California’s Justin Davis is planning a comeback in 2015 with a team of small-statured mounts.
Justin Davis has laid low the last few years—he’s been rodeoing, but he hasn’t quite amassed any big-time earnings numbers. The 2009 WNFR qualifying heeler has won four Columbia River Circuit Finals, but he hasn’t had a partner that’s quite clicked to make it big.
What he has done over the last few years, though, is refne
Flashback to 2006: Davis had just pulled in from an all-night drive home from the winter rodeos in Texas. He’d parked his truck in his family’s driveway in California at about 4 a.m. At 8 a.m., his brother-in-law woke him from a deep sleep to see if he wanted to go try a heel horse with him.
“He goes and tries him, and the horse was Slim Shady,” Davis said. “He went to try him and could tell he could really run. He would drop his shoulder and be real free and when he’d throw he’d drag his butt and slide 10 feet. Ken Cook owned him and the horse is way too much for him. They wanted $20,000 for him, but my brother-in-law thought he was six months away from being ready, so I tried him, and I traded a heel horse that was just kind of a horse straight across for him.”
Right after Davis bought Slim Shady, California’s spring rains started, and Davis headed to Broc Cresta’s indoor arena to run some steers on the 14.1hand gelding.
“(Horse trainer) Craig Fehlman was there helping Broc and me with our heeling,” Davis explained. “Slim wanted to really be strong and drop his shoulder in the corner. Craig had me put a stout bit in his mouth that had a lot of flex in it. As soon as the head rope would go on, I would not turn in on one steer. I probably did it 12 times, just holding him out and not letting him turn in. The next day, I did it on his horsepower to set him up for big things in 2015. The Cottonwood, Calif., heeler is hitting the road with three-time WNFR header Brandon Beers this year, and he’s got two tiny horses— Slim Shady and Shakira (both named after the musicians)—with the speed to keep up with Beers’ two greats, Tevo and Jewel. ( Check out stories on both of them at spintowinrodeo.com.) the frst one, but then on the next one, I would throw as fast as I can. By the third day, he was free but he’d stay lifted and he was made. It’s like he’s floating. He stays lifted the whole way.”
And after that, there was no looking back for Davis. His frst rodeo with Slim Shady would also be his frst rodeo roping behind 1977 World Champion Header David Motes.
“My career has been that horse. I got him when I was 18 and was roping with Dave Motes in 2006, my rookie year. He’s more extreme—he really runs hard and will not run by the corner and will make a drastic move. He’ll lay on his belly, do something crazy to get in there. He’s been great and he’s tougher than nails. He’s torn his deep flexor on both front feet. He even won reserve AQHA/PRCA Heel Horse in 2009 with a torn deep flexor and I didn’t even know it. I rode him at the NFR, then found out he’d had three slits in his front deep flexor and he never had gone off really.”