Wesley Thorp, PRCA's reigning World Champion Heeler, came to the American Rope Horse Futurity World Championships in Fort Worth's John Justin Arena Oct. 23 to change the game.
Thorp left the pristine, traditional horse show runs to the rest of the field. He was so confident in his 2014 gelding Juice Up Cat that he put on a heeling clinic, firing on or near the corner in aggressive fashion, making Open-caliber jackpot runs over four rounds to garner 933.84 points and take home the win at high call, worth $20,000 plus another $7,000 he banked in the go-rounds.
"One thing, I had Cody (Snow) help me, and I told him I thought we should just try and go make some pretty sharp runs," Thorp, 25, said. "There’s no need in hiding. That horse is solid. I’ve been taking him to rodeos and open ropings. I just wanted to make the best run we can. I just rode him through the corner, took an extra swing and let him do his deal. If the steer was ready to heel I threw, if he wasn’t I just let him go in there and show them what he had because I just didn’t want to dump it down there and try to make him look flashy when he’s a legit heel horse. It’s pretty cool because plan worked out."
Fun Fact: High Brow Cat is paternal grandsire to both 2020 ARHFA Heading and Heeling World Champions
Snow, with whom Thorp won the 2019 National Finals Rodeo average title, was perfect in Fort Worth, helping six heelers, four of whom made the short round, breaking no barriers and missing zero steers.
Thorp, who will rope at this year's NFR with Chad Masters and will heel for Kaleb Driggers in 2021, is always on the hunt for a good one. So when his friend and sponsor Chris Pomeroy gave him a call about a horse he owned that he thought Thorp should try, he obliged.
[SHOP: Wesley Thorp's Team Roping Essentials]
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"Chris sent him to me last fall, and he just wanted me to ride him and see what I thought," Thorp said. "I called him right back and said I wanted to buy him. He was going to let me buy him, but he decided he wanted to keep half of him. He was very smart, and he had all the tools—foot speed, he was athletic, he was smooth, and I just knew he had a ton of potential. Everything I showed him, it wasn't one day, it was one steer. He'd fix it. It was impressive how fast he let me smooth him out. He'll fit anybody. He had the mentality and the athletic ability to put it all together."
The horse already had a good handle on him thanks to a variety of ropers who rode him along the way, including two-time NFR heeler Hunter Koch, who approached Thorp when he saw him riding him during the futurity to tell him he once owned him.
"He's had some good people on him," Thorp said. "Nobody along the way has derouted him. They just let him come along."
Thorp plans to continue to work him into his jackpot rotation for the rest of 2020 and into 2021, but he expects this horse will have a long career in his rig.
"I would say by his 8- or 9-year-old year, I expect him to be one of my good horses. He's already one of my best ones because I jackpot on him all the time, but I don't take it lightly when I say they're my good one. But I can see him being my good one someday."
This year's ARHFA paid out a total of $587,500, including paying a check of at least $1,500 to every horse that made the short round. TRJ
Top 10 Heeling:
1. Juiced Up Cat, Wesley Thorp, 933.94, $20,000
2. Dual Badger Cat, Cade Rice, 932.19, $18,000
3. MCR Zacks Up, Joseph Harrison, 926.96, $16,000
4. Coronas Hickory Gun, Jonathan Torres, 920.11, $14,000 (PLUS $15,000 4-year-old incentive)
5. DT Strait Sugar, Cole Davison. 917.64, $12,000
6. SJR Metallic Oak, Wesley Thorp. 917.62, $10,000
7. JM Bourbon Gilligan, Paul Eaves, 917.58, $8,000
8. DT Metallic Mojito, Rhen Richard, 915.78, $6,000 (PLUS $13,000 4-year-old incentive)
9. Im Trashy Romeo, Cord Forzano, 914.56, $4,000 (PLUS $11,000 4-year-old incentive)
10. Hat Six CoonDoneGone, Jody Ramer, 914.06, $2,000