Rhen Richard earned his sixth Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualification in 2023. The Utah-native cowboy qualified for his first Finals in 2018, and in two events, no less. He headed for Quinn Kesler in the team roping, and also tie-down roped. Richard returned to Vegas in the tie-down in 2019, and this December will keep a three-year streak alive in the team roping with Jeremy Buhler on the back side. Richard’s rope-horse operation is also going gangbusters, and now makes its winter home in Arizona.
A Family Affair
Though he’s now best known as a header, Rhen’s also a world-class heeler. In fact, he was the 2008 Resistol Rookie Heeler of the Year. Rhen’s partner in the A&C Racing and Roping business is his younger brother, Kaden, who was the 2010 Resistol Rookie Header of the Year.
A&C stands for Albert and Chad Richard. Albert was Rhen and Kaden’s grandpa, and Chad is their dad. Chad, Rhen and Kaden are the majority owners of A&C Racing and Roping, and they take great family pride in raising and training top-flight horses.
“Our family has a strong background in the Quarter Horse racing business,” Rhen said. “We’re not racing many horses anymore, but we do still sell a handful of colts—babies and yearlings—every year that will go to the track.”
So yes, it’s all roping all the time for Team Richard at their home base in Roosevelt, Utah. And they’re now making their second home near Morristown, Arizona, which Rhen describes as “a suburb of Wickenburg.” They had a place in the Grand Canyon State years ago, then sold it. They bought back into roping paradise country in 2020, and have been building on this new show place ever since.
“I spent a winter down there, and it reminded me why a guy needs to be there,” said Rhen, 34. “It’s beautiful, and we can get a lot more accomplished with our horse program with the weather, and being able to be outside. It’s a great place to train out of, and the horse market in Arizona is really strong.”
The Richards—Rhen’s family also includes his wife, Chalis, and their little girls, Ruby, who’ll be 7 on Oct. 19, and Iyla, 4—head to Arizona for Thanksgiving in November, and stay until the end of March to early April.
“Our kids are still pretty young, and I want to take advantage of where I am in my life,” Rhen said. “My professional rodeo career will come to an end one of these years, and I see training and showing horses at the rope-horse futurities as a great transition. When this place is finished, there won’t be many places like it in Arizona. We’re going to put a covered arena on it, and make it a place we look forward to spending a few months a year.
“We’re trying to build a showcase place—a first-class facility where we can cater to our customers. Our stalls are all lit, which keeps the hair off of our horses and them looking good year-round.”
A Future in Futurities
Rhen got into the rope-horse futurity game early.
“I started doing the futurity deal about 10 years ago,” he said. “They started having a rope-horse futurity up in Canada before down here, and it was always during the Canadian Finals (Rodeo).
“The first year I made the Canadian Finals (Rhen’s made it three times each in team roping and tie-down roping, and at press time in August was hoping for a return trip with Buhler this November) I watched that futurity. From that point on, I made sure I had a horse or two to show up there every year. That’s what got me started in the rope-horse futurities, then they took off down here. Now the futurities are the fastest-growing thing in team roping.”
The rope-horse futurity formula makes sense for all involved, in Richard’s eyes.
“By making nice horses, you have a chance to win good money,” he said. “And that horse pays his way along the way. Then when you get done, you have a seasoned, proven, marketable horse to sell to someone who needs a really nice horse.
“Think about it. Open ropers don’t have many places to season horses. It’s pretty hard to put competition runs on one when you have to be so fast to win, so it’s easy to blow a horse up. I like to wait and start showing my horses as 4-year-olds, then they start stepping up from there. The futurities end when they’re 6-year-olds, but they now also have aged-horse events. So people can show horses of all ages.”
A&C Racing and Roping builds beautiful, talented horses from the ground up.
“We’re breeding our own product, and horses that suit every level of roper,” Rhen said. “We’re making everything from entry-level heel horses to trying to build the best head horses in the world, and everything in-between. When you have enough horses, you really do end up with something for everyone.”
Rhen has always stood out on the horsemanship side of the roping game, and that fact is not coincidental.
“Ever since I was a little boy, I’ve had a lot of passion for horses,” he said. “I’ve always loved the process of training horses, and seeing them improve. I’ve had a love for bringing horses along and helping them be their best since I can remember.
“Good horses are everything. In my mind, they’re 90% of success. You see it all the time—guys get a certain horse and go to winning. Then they lose that horse, and are no longer dominant. Horses are a huge part of the roping game.”
The Grand Canyon State
As is the great state of Arizona.
“The biggest draw is the weather,” Rhen said. “The weather in Arizona is more consistent than anywhere else, and the jackpot world is huge. People are roping everywhere, and you can go to a roping every day if you want to.
“We’re not city-type people in my family, and our place is off the beaten path and out in the country. You can go out and ride your horse in the hills and mountains. It’s awesome.”
Arizona provides the perfect backdrop for roping work and play.
“The goal with our horse program is to train a top-level type horse that you could go make the NFR on,” Rhen said. “We’re trying to build an in-house product from the ground up that you can make a living on, and that caliber of horse is also perfectly suited to go to the (Ariat) World Series (of Team Roping) Finale in Vegas with any number of roper.
“I want to make a user-friendly horse. A good horse—one that’s broke, easy to ride, knows his job and is confident—is a good horse for any level of roper. We only start with the caliber of horses we feel are worth putting the kind of time and effort it takes to make a great one. When you start with a horse that’s good when he’s tied to the fence, he just wants to be a good one.”
Rhen’s rodeoed this year on a pair of aces he considers two of the best he’s ever ridden. Midnight, who’s registered name is Hustler Lena, is the 20-year-old black Rhen’s ridden at the last two NFRs. Deets (Kiowa Star Holder) is 11, dark brown and also worthy of rodeo’s brightest lights.
Another of Rhen’s all-time favorite horses is Patron (Lights On CD), which is the sorrel he roped calves on at the NFR and has since sold to Texas tie-down roper Stetson Vest.
“I bought Patron as a yearling, and trained him,” Richard remembers. “He was the reserve Horse of the Year as a 7-year-old, and I made the Finals on him that same year, his first year getting hauled. He’s a special horse. The great ones all love their jobs.”
That’s a statement that stands when you’re talking about people, too, and Richard is bullish on horses and sunshine, which is extra special in the wintertime.
“When you can wake up every morning in Arizona in the winter, look outside and see perfect weather, how can that not put a smile on your face and make you feel grateful to get to go out and ride?” Rhen said. “The sun is amazing in the winter. It just makes you happy.
“When you can walk outside in a long-sleeved shirt, and don’t have to be bundled up for the cold, you know it’s going to be a great day. When you’re in Arizona in the winter months, everybody’s so glad to be there. It’s a good vibe, and everyone’s in a good mood. The horses feel the same way, so it’s just a great place to be productive.” TRJ