A freak accident while warming up before a run at the Reno Rodeo in June took Jonathan Torres’ A-team heel horse Biggie out for two months in the heart of the 2019 season. The 13-year-old bay ace returned to the active roster the first week of August at the Dodge City (Kansas) Roundup.
“I was warming Biggie up in the outdoor warmup arena over by the indoor arena (Reno-Sparks Livestock Events Center, where the BFI is held) before our second-round Reno Rodeo run,” explained Jonathan, the little brother and heeling half of Team Torres, which also includes big brother Joshua on the heading side. “There were four horses tied up inside that arena with no saddles on. I’d just started loping Biggie when I saw one of those tied-up horses pin his ears.
“Then I heard a crack. That horse had kicked Biggie in the right hind leg, under his hock and right above the splint-boot line (on his cannon bone). It sliced him and cut him to the bone. He was immediately dead lame, and I was freaking out. We were about to run one at a million-dollar rodeo, the BFI was the next day and my second-string horse was already headed to Pecos (Texas).”
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Clint Summers let Jonathan ride his sorrel horse Smurf at Reno that night.
The BFI Calcutta was in full swing across town at the Silver Legacy, but when the powers that be got word of the situation, they let the Torres brothers draw out and returned their entry fees.
“Right there in Reno, a vet at Comstock Equine Hospital stitched Biggie up the night he got kicked,” Jonathan said. “They X-rayed him, and told me he had a (cannon) bone bruise, but no fractures. He just needed some time off to heal up.
“Our good friends Kevin Jones and Ken Plocek were there roping in the Reno Million the day after the BFI, so they hauled Biggie back to Texas for me. Joshua’s wife (She-rae) met them in San Angelo and took him to Josh Harvey (at Outlaw Equine Hospital and Rehabilitation Center in Decatur).”
Biggie, who’s been Jonathan’s main mount since buying him from Brock Hanson three years ago, returned to action at Dodge in early August after several weeks of rest and rehab.
“It was pretty stressful when he got hurt,” Jonathan said. “It was a big relief when I knew he was getting better. This is the horse that’s given us a chance to make the NFR. I was hoping and praying so hard he’d come back the same as before.
“I kind of eased him back into it, to let him gain his confidence back and let him know it’s going to be all right. He’s felt great. Biggie doesn’t like to jack around. When we show up at the rodeos, he just wants to do his job, win and be put up. That’s just his character. He pins his ears when he knows it’s rodeo time.”
Jonathan rode his 12-year-old black mare, Queen Bee, when Biggie was sidelined—from Greeley (Colorado) over the Fourth until Biggie’s return.
“Queen Bee had been waiting on her chance, and she got it,” Jonathan said. “She wouldn’t have gotten her shot so soon, if Biggie hadn’t gotten hurt. She kind of got thrown into the fire three years ago when I was roping with Turtle (Powell). At the end of that year, I sold her to Speed (Williams) for his daughter. I got her back last spring, and she proved again that she’s ready for prime time.”
Dr. Harvey and his Outlaw Equine team put Biggie on antibiotics and anti-inflammatories—Osphos to help with the bone bruising and bone pain, per Dr. Harvey—and rehabbed him in a water walker and with salt-water soaks, in addition to the recovery benefits of good, old-fashioned rest.
“Biggie went into a cold salt chamber of Epsom and Dead Sea salts for about 10 days,” Harvey said. “The 32-degree water is just above freezing, which helps draw inflammation out of the leg and heal the wound. It’s basically like a football player taking ice baths. The horse is in about 40 inches of water in the water walker, with counter-current jets that create resistance and build strength without stress and pounding on the ground.
“The biggest take-home on when your horse gets kicked and it’s more than just a scratch is to get him X-rayed immediately, like Jonathan did with Biggie. Then have him X-rayed again two to three weeks later, especially if the injury was a hard contusion over the cannon bone, where you’re down to tendons and ligaments with very little protective meat. It’s like you getting kicked in the shin. Sometimes you find a fracture weeks later, not because that first vet missed it, but because the bone hadn’t had time to lose its blood supply and devitalize and die yet. The bone wasn’t displaced originally, but it can take two to three weeks to actually see a fracture.”
It took about six weeks from that kick in Reno that caused all the chaos to Biggie’s big return, but he’s right back on track now. And Dr. Harvey says there should be no repercussions from this setback to his soundness in the long run. Team Torres could not be happier about that news.
“It’s hard to say how good it is to have Biggie back,” Jonathan said. “He brings food to my table, and is dang sure the key for me to survive out here and do the things I enjoy and want to do. It’s a pretty great feeling. I’m ready to go back to winning like we do when Biggie’s in the lineup.”