You just might be a true team roping fan if you recognize the bay horse Jade Corkill stopped the clock aboard last night in Round 1 of the 2020 Wrangler NFR as the one-and-only Caveman.
Yes—Corkill cracked out his 19-year-old, many-times-retired AQHA/PRCA Horse of the Year Fine Snip of Doc for what is Corkill's 11th Finals and the horse's first since Paul Eaves borrowed him in Las Vegas in 2016. Clay Smith and Corkill were 5.1—good enough for fourth—and netted 11,000 world-standings points each, keeping Corkill solidly second in the PRCA world standings with $90,704 on the year.
"I wasn't doing it for a comeback story," Corkill, from Fallon, Nevada, confessed. "At this rodeo, of all places in the world, it’s time to ride the one you feel the best on. And that's Caveman."
Torn Suspensory Tendons
A decade ago, the best ropers in the sport voted Caveman the best heel horse in the PRCA. They gave him the bronze for the same award again in 2012, but soon after, the horse's career was put on hold thanks to two torn suspensory tendons. Those tears were hard to find, though, because Caveman wasn't limping and passed a flex test the same day they found them.
“He was the soundest horse in the world until the very first time he got hurt," Corkill said. "He will not limp so you don’t know there's anything wrong. That’s why every time he’s done it, it’s been so bad. He just starts acting weird—like wild acting and nervous. Not one of his injuries has he limped. That’s the reason it’s a bad deal every time."
Corkill won his first world title in 2012, and Caveman took most of the runs at the regular season rodeos before his injury. The infamous Jackyl stepped in at the Finals in Las Vegas to get Corkill his first world title, and he proved an outstanding fill-in while Caveman continued to recover the next winter. But soon Caveman was back, and he netted Corkill a huge win in July 2013 at the Cheyenne Frontier Days.
In 2015, Corkill was riding Caveman again when he thought he better have his suspensories checked out, just as regular maintenance.
"I took him to Dr. Josh Harvey at Outlaw Equine, and he thought his right, hind ankle looked a little bit puffy, so he flex tested him and, when the girl went to lead him off, he wouldn’t even go.”
After a little further investigation, Dr. Harvey diagnosed Caveman with hemarthrosis of the right hind fetlock joint. Caveman had suffered an articular strain severe enough to have bled into the joint. That time, Caveman stayed at Outlaw Equine for a few weeks for a cold salt-water chamber and an IRAP series (Interleukin-1 Receptor Antagonist Protein), which is a process of injecting the joint with the horse’s own blood, which utilizes the horse’s anti-inflammatory mechanisms.
But after the rehab, Corkill rode Caveman to win the Elite Rodeo Athletes' World Title in Dallas in 2016, and Eaves rode him in Vegas that year, too.
Broken Hind Splint Bone
Two years later, from May to mid-November in 2018, Caveman was out again with a broken right-hind splint bone.
"I rode him off and on at a roping in Perrin, Texas, and I think he broke it on the last steer of the day,” Corkill said. “When I undallied, he didn’t want to go forward. I could tell something was wrong. I rode out and unbooted him, and it was already big. I could tell it was something bad, so I just started running cold water on it."
Corkill got Caveman into Dr. Marty Tanner at Tanner Equine in Brock, Texas, and X-rays confirmed the broken lower splint bone.
“Marty told me my options were to operate and remove the broken bone, or if I didn’t need to ride him we could see if it would heal itself on its own,” said Nevada native Corkill. “Since I wasn’t going anywhere, I wanted to see if we could get by without surgery. So from May until I left to go to the BFI in June, I kept Caveman in a pen. When I left for Reno, I took his shoes off, turned him out with Switchblade, and said, ‘See you in August.’”
Corkill returned to Texas after the Spicer Gripp in August, and Dr. Tanner gave him the go-ahead to start exercising him lightly then. By November of 2018, Corkill was able to ride him at the World Champions Rodeo Alliance Semifinals in Guthrie.
While Caveman hasn't taken many reps in the last two years, Corkill has filled in with Huey, the sorrel he bought from Travis Graves, and Champ, the gray he (maybe obviously) got from Clay O'Brien Cooper. This summer, those two horses got Corkill to second in the PRCA world standings despite the rollercoaster year of 2020. But when it came to the NFR, there was only one horse Corkill wanted to ride. So although Corkill had only really ridden him at the Kansas City WCRA in 2020, he got him out in early November to start legging up for Arlington.
"He’s so easy to ride. The reason I almost didn’t ride him is because I rode my other two everywhere. I wasn’t trying to be the guy who had to ride something different at the NFR. But he’s that easy for me and I’m that comfortable. There’s another level of confidence I have on him. Our first steer felt strong to heel, and he hit fast right when I was throwing. Caveman can cut it off just fast enough that I get both feet. If I miss something or if I’m not good enough, he makes up for it."
Corkill gave Caveman Equioxx with his alfalfa to prep him for the Finals, but he didn't want to give him too much to mask any pain the horse might be feeling, since he's so bad at showing it anyhow.
"I have nothing to lose now," Corkill said. "He’s 19. If I only get this week out of him, I’m fine with that. I don’t have any expectations, and he doesn't owe me anything." TRJ