Top Dog: An Inside Look at the October 2022 Issue
Inside the October 2022 issue of The Team Roping Journal.

Dear Roper, 

This editor’s letter is going to be…different. I hope you give me the grace for a little personal note. I have a story to tell you about the universe or God or a Higher Power—take your pick. 

In 2013, I’d been working for Spin To Win and was afoot. I was living in a tiny apartment in Boulder, Colorado, and Nick Griggs, our longtime account exec, was helping me look for a horse on a shoestring budget.

Nick drove me across New Mexico to try this 14.1-hand roan mare of Tauna Alcorn’s, who, he’ll happily tell you, promptly dashboarded me on the first barrel in that first practice run I made. I wanted her, and this guy I’d just started dating drove me to Santa Fe for her. I wrote a check, and off we went. 

That mare I call Lola is the one who filled my permit and who “that guy” I ended up marrying won some ranch rodeos and switchender saddles aboard. Six years later, I sobbed as that mare pulled out the driveway to go live in California and fill the dreams of another girl—the daughter of Nichole Branquinho, who just happened to raise the horse you’ll find on this issue’s cover. 

The October 2022 Issue of The Team Roping Journal.

I kept Lola’s colt by Slick By Design and built an irreplaceable friendship with Miles Baker and Trevor Brazile, who trained and showed him for me. 

Then this spring, I was sitting on the couch late on a Sunday, when I got a text from the Branquinhos, asking if I was interested in having Lola back to retire in my pasture—the same one that sits outside my office window as I write this—and for my daughter, now horse-crazy and 6, to learn to run barrels aboard. 

Chelsea’s daughter and Lola.

It’s a gift I can never repay, and it’s the happiest coincidence that I get to introduce you all to Dual Oak E—the horse that has dominated the American Rope Horse Futurity Association going into the World Championships. A horse the Branquinhos raised and started. A horse by their legendary stallion, Olena Oak. I’d planned to preview the Futurity on this issue’s cover with the leading horse, and fate somehow let that be a horse the Branquinhos happened to raise to give me a natural way to say “Thank you.” 

— Chelsea Shaffer

Click here to read the Team Roping Journal’s October 2022 issue cover story: Coming in Hot: The American Rope Horse Futurity’s Top-Earners for 2022 & All-Time

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