Because of the BFI’s 18-foot head start and hard-running cattle, head horses in Reno are tested to the utmost on scoring, speed, ability to handle fresh cattle and possibly pull up the fence. They and their heel-horse counterparts have been honored for years with custom bronze trophies by Montana Silversmiths. But did you know the executive who inked the deal actually sculpted the original bronze himself?
Longtime event-marketing guru Steve Miller isn’t new to sculpting – he also created the Miss Rodeo America pageant’s perpetual award and did a bronze of Bodacious that’s in the ProRodeo Hall of Fame. He’s proudest of a series of sculptures he did of three Cheyenne warriors killed in Custer’s battle – commissioned by the tribe to raise money to mark the Cheyenne deaths on the battlefield.
“I’m kind of a hobby artist; it’s my first love,” Miller said. “I also used to be a team roper, but was never good enough to make that my living, either. I’ve been blessed to work in this industry.”
Miller was once head of sales for a big electronics company in Los Angeles and Minneapolis, but couldn’t find anywhere to rope and hated the city. He looked to team up with a Western company, and in 1994 was tapped by Montana Silversmiths to return to his home state. That’s when he created the events department and dedicated a lot of marketing to ropings and rodeos.
Miller negotiated event contracts for 25 years, including Montana’s deals with the PRCA and PBR. But a couple of years ago, he stepped down and moved with his wife to Guthrie, Oklahoma. Miller is still a brand ambassador for Montana Silversmiths, however, and will be in Reno all week, where he’s been every June.
“The first time I went to Reno, 15 years ago, I heeled for Karl Stressman when he worked for Wrangler,” said Miller. “And I got to ride Mike Beers’ horse that he won the world on, so that was one of the funnest things I ever did. And I used to drag friends from Billings down there, and headed every year until a few years ago.”
Miller is proud of the Head and Heel Horse of the BFI trophies that took him time to sculpt, because it’s one of the most prestigious horse awards in roping.
“The award is a real, true bronze like you’d buy at an art gallery,” he said. “They reproduce it every year from the original. I also designed a lot of buckles we do. It’s just been a fun, fun career. It’s been a life, with Montana and my roping and the Western industry. I’ve been very blessed.”