Jade Corkill’s 2010 and 2012 American Quarter Horse Association/Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Heel Horse of the Year Fine Snip of Doc—AKA Caveman—was out of action from May to mid-November in 2018 with a broken right-hind splint bone.
“I rode him off and on at a roping in Perrin, Texas (in May), and I think he broke it on the last steer of the day,” said three-time Champ of the World Corkill about Caveman, who’s 18 now. “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.
“Caveman’s never shown pain. When he tore both of his hind suspensories in 2012, he didn’t limp. That day at that roping, he limped immediately. He didn’t want to walk. It’s almost like he was walking through Jello.”
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 took him back to Tanner for a check-up.
“At that time, he thought it had just very recently calmed down,” Corkill said. “So he asked me to bring him back in another week or two, to see how it looked then, and make sure it was still making progress. That was about the first of September, and that’s when Marty told me it looked good enough to start light exercise, and see what he could take.
“I put shoes back on him, then I led him for a few days. After that, I started saddling him up and riding him really lightly. You could tell he was pretty out of shape, but he felt good to me, and he wasn’t limping. I rode him from the first of September to the middle of November before I ran a steer on him, just to be sure he was OK.”
Caveman’s first steer back was on November 16 in Round 1 at the World Champions Rodeo Alliance Semi-Finals at the Lazy E Arena in Guthrie, Oklahoma.
“His first steer was at that rodeo,” said Jade, who got the final-clearance thumbs up from Dr. Tanner 10 days earlier. “I didn’t need to make any practice runs on him, because he feels the same every time, no matter how long it’s been. I roped the Smarty a little on him at a slower, controlled pace—at a trot—before heading that way. But if I’m going to hurt him, it’s going to be for money.”
How big a deal is it to Corkill to have Caveman back on his traveling team?
“Having a great horse in today’s team roping world makes or breaks everyone,” he said. “It’s still hard, even if you have a great one. I wouldn’t sell Caveman for $100 grand, and I can’t even ride him all the time. But it seems like every time I do ride him, I win. What’s that worth?
“I feel like I’m a different roper when I ride Caveman. I can be in the middle of roping terrible, get on him, and start catching again. He just knows how to get to the perfect spot. He goes out of his way to help me. I can literally think about nothing but the feet when I ride him. I have that much confidence in him. He’s not going to mess up, no matter what. He’s so smart, and he has an amazing ability to do the right thing. He knows better than I do sometimes, and it ends up just right.
“Some cars are nicer than others. When you’re in the 40-foot Excursion limo with the hot tub in the back you’re just in a better mood than when you’re riding in the old, yellow, dirty taxi. All of a sudden you feel like you’ve got it made. Cab rides cost money. Limo rides make money. Caveman is money.”