Born in Massachusetts and raised in New England, Sandy Collier has loved horses from an early age. She competed in her first horse show at the age of 6, then continued to compete in events throughout her school years. After deciding that college was not for her, she traveled across Canada, and in 1972 ended up in Santa Barbara, California. At the age of 19, she found work that suited her at the Tajiguas Ranch, where her main responsibilities were feeding, grooming, training, and shoeing the ranch’s horses. Saddlemaking, tack braiding, and breaking horses were duties that were added to her ever-widening range of tasks.

With the help of Doug Ingersoll, Sandy began to compete in events of the California Reined Cow Horse Association showing Quarter Horses. In 1979, she moved to Santa Ynez where she worked for trainer Tom Shelly for one year before going out on her own. She managed a full barn while working part-time as an emergency technician for a mobile life support company and then in a hospital emergency room. In the early 1980s, she began to make a name for herself in CRCHA events with wins that included an open bridle championship, a year-end open hackamore championship, and a Snaffle Bit Futurity open finals placing and ladies division reserve championship.

In 1991, Sandy won the herd work preliminaries on Skip To My Joye in the Snaffle Bit Futurity’s open division. Then in 1993, she won the NRCHA World Championship Snaffle Bit Futurity Open Championship on Miss Rey Dry. To date, she is the only female rider to win the world’s toughest cow horse event.

Other accomplishments include:

  • 1995 Western Reining Spectacular Limited Open Champion and Open Reserve Champion, Katie Starlight
  • 1996 NRCHA World Champion Open Bridle, Smokum Miss Doc Bar
  • 1997 National Reining Horse Association Limited Open Reserve Champion, Quannah San
  • 1998 NRCHA Stallion Stakes Open Champion, Quannah San
  • 2000 NRCHA Year-End Open Hackamore Champion, Lipschic
  • 2001 NRCHA Hackamore Classic Open Reserve Champion, Oskar Jay Rio
  • 2001 Cowhorse Classic Futurity Open Champion, Sheez Shinette
  • 2001 National Reined Cow Horse Association World Championship Snaffle Bit Futurity Open Reserve Champion, Diamond J Star
  • 2002 American Quarter Horse Association World Champion Junior Working Cow Horse, Sheeza Shinette
  • 2003 Idaho Snaffle Bit Futurity Open Reserve Champion, Hesa Lota Reminic
  • Voted in 2006 & 2007’s Best Horse Trainer in Santa Ynez
  • 2008 Lifetime Achievement Award, awarded by Monte Roberts Jan 19, 2008
  • Inducted into The Cowgirl Hall of Fame in 2011

Collier’s analytical approach to training and her consistency in the practice and show pens are esteemed by everyone who knows her. She credits her aptitude for reining from her English-riding background where dressage is focused on basics. One of her biggest assets is that she strives for constant improvement. She finds what works for her, and can define every aspect of what she does with a horse. While Sandy is totally committed to horse training, she has interests that span beyond horses. She has a zest for learning, considering herself an “overachiever”. She is the kind of person who gets a real estate license when wanting to buy a house and learns to fly when airplane trips spur her interest in aviation.

Affiliations and Positions Held (Current and Past)

  • NRCHA Board of Directors
  • NRCHA Foundation Board
  • NRCHA Rules and Show Committee
  • NRCHA Ethics Committee
  • NRCHA ‘AA’ Judge
  • AQHA Professional Horseman’s Association Member

By Sandy Collier

Reining Essentials: How to Excel in Western’s Hottest Sport