Chris Francis' 13-year-old gelding Ima Monte Leo—who he calls Dude—has been a stand-out since Francis bought him in 2017. That includes when he won the Bob Feist Invitational back in 2018 and the Turquoise Circuit the same year.
But the horse turned heads more than ever at the 2020 edition of the Feist, when ropers voted him the BFI's Top Head Horse, an honor that earned him the prestigious Montana Silversmith bronze. He helped Francis and his long-time heeler Cade Passig win seventh in the BFI's aggregate, with a time of 51.37 seconds on six head, worth $24,000, plus second place in the short round with a time of 6.33 seconds, worth another $3,000.
"There were lots of horses more deserving there," Francis, of Las Vegas, New Mexico, said. "But he's probably the easiest. Anybody there could have climbed on him and won something."
Francis bought Dude from Kaleb Driggers, and former Reno Rodeo champ Zayne Dishion and NFR header Matt Tyler also played a part in the horse's career along the way.
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"He's pretty cool and he's really good with my little girl," Francis said. "But he wants to be a jerk if you let him get fresh. Last year, when we got back from the Ram National Circuit Finals in Florida, I gave him two weeks off. I went and saddled him, and set back, got loose, took off bucking and ran through the fence and stuck a t-post in his chest. Almost a year to the day, he did the same thing when I was saddling, but I had him tied better this time so he couldn't tear anything up."
Francis—who operates World Series of Team Roping producers Mathews Land & Cattle—uses Dude every so often to break in steers, but more often he only rides him when he takes him somewhere. But for 30 days before this year's BFI, Francis decided to take conditioning a little more seriously.
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"I keep him too fat and too fresh," Francis admitted. "The last 30 days I’ve roped on him or scored steers or ponied him. I’ve just done something with him for 30 days. I’ve never been big on getting them in shape but I was this time. I guess it paid off." TRJ