THE X FACTOR
What makes the good ones great.
From the rope-pulled 30-foot barrier at the Cheyenne (Wyo.) Frontier Days to the short score of Nampa, Idaho’s Snake River Stampede, the summer run is where horsepower makes or breaks a cowboy’s season. With guys mounting-out when they can’t have their horses in two places at once, the candidates for PRCA/AQHA Horse of the Year begin to shine as the ones who get the bronze have usually carried multiple cowboys to big paydays throughout the year.
Back in 2004, Spin To Win Rodeo caught up with the cowboys who won BIG aboard the past Horses of the Year since the first award in 1989 to find out what set each one apart from the pack. You can still check that story out at spintowinrodeo.com. After 13 years, it’s time for a catch up to see what makes horses in the modern team roping era legendary. What sets the great ones apart? The cowboys who know them best break down their bloodlines, conformation, personality and “X Factor” in the following pages.
Head horse: Thumper, black gelding Owned by: Pauline Robertson Ridden by: Clay Tryan Registered name: Docalickin Sire: Woodland Doc Dam: Old Lady Cash Further back: Dash For Cash, Rocket Bar, Doc Bar Born: 1992 Height: 15.2 hands Weight: 1,225 pounds Conformation: His ears were frostbitten off, so he only had half ears. He had no heels. He was stout and the toughest horse I ever rode. He was sore a lot because of his feet, but you never could not ride him. I never had to miss anything of any value because he was sore. Personality: The best personality out of any horse I ever had. He was almost human. My brother-in-law Matt won a truck on him when the horse was 3. He never tied up, never acted sick. He spoiled me because he was just so on the money no matter what. X Factor: He was the most unique, special horse. My wife could ride him. A kid could get on him. I won Salinas on him, and I was 3.5 on him at the NFR. He’d still be good at any setup. That’s rare. Nowadays it doesn’t work like that. After that: His deep flexor tendons got where he couldn’t go. I made a run on him in Round 10 at the NFR in 2009. He’s in Lipan. The kids could probably ride him, but we stay off of him so he can just enjoy his retirement.
Heel horse: Chili Dog, sorrel gelding Owned and ridden by: Rich Skelton Registered name: Pets Ten Sire: Ten O Sea Dam: One O Three Chick Further back: Doc Bar, Doc O’Lena Born: 1995 Height: 15 hands Weight: 1,150 pounds Conformation: He was just a little longer but pretty heavy-made. Personality: He was good. He’d been used so much, nothing bothered him. I won $17,000 the first weekend I had him at the Tour Finale. He took to it right off because he took everything in stride. X Factor: He was just used and a nice horse. The thing about him was that he didn’t have any bad problems. He scored good, he could run, he could stop, he didn’t shoulder in. Everything you wanted, he did. There was nothing wrong with him. He did everything right. He just kept his distance and did everything you wanted. After that: I sold him to Dean Tuftin, and
he rode him at the Finals the year he made it. He’s still alive with Dean.
Head horse: Nickolas, sorrel gelding Owned and ridden by: Matt Sherwood Registered name: Nicks Rockets Rojo Sire: Shamrocks Nick Dam: Rockets Breezy Lady Further back: Rocket Bar Born: 1994 Height: 15.2 hands Weight: 1,220 pounds Conformation: He’s medium built. He was a late bloomer, I just heeled on him when he was young. He just kept getting taller and turned into a pretty big horse. He drags his toes every step he takes, so his toes are squared off. He wears the front of his shoes off, and he leaves a trail. Personality: He’s the most aggravating pet. He will rub his halter off and get loose. He’s been loose 50 times at the rodeos. I was heeling for a guy in Los Angeles, and he rubbed his halter off and got loose in town, and the police were called. He’s a pet, gentle and the most annoying animal. He can open gates. I was at Al Bach’s one time and he flipped the chain and got out and then walked along and flipped the chain on every stall and let everything out. X Factor: The way he scored. He would stand in the box perfectly. He was so flat and easy to rope on. He was the easiest horse ever to come across the line and rope on. After that: The last steer I ran on him was the 2015 NFR. He’s still completely sound. People ride him all the time, and my kids ride him. Part of me wants to take him to Canada this year, but my wife is afraid he’ll die there and then we’d have to leave him there.
Heel horse: Diesel, sorrel gelding Owned and ridden by: Randon Adams Registered name: Baileys Copper Doc Sire: Docs Goldpiece Dam: Triangle F Copper Born: 1998 Further back: Doc Bar and Sugar Bars Height: 15 hands Weight: 1,100 pounds Conformation: His tail is set down, and his withers are even with his hips. Head up, butt down. He’s built like a big bull dog. Personality: He’s cocky. He knows he’s good. He’s good to be around. My 3-yearold and 6-year-old ride him. Anybody can ride him. He’s very low maintenance. X Factor: He never took anything away from you. He never put you in a bad position. After that: My brother has him right now. Junior (Nogueira), Dakota (Kirchenschlager), Cesar (de la Cruz) and Buck Campbell have all ridden him at the Finals. Dakota takes him in the summer sometimes. He’s still sound and as good as ever.
Head horse: Walt, bay gelding Owned and ridden by: Travis Tryan Registered name: Precious Speck Sire: Skid Frost Dam: Precious Rhythm Born: 1990 Further back: Doc Bar, Three Bars, Driftwood Ike Died: 2010 Height: 15.1 hands Weight: 1,150 pounds Conformation: He had the perfect head horse build. He wasn’t too thick—he was just right. He wasn’t narrow, right there, medium-sized everything. He had a big backyard, but nothing you’d stand back and think he was extra muscular or anything like that. You’d get on him or stand next to him and you never thought he was overly big. Personality: He was as close to human as you could be. He loved doing what he was doing. He knew he was good. He carried himself confidently everywhere. He wouldn’t slow down for a kid or any shorter header. He would go full-speed regardless. X Factor: On top of his athletic ability and his stride—he always stayed framed up when he ran, and when he left the hole he always had his feet underneath him. Some horses run and their knees come way up. He stayed on top of the ground. On top of that, you couldn’t just chase a steer out when you were scoring or lope to a steer. He would run as hard as he could and once he got there he stayed where he needed to be. I’ve had other athletic horses but they didn’t have the want-to to do it. After that: Walt died of an aortic aneurysm while we were warming up at the Clovis (Calif.) Rodeo in 2010. Exactly five years later, I got the call
that Walt would be the first team roping horse ever inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame.
Heel horse: Amigo, sorrel gelding (tied with Diesel) Owned and ridden by: Patrick Smith Registered name: Sunday Night Bingo Sire: Bingo Hickory Dam: Patricia Bar King Further back: Gay Bar King, Docs Hickory, Doc Quixote Born: 1999 Height: 15 hands Weight: 1,100 pounds Conformation: He’s a little longer build, with a longer neck and longer stride than I’d ever thought I’d have wanted. He can stride out down the arena and shorten his stride when he wants to around the corner. Personality: There’s no flaw in him other than victory laps. He runs smooth off in a victory lap. You’ve got to two-hand hold onto him. My kids ride him and have always ridden him. He’s just super gentle outside of being in the box, and when he gets in there he’s all business. X Factor: I think he is just really good at his job. His timing is so sharp and he can physically do some things. I’ve never ridden anything close to him. He was never in my way—he finds a way to help me win and never hinders me. After that: He’s rodeoing part-time with age. He’s had some surgeries, and I plan to use him on and off in certain situations.
2008 & 2009
Walt and Diesel Repeat
Head horse: Vegas, grey gelding Owned and ridden by: Turtle Powell Registered name: Ra Sonoita Silver Sire: JD Playin Gin Dam: Double D MS Sadie Further back: Playgun, Jackie Bee, Doc Quixote, Sugar Bars Born: 2002 Died: 2014 Height: 15.2 hands Weight: 1,275 pounds Conformation: He didn’t look too big until you got up to him because he was so well balanced. He was deeper bodied, and had a shorter neck. He was really wide across his shoulders and rear end. Personality: He wasn’t the type to want to be loved on or petted on. He’d stand back in his stall, and he didn’t really want to be petted on the head. He
remembered it for a long time if you ever got after him. X Factor: He was such a good athlete. He never had to give 100 percent because 80 percent was fast enough. He worked so well and scored so well because he never had to get too hyped up to get the job done. The ones who get nervous are giving you 110 percent. At 80 percent, he was better than the rest of them. And he wasn’t the type of horse who just had a lot of impressive stuff about him as far as his moves or his face. He did the same thing every time and never got in my way. He scored so well, and he could run, so everything else was just easy. You could ride him anywhere, at the NFR or Cheyenne. After that: Vegas battled laminitis for years, and died in 2014. Heel horse: Caveman, bay gelding Owned and ridden by: Jade Corkill Registered name: Fine Snip of Doc Sire: Snip of Colonel Dam: Fine Crystal Doc Further back: Colonel Freckles, Doc O’Lena, Doc O Dynamite Born: 2001 Height: 15 hands Weight: 1,100 pounds Conformation: He’s taller than some heel horses. He kind of looks more like a head horse than a heel horse. But he’s got good feet and big bones. His back isn’t too long for as big as he is. He’s put together pretty well. He looks like he should run. Personality: He’s probably the smartest horse I’ve ever had. He’s pretty independent, and he doesn’t really like to be petted. But if my 2-year-old boy were in the middle of the Puyallup (Wash.) Fair, I’d put him on him. He’s not a baby. He’s tough. X Factor: It doesn’t matter what the situation or setup is, he can make it feel good and easy. In situations where it is hard to feel good, he can make it feel like you should just go catch. He knows exactly what position to put me in. He wants to do well. He doesn’t ever try to get out of something. He’s always looking for the best way to do the right thing. His speed is extremely easy for him, and he never feels like he’s having to try. After that: Caveman will be on the road with me all summer. He’s still my firststring horse.
Head horse: Classic, chestnut gelding Owned by: Zac Small Ridden by: Keven Daniel Registered name: Sycamore Gold Finger Sire: Pies Silverfinger Dam: Pobres Zero Four
Further back: Impressive, Two Eyed Jack, Dash For Cash, Gay Bar King Born: 1995 Height: 15.1 hands Weight: 1,250 pounds Conformation: He was under himself in the back end and he was really athletic. Personality: He was pleasant. You could call him in the pasture. He was always the one who followed everything else around. X Factor: You could ride him at all kinds of different places. I thought he was really, really good. He was a winner. It seemed like he drew good. You could reach on him if you drew a runner, but if you needed to score good he could just catch up and let you catch. After that: Casey Mahoney bought that horse in 2012. He still owns him. He won third on him at the George Strait the first time he took him. He’s semi-retired. He gets turned out every day and pulled back into the barn at night. He still acts like a 2-year-old and is living the good life.
Heel horse: Dugout, sorrel gelding Owned and ridden by: Brady Minor Registered name: CDS Quixote Sire: CD Olena Dam: Dox Maiden Quixote Further back: Doc O’Lena, Peppy San Badger, Doc Quixote Born: 1997 Height: 14 hands (barely) Weight: 1,050 pounds Conformation: He’s got really little feet. He was a cutter, but he’s got good bone and he’s real stout. His feet are terrible so it’s surprising that he lasted as long as he did. He’s short backed and round backed. Personality: He’s a grumpy horse. He pins his ears all the time. X Factor: He was just a really cowy horse. He never ran by the corner. His head was always out of your way because he was low headed. He was never bad in the box. That horse came together really fast at a young age. I got him when he was 5 and he got seasoned really quick. They claim Michael Jones and Kinney Harrell had ridden him at some amateur rodeos when he was coming 4. After that: I still have him. The other horses I have I can get down the arena better. Riley rode him at a local jackpot and won the roping on him the other day. We still use him a little bit, but he’s out of shape.
Head horse: Sic Em, brown gelding Owned and ridden by: Trevor Brazile Registered name: Lite My Dynamite Sire: Lectric Playboy Dam: Miss Dynamite Doc Born: 1999 Further back: Freckles Playboy, Doc O Dynamite Height: 15.1 hands Weight: 1,275 pounds Conformation: He was nothing to really describe. He was so level. He wasn’t bred to run really, but I always felt the horns coming to me so fast. Personality: He is a real sweet horse to be around. The kids would fight over riding him. For a horse to have that much talent and still let kids ride him is pretty impressive. X Factor: I started rodeoing on him when he was 5. That was six moths after I started him. All young horses have an episode in the box where they have to go through, and he never did. He scored every time all the time. He ran hard, made a soft corner faced unbelievable. There was nothing. He didn’t crib, nothing funky. That’s hard to come by. I’m the first to say all the good ones have something you have to overlook, but that horse didn’t. After that: I still ride him, some. He had some suspensory branch issues and developed tendonitis. I rode him at the Spicer Gripp this past year. He’s still going. I put him on the walker. He doesn’t take the hauling as good as he used to.
Head horse: Jewel, bay mare Owned and ridden by: Brandon Beers Registered name: Lucys Fast Jewel Sire: Dox King Gilligan Dam: Lucys Lil Hickory Born: 2004 Further back: Doc Bar, Docs Hickory Height: 14.3 hands Weight: 1,250 pounds Conformation: She’s pretty short and stocky. She’s short backed. Personality: She’s a peach all right. She’s definitely got her quirks. X Factor: She had more try than any horse I’d ever rode, and she was fast. She did everything great. She scored great and could just fly. She was cowy, and I could let a ton of guys use her and she tried every time. After that: I rode her in 2014 some, and I heeled on her when I took time off from rodeoing. Nick Sartain bought her this winter and he’s riding her some.
Heel horse: Starbucks, sorrel gelding Owned and ridden by: Ryan Motes Registered name: CD Starbucks Sire: CD Olena Dam: Cari Me Starlight Further Back: Doc O’Lena, Peppy San Badger, Grays Starlight
Born: 1998 Heigh t: 15 hands Weight: 1,200 pounds Conformation: He’s reasonably tall and pretty stout. He’s not terribly long-legged but he’s not short legged. He’s longerlegged for a cutting-bred horse. He’s low-hocked, and he’s dang sure not built downhill like a lot of cutters. He’s not built uphill either. He’s got really round withers and a really round back. He’s very well proportioned for a heel horse. Personality: He’s great to be around. He loves being home, loves being turned out in the pasture. He’s laid back with kids, but when you get somewhere, especially a performance, he gets real amped up real quick. He’s all business during the run. He might prance out of the arena. We laugh about some of the stupid things he spooks at, and we realize he’s never going to get over it. X Factor: Honestly, he does everything well. What makes him good for me is that I can ride him anywhere, whether it’s Salinas or Cheyenne or the NFR. He scores amazing, you can put him anywhere you want to. He can run and stop, and his timing and his own read of what’s going on in the run and what the steers are doing is exceptional. I tell anyone who gets on him to ride him however their horse works. He’s so adaptable to everyone’s style. After that: He’s still my number-one horse and will be on the road with me this year.
Head horse: Tevo, brown gelding Owned and ridden by: Brandon Beers Registered name: El Tevo Cash Sire: Whiskey Ike HK Dam: Have Your Cash Further back: Driftwood Ike, Dash For Cash, Azure Te Born: 2001 Height: 15.1 hands Weight: 1,250–1,300 pounds Conformation: He’s really long. He’s racey looking. Personality: He’s kind of cranky and moody. He’s easy to love on, but he’s hard to explain. You can put a kid on him if you wanted. He’s always getting into stuff. He thinks he’s a stud. He likes to be the boss wherever he is. X Factor: That is the most honest horse I’ve ever rode. He might only give you 70 percent sometimes, but you don’t notice it because he’s so fast. He scored every time. I ran three practice steers from Reno to the end of the year that year. I think we went to Cheyenne, roped our two there, won the first round at Deadwood with a 4.7, and the next
THUMPER / CLAY TRYAN
DIESEL / RANDON ADAMS
WALT / TRAVIS TRYAN
CHILI DOG / RICH SKELTON
AMIGO / PATRICK SMITH
VEGAS / TURTLE POWELL
STARBUCKS / RYAN MOTES
CAVEMAN / JADE CORKILL