At 22, Chad Masters' Pitzer Ranch-bred Ima Two Eyed Con—affectionately known as Cody—hadn't really seen a rodeo since the 2011 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
Masters and his dad bought him as a yearling and put the first rides on the horse as a 2-year-old. Cody had long-since proven himself by the time Masters stopped riding him under the bright lights that year, carrying his owner to the 2006 NFR Average title and the 2007 PRCA World Champion Header gold buckle. Cody won Masters three USTRC NFTR Open titles, including one in 2015 after Masters legged him up and cracked him out just for the event. But aside from a few places here and there, that US Finals in Oklahoma City five years ago was his last outing.
"When we built my place, we built a pasture behind the house that's Cody's," Masters said. "He's been in that pasture for the last three or four years. He trots up and down the fence row, and kids and women ride him when they come by. But if he gets loose, he'll come and sit by the boxes and watch us rope or go stand at the horse trailer."
And that's the way Masters was content to let Cody live out the rest of his life, until Spencer Mitchell called looking for something to ride at the RodeoHouston Super Series make-up rodeo in Fort Worth at the end of May.
[SHOP: Chad Masters' Team Roping Essentials]
"Spencer called, and I told him I didn't have anything that went through the barrier except the horse I was riding," Masters laughed. "And he said, 'I sure wish Cody was sound.' And I said, 'HEY! He is!'"
"I was giving Chad heck because he let Dakota Kirchenschlager ride him at the American Semis one year," Mitchell added. "And sure enough, he said, 'Shoot I'll bring him for you.'"
Mitchell didn't have any luck at Fort Worth, but Cody took no blame.
"I wouldn't turn down an opportunity to ride Cody anywhere," Mitchell said. "He's been so good for so long. He was exactly how I thought he'd be, and he gave me a chance to win every time. I've seen that horse from Cheyenne to the NFR over the years, and I can't believe he's never won Horse of the Year. He's deserved it."
Watching Mitchell on Cody lit a fire in Masters, who was practically afoot with his AQHA/PRCA Horse of the Year Clint out with injury.
"I took him to a little rodeo after that, and he was perfect," Masters remembered. "And I just kept taking him and taking him. And pretty soon, I've got $20,000 won on him this year."
At the time of this writing in mid-August 2020, Masters is 15th in the world with $37,577.91, roping with the reigning World Champion Wesley Thorp (who has the identical amount won and also sits 15th).
"The first time I saw him ride Cody was Wichita Falls," said Thorp, who was a 14-year-old kid doing his homework on the couch in Throckmorton, Texas, the last time he saw Masters ride Cody at the NFR. " He turned a really good steer, and I could tell Chad was confident on him. That horse is really easy to heel behind, probably one of the easiest horses I've ever heeled behind really. When he gets a hold of the head, he opens them up fast and really smooth. He gives you a good place to throw, and it’s the same every time."
The old horse is enjoying life on the rodeo road, Masters said, as long as Masters doesn't get too greedy about riding him too often.
"He enjoys the one-a-days," Masters said. "Really, he tolerates the one-a-days. These old horses have ran so many steers, under so much pressure, that they know it’s coming. He steps to the pin, you have to wait him out sometimes and it’s really just a feel. It’s trick scoring him. He scored so good for so long, but for three years the only steers he ran were 30 at the NFR, all nod and go. He's very funny if you're not breathing. If you're breathing and calm when you're scoring, he'll score good."
Cody showed his one-a-day preference at Deadwood, South Dakota, this July.
"Our first steer fell down, and we got a rerun," Masters said. "I backed in the corner on the second one, and he just went—I didn't nod, the gates didn't bang or anything. I got him pulled up before the barrier, got reset, and he was good. He just doesn't like it. He's just a funny horse."
Irritated or not, Cody worked good enough for Masters and Thorp to place fifth in the two-head average with a time of 12.8 seconds on two head, worth a critical $1,919 a man.
Despite being in his twilight years, Cody doesn't take too much maintenance even when traveling.
"He's torn his deep flexor twice, and he's got some soreness in it still. Shawn Melton put the Freedom Plate shoes on him just to keep him sound in retirement. And now Cory Smothers puts them on him, and I haven't injected him in six years. He looks great. We keep him on Previcox and those shoes, and that's it." TRJ