Erich Rogers cracked out a 13-year-old bay roan mare registered as DMO Sand Drifter—a.k.a. Sandy—at the 2020 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo with a bang, winning the very first round in the mare's first NFR appearance.
But that early NFR success is no surprise to the Olson family of South Dakota, who raised and trained the mare—winning is in her DNA. You see, Rogers rode that same mare's daddy the Olsons owned at the Finals back in 2014, and Nick Sartain rode her maternal brother when he and Rich Skelton set the world on fire from 2013 to 2015, including winning three NFR go-rounds during that stretch.
"She’s as honest as can be," said Logan Olson, who roped at the 2005 NFR. "They look perfect. They look sharp, both of them. Rogers nailed the start and is throwing his sharp head loops. I really like their run."
Olson and his parents, Daniel and Marda in Flandreau, South Dakota, raised the mare, by Dash Ona Drifter out of the Fixin To Win mare, American Big Winner. Olson had roped on the broodmare American Big Winner when he was in college, but a wire-fence injury ended her career early. But Olson has long-since known those maternal bloodlines.
"I actually had Sandy's grandma, too," Olson said. "They roped calves on her and my mom and sister ran barrels on her. She had her Superior in the AQHA in both events."
Every mare in that line bucked a little, and the geldings were all snorty (hence the name Sartain gave to his buckskin sibling—Snort.) Sandy had a little outlaw in her, too, as a colt, Olson said, so he hung onto her to try to break through. He was in the oilfield business when it was time to start her, so World Series of Team Roping flagger Brook Bearden put the first 30 to 60 rides on her.
"She was good, but she was a little broncy, especially when she was younger," Olson said. "We ran barrels on her, too, but then she bucked my mom off, so everybody was scared of her. So, then she was just mine. She was just honest about it. As soon as your butt would hit the saddle, she’d give you a little warning and she’d either buck or she wouldn’t. You know, on cold mornings and all that."
She also has a peculiar propensity for peeing after she's saddled, and Olson developed a routine to appease her.
"Well, when you get on her, she takes two steps, stops and pees," Olson smirked. "She will not move until she pees. It might take two seconds or five minutes. If you make her move before she pees, she’s mad."
Olson put up with her quirks—like her many threats to buck him off and her disdain for headstalls going over her ears—and he netted some big wins along the way. He'd sold her dad, Prowler, and Bubba Buckaloo was riding him, so Sandy became Olson's No. 1.
Rogers jump rode Sandy while Olson rode her, and he got to see first-hand some of her "opinionated" ways.
[Related: Short Memories with Erich Rogers]
"The first time I ever tried to get on her was down there in Kissimmee several years ago," Rogers remembered. "Logan said she was in her stall, and I could just go get her. She was humped up, and I longed her around. He was mad at me when he saw me longeing her. He got on her, and he warmed her up and did everything for me when I rode her from then on."
Sandy and Olson won the Ram National Circuit Finals in 2018 with Matt Kasner and finished 20th in the PRCA's world standings with $58,299 on the year. He won the Badlands Circuit on her a few times, and rode her at Tucson and Cheyenne and everywhere in between.
But as Olson's career slowed down, his friend and old neighbor Ken Bray, who just happens to be Paden Bray's dad, was needing a horse.
"I watched Logan start that mare, and I really, really liked her," Bray said. "Logan was backing down and rodeoing less and focusing on a different career. I just think Logan has done a great job with her as a head horse, and that mare was phenomenal. She wasn’t going to fit just anybody. If she landed in the wrong spot, she wouldn’t have worked out because she’s just a little fractious."
Bray partnered with Olson on the horse in early 2020 and, since then, has made some progress toward changing some of her stronger opinions.
"Logan was taking his bridle apart to get it over her ears," Bray laughed. "No, she's over that now. You just touch her between the ears and she drops her head to the ground to bridle."
But as for that little hump in her back? Bray isn't so sure he can fix that.
"If you ask her to untrack before she’s taken care of her business, she’s probably going to stick you on her head," Bray said. "She's never bucked with me, but she’s told me she was going to a couple times, and I believed every word she said."
Bray—a long-time family friend of Rogers, coincidentally—offered Rogers his old jump-ride for much of 2020 and, on her, Rogers has won about $140,000 between jackpots, rodeos and World Champions Rodeo Alliance competitions.
"She’s a Driftwood," Rogers said. "They say they all have a little outlaw, and that’s the way I am too, so I guess that’s the reason why we get along so good." TRJ