What makes the good ones great.

Spin to Win Rodeo - - The X Factor - By Chelsea Toy

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 spin­tow­in­ 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.

Cave­man Re­peats


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
















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