I’ve written a ton about why it’s critical to track the earnings of horses across the industry. For the horse side of team roping to continue to grow—creating more jobs, more revenue and more sustainability for folks at every level—we’ve got to develop data on bloodlines and genetics beyond what’s supported in the Western disciplines already.
The rope horse futurities and the Riata Buckle have started to put earnings in QData and EquiStat. But there’s been feedback that we’re dismissing some of the great horses of the past in touting “top-earning mare” or “top-earning stallion” or even just “highest-earning rope horse of all time” when we describe today’s horses that have won big at the futurity and stallion-incentive events that have been recorded in the databases in the last few years.
As I answered call after call questioning the titles of “top-earning horse” that we’ve given some of the exceptionally talented show horses of today, I thought of way to honor the legends that have no ‘earnings’ to their names. Great horses like Travis Tryan’s Walt come to mind. But there are others—like Junior Nogueira’s Hali and Riley Minor’s Bob—that also deserve acclaim, too, for the work they’ve done in the last decade that isn’t as legendary because it’s more recent.
I did a quick poll—and when I say quick, I mean I asked Trevor Brazile and Kaleb Driggers—about who should be on the cover. Walt was, of course, the answer. I told Kaleb that I’d used up all the good photos of Walt over the years, though, having run a cover when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame and plenty in the years prior. But just for kicks, I typed “Tryan” into my hard drive’s search bar. And the first photo that came up was the one you see on the front of the book now—one that, somehow, I’d missed all these years. It’s Michael Jones on Jackyl and Travis Tryan on Walt, loping around the track for a victory lap at the Cheyenne Frontier Days back in 2007 when they won the rodeo. (Jackyl would win it again seven years later at 24 years young with Jim Ross Cooper, too.)
Trevor said it best—that even his own son, raised in the heart of team roping—might not know who Walt and Jackyl are. So while we’ve written about them plenty… I hope you enjoy this walk down memory lane just the same.