The work Dustin Egusquiza and Travis Graves performed over the 2021 Cowboy Christmas Run is ultimately one for rodeo's record books. Their $30,465-per-man week catapulted them to first and second in the PRCA world standings, and in mid-July nearly secured them a spot in Las Vegas in December.
The head horses that allowed Egusquiza to drop all those coils got plenty of play in our article "Sporting a Mohawk: Egusquiza's Mexican Hairstyle is Helping Him Dominate Pro Heading", but we want to talk about the heel horse that's letting Graves get out and around the fastest turned steers in ProRodeo and shut the clock off in record fashion, putting Graves second in the PRCA's world standings with $81,019.94 won in 2021.
Dual Chip—Chip, as he's long been known—is a 2009 gelding by Bobby Lewis's late, great Dual Spark, out of the Zans Diamond Sun mare Zans Leo Girl. Graves rode him at all but two of the rodeos at which he competed over the Fourth of July run in 2021, making the horse responsible for some $25,350 of their record-breaking Cowboy Christmas earnings.
Chip is the horse Graves just tied the 3.3-second world record aboard in Oakley City, Utah, won the $100,000 Lone Star Shootout riding and the horse Graves rolled over the $2 million career earnings mark aboard after winning $87,000 on at the 2020 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
The horse—raised by AQHA and NRCHA legend Lewis—didn't start out as a standout.
"He was an ugly little 2-year-old, and he didn’t look like much," said Harrison, who was working for Lewis at the time. "Nobody saw him as stud material, so they cut him as a 2-year-old."
Trainer Austin Johnson put the first rides on Chip as a 2-year-old, and he rode him until the horse was 5. He won the Limited Open Hackamore national title in the Southwest Reined Cow Horse Association, and the same year he won reserve on the paternal sibling to Chip—Lula Dual, the mare Harrison now rides most of rodeo's regular season.
"Nobody was doing anything with him as a 5-year-old, so I started riding him," Harrison said. "Then he got real, real good. He was really broke, and he’s real quick footed and always wanting to drag his butt. He’s just a little bit small, and he’s been that way his whole life. He was starting to fill out pretty good getting heavy-bodied right when I sold him to Travis and he’s really getting heavier bodied now."
Harrison made his first Finals heeling for Charly Crawford in 2017, a feat the long-time horse trainer went after simply to prove he could. He wasn't planning to rodeo much beyond that year, so Graves approached him about selling Chip.
"In 2017 at the NFR, I won the average with Chad Masters on Manny," Graves remembered. "He was really all I had, and he got hurt at the Finals. I didn’t really have anything honestly that I could even compete on or have a chance to win on. I asked Joseph during the NFR, maybe right before it started actually. He rode him that year a lot during the year, and I really liked him—the way he did it and how he looked. He always keeps his head out of the way and he drags his butt good. He said he’d sell him, so as soon as the Finals was over I went up there and ran five steers on him in Ardmore, and I bought him."
Graves rode Chip to qualify for the Finals in 2018, 2019 and some of 2020, but the horse was sidelined with injury for the limited summer run of 2020.
"He has navicular, and he abscesses really easily," Graves said. "I didn't hardly get to ride him after we won San Antonio on him in 2020. It was bad. But I put hoof care medicine on his feet now, and I keep him in Soft Rides any time he's standing around at a rodeo or in the trailer. I don't ride him at the jackpots unless it's something like the BFI or the Lone Star Shootout."
Lucky for Graves, his run with Egusquiza is so good that he feels like he can make it on the other two good ones in his string—Blue, a roan gelding he bought back from Griffin Passmore this May, and Boon, the dun he won big on all winter.
"Chip makes it really easy, but our run doesn't feel hard at all. It feels like we can make it time and time again." TRJ