Junior Nogueira’s 2007 gray mare Apache R Hali has won well over $600,000 in her career, but Nov. 18, 2020, she captured two titles that solidify her greatness in team roping’s history books: AQHA World Champion in Senior Heading and Reserve World Champion in Senior Heeling.
With two ever-safe neck catches from Nogueira, Hali outshined the top show horses in the country on the head side, finishing a point ahead of Two Eyed Meterman and Casey Hicks to win $3,276 and the bragging rights that accompany AQHA’s golden globe.
“Blake Hughes said he roped steers in the pasture on her when she was a baby,” Nogueira, 30, of Lipan, Texas, said. “But I ran some at the house to get her ready for the World Show this year. She’s seen them a little bit, just for fun. I knew she was great, though. Going into the heading, she had a good chance because she just wants to be great at whatever she does. She was outstanding in the box, and she caught up really fast to the steers. She slowed down and faced really, really well.”
They also finished just half a point behind 2020 World Champion Cade Rice and Dual Badger Cat to win the reserve world title in the Senior Heeling.
Nogueira won the Senior Heading with a Classic Spyder XS that Luke Brown had left at his house during a practice session. "I picked it up, swung it and thought 'Why not?'" Nogueira laughed.
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“It’s been so amazing,” Nogueira said. “I need to thank God for everything he’s done. I had a dream to come over and win something like this, and it’s more special because it was on Hali. Since I was a little boy, I had a dream to have a gray horse and a pretty mare. I asked God for this. I had seen a great roper on a gray horse with black rubber on its neck when I was probably 10 years old, and since then I wanted one just like that. God gave me two in one. She’s the prettiest horse ever, and she’s the best horse I’ve ever swung a leg over. She’s amazing at what she does, and she does the same thing over and over. She does it no matter what’s going on. She knows her job.”
Douglas Rich heeled for Nogueira in the qualifying rounds, but got held up before the finals, so world No. 1 heeler Joseph Harrison filled in. Chad Masters headed for Nogueira in the heeling.
Harrison heeled for Nogueira aboard Shooter, registered as Amigos Sonita Last, by Frosty Silver Amigo out of Super Sonita Las, a Rips Superglide mare. Shooter is the horse Lane Siggins won the 2019 Bob Feist Invitational aboard, and was named Heel Horse of the BFI. Harrison added him to his string through some trading about a month ago, and he had owned him only a week when he won the 10-header at The Capitalist on him.
This was Nogueira’s first-ever AQHA World Show, but it was also something he’s been preparing for all of his life, beginning at home in Presidente Prudente, Sao Paulo, Brazil.
“I come from good horsemen. I lived at Robbie Schroeder. I showed a lot in Brazil. When I’m roping for myself and going to the rodeos I get over the horse and do this and that going for time. I’m not saying I’m the best guy at the show, but I do know how to do it. My uncle, my dad, they are great horsemen and great trainers. I’ve shown a bunch in Brazil, and I always dreamed of this.”
Nogueira used a Classic Powerline Lite HM on the heel side.
Nogueira's dream came to fruition in Tishomingo, Oklahoma, when 6.5 header and horse breeder Mike Row bought a band of Playgun-bred mares from Ronnie Austin—one of them being RA Soft Smokin, Hali's mom.
"I thought they'd be a good cross on Apaches Blue Boy," Row said of the stallion he and his father owned together. "She was just a broodmare, and nobody ever rode her. I sold her a few years later, and that was one of the many mistakes I've made in this business."
Horse trainer and RFD-TV's The American Blake Hughes had long been a family friend of the Rows, so when the little gray mare was old enough, Row traded her to Hughes for some of his horse training services on another gelding.
"I doctored calves on her and rode her outside, and just did normal stuff," Hughes remembered. "She wasn't as big as she is today—that's part of the reason I never did head on her. I never headed on her much at all, but I guess I probably should have."
Hughes, who's made most of his living on the head side, sold her to Kollin VonAhn, who'd stopped by to look at some heel horses and was in the market for something that could take a lot of runs.
Time to Shine
"I was roping with Luke Brown, and we ran a lot of steers," VonAhn said. "Blake's Uncle Gary was riding the sorrel horse Jade Corkill has now—the one Jade calls Huey—and I asked if he'd sell him. He said no, but he asked me what I was looking for and he said he had this mare I could try. They told me she was a little snorty, but she'd be what I wanted."
VonAhn ran three or four steers on the then 5-year-old Hali, and offered Hughes $5,000 for her. Hughes took it.
Fast-forward to the following year (2013) in Red Lodge, Montana. VonAhn’s good horse was sliced to ribbons by barbed wire after escaping and running down the highway with Travis Graves’ and Brown’s horses, and VonAhn had two choices: mount out, or ride this green mare he'd thrown in the trailer on a whim. Hali had only been to one jackpot up to that point (Kaleb Driggers rode her in the #15 in Fernley before the BFI), but VonAhn made the NFR on her that year, and the next year won at least $50,000 on her in regular season before winning his second world title thanks in part to Hali.
"She's a big horse, and she's short-strides and she's physical," VonAhn said about the 15.1-hand mare. "I don't care if it's the hunter jumpers, she'd be pretty good at it."
Nogueira pinged VonAhn about buying the mare in 2016, as VonAhn was preparing to have his daughter with wife Angie and build a house.
"It was perfect timing for me," VonAhn said. "Junior needed a horse, and I don't want to say I needed the money, but he asked at the right time. It was the perfect home for her."
Nogueira would win the world all-around title later that year, thanks to the money Hali helped him win on the heel side. In 2017, he won the #15 at the USTRC's Cinch National Finals of Team Roping, and he won the US Open on her earlier this fall.
Hali's had two colts so far: one by Hickory Holly Time and one by Shining Spark. This year she has two recip mares in foal: one to record-smashing NFR barrel racing stallion Slick By Design, and one to cutting superstar Hashtags. Nogueira plans to continue his breeding program centered on Hali, and now an AQHA World Title and Reserve World Title opens up the borders to allow him to export her offspring to Brazil and its booming Quarter Horse and rope horse market.
"I hope those babies are so high none of us can afford them," VonAhn laughed. "Seriously though, she gives merit to this whole rope horse business. She's the first one that wasn't ever a cutter, wasn't a reiner, wasn't a cow horse. She's a big, beautiful mare who will produce. It's one of the best things for our whole industry, being able to watch her babies go on to be great."
Nogueira, though, isn't ready to send Hali to the breeding barn full-time.
"I'm going to keep riding her," Nogueira said. "I want to ride her. She's just great. I wish I could find something half as good so she can retire, but it's hard. When money is on the line, I want to be on her."
And when a PRCA world title is on the line in less than a month in Arlington, Texas, Nogueira plans to have his saddle on Hali on the heel side, too. Nogueira enters the 2020 NFR fifth with $58,084 in earnings on the year, heeling for California header Cody Snow, who also is likely to ride a good mare (Ima Fresnos Dee) under Arlington's bright lights.TRJ