how he received some great advice from a fellow trainer that he’s never forgotten.

“I had just had a green Trail horse spook on me at the Congress in the middle of the pattern and still had another one to show,” Rea recalled. “Jess Bergantzel saw me warming up the next one and I guess saw the look of frustration.

Jess’ message? “You have to trust your training.”

“Since then I try to keep an open mind, remember things happen for a reason and that you have to keep going and trust that the horse underneath you is prepared with what you have taught them up to that point,” Rea said.

During his professional career, Rea has built quite the impressive resume with numerous Quarter Horse Congress Top 10s and finalists, Level 1 Championships and finalists, Top five American Quarter Horse Association Honor Roll awards and International Buckskin Horse Association World Champions for both himself and his clients.

An Absolut Flirtini

He has had the opportunity to train and show such decorated horses as Mr Range Rider, Tom Powers All-Age Open Trail Champion and Top 10 at the National Snaffle Bit Association’s World Show; RR Suddenly Special, Top 15 at the Congress and a Superior Trail horse; Slip Zip Zippo, the first horse he showed to a Congress Top 5 while out on his own; and Sugarlyst, the first horse he ever purchased with his own money and the first horse he placed on at the Congress as a Youth contender.

When he is not training or showing, Rea keeps busy coaching the University of Louisville IHSA Western team. He also enjoys spending time with his family, including his fiancé, Taylor Ferguson, at the lake.

Rea met Ferguson when she relocated from New Jersey to Kentucky to attend the University of Louisville and at the same time placed her 17.3-hand Hunter Under Saddle gelding in training with Rea to prepare for the Congress that fall.

“After a year of friendship and hauling all over the country showing horses together, we began dating. We were engaged at Churchill downs on Sept. 17, 2016,” he said.

They will be married this month in Kentucky.

You can visit Rea Quarter Horses in Shelbyville, where you will be greeted by Ace, Rusty’s 12-year-old Australian Shepherd “He’s the most loyal dog,” he said. You can also call Rusty at the farm at (502) 647-7692 or his cell at (502) 777-9302. You can also find Rea Quarter Horses LLC on Facebook.



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