As Jade Corkill checked his phone following media interviews at the 2022 Cheyenne Frontier Days July 31, he saw a text that took the wind out of his sails on a day that should have been pure celebration.
He and Clay Tryan had just captured their second CFD title together, and Corkill’s record fourth. But while Corkill was making history with that 7.5-second run, his great horse Ice Cube—the one that put him on the map with their first Cheyenne win in 2009—died at Corkill’s Stephenville, Texas, home at about 24 years old.
“I’m glad I didn’t check my phone before I roped,” Corkill said. “He was fine this morning, but when my best friend Trish (Price) got home this afternoon, she found him. He was just laying there, gone.”
Corkill bought Ice Cube from California’s Wade Bunn for $5,000 as a grade 5-year-old when Corkill was just 15. The horse had come from NFR bareback rider Brian Bain’s dad, Buster, who bought him at a sale barn in Terrebonne, Oregon. By the time he made his way to the Corkills’, he’d already picked up some bad habits.
“If you sat in the box too long, he’d rear and walk out on his back feet,” Corkill remembered. “Or if you turned his head to the right, he’d lock up, and if you tried to turn straight he would rear up and walk out or rear over the side of the box.”
But Corkill camped on the horse, honing his craft from any position the horse gave him. He was the only horse Jade had, and he’d go to the arena and score all day by himself, with no header and sometimes with no steers. And when there was a header, the horse got dozens and dozens of runs every day.
“Jade did it on his own,” Bruce Corkill, Jade’s dad, said in an interview about Ice Cube back in 2016. “He’d rope all day on him. That horse had millions of steers run on him in his lifetime. Jade had one horse the first time he won the Junior World, and that was Ice Cube. Those ropings lasted three days, and he probably roped 100 steers on him in those three days.”
Corkill started his PRCA career with Ice Cube in 2006 heeling for Matt Tyler. On him he won the Wildfire, the George Strait, the US Finals and the Spicer Gripp. When Corkill won the Strait in 2009, he and Chad Masters shattered the average record by more than a second and placed in the first two rounds against 485 teams.
Ice Cube gave Corkill a stunning three call-backs at one of the richest ropings in America at the time, meaning that Jade and the little sorrel dynamo averaged five-flat on every steer, on nine head, with three partners. Corkill placed three times to bank $152,193, plus a Chevy dually, Bruton trailer, saddle, buckle and much more.
Also in 2009, Corkill won Cheyenne with Masters heeling on Ice Cube, catapulting him to the NFR that year. In Las Vegas, he and Masters set the world record with a 3.3-second run in Round 9.
“When he was in his prime, he was one of the best ever,” Corkill said. “He could just do everything. Whatever you needed one to do, he could do it. He’s my favorite horse of all time.”
Ice Cube was briefly owned by Allen Bach and Jim Ross Cooper, who rode him at the 2011 and 2012 NFRs. Ice Cube was part of the deal that helped Corkill buy Jackyl to win that first gold buckle, and part of the deal for Switchblade, too. Cooper finally traded him back to Jade, and the horse went to Fallon, Nevada, where Corkill gave him to his dad, Bruce. Bruce rode him at Ariat World Series of Team Roping events, always having a chance at big money.
Still, despite a cataract in his left eye that means he couldn’t see the steers he was chasing anymore, he retained an uncanny ability to know exactly where to be on a steer, so Bruce won his share on him, too. The horse just made it easy.
When Bruce retired him, Corkill brought him back to Texas for sons Colby and Kelton to learn to rope on, something that had always been his dream.
“Even until the end, until the very last time Kelton saddled him, he always humped up,” Corkill laughed. “He was just enough outlaw to last a long, long time.”