Speed Williams used to be automatically out on taking a chance on horses with soundness issues. But after three risk-reward dilemmas resulted in happy endings, the living legend has softened on the subject. Speed took a leap of faith on the 10-year-old sorrel he bought from Dustin Egusquiza. But since healing up nicely from bone-chip-removal surgery, the horse he calls Green Light is now the winningest header in history’s No. 1.
“In all my years of trying horses, until real recently if they had a bone chip, it was a hard no,” Williams said. “I was roping for a living. I didn’t have time for rehab, or any interest in taking that kind of chance. It’s a gamble, and we’ve all heard war stories about things that happen to horses when they get cut on. But my little girl (Hali) made me change my opinion. And technology has come a long way.”
The first horse Speed broke his original rule on was another sorrel they call Red Light.
“Red Light had a chip, but my daughter really loved him,” Speed said. “So I called Charlie (Dr. Charlie Buchanan of Signature Equine Hospital in Stephenville, Texas), and asked him for the odds on a successful surgery to remove the chip. He told me 90 percent, and I didn’t want to break my daughter’s heart. So we took a chance.”
Hali breakaway ropes on Red Light, and since they joined forces they’ve been hitting it off famously. Then there was Al Capone—the buckskin horse Speed and Jennifer’s son, Gabe, heeled on for Speed in the first three rounds of the 2022 BFI.
“I actually bought Capone after he had his chip removed, but he’s fine now, too,” Williams said.
Egusquiza wheeled into Williams’ place with Green Light—he called him Blaze—and headed a few on him.
“He was a good-looking horse, and could run and cow, but I told Dustin he just looked green,” Speed said. “Dustin took him to a roping in Stephenville, the horse didn’t want to face and Dustin got mad at him. He called me, and when I got him to the house and trotted him around, he wouldn’t step around and face like I wanted him to face.
“He scored, worked and did a lot of things I really liked, but he wouldn’t plant his right foot and step around, and he was inconsistent. He wasn’t a finished horse, but I could see he had a lot of potential. Dustin hadn’t vet checked him when he bought him.”
Williams took the horse to be evaluated by Buchanan.
“Charlie called and said, ‘He has two problems—a chip in his left ankle, and a slight tear in his suspensory. Do you want me to keep going?’” Speed said. “Normally, that’s a no go for me. But I kept thinking of the other two, Red Light and Al Capone, and how well they’ve worked out.
“Charlie called back and said the other three legs were clean. But he was sure enough off in the left front when you flexed it. He said the chip was in a good place to take it out. Charlie said the suspensory needed 45–60 days of rest, and that the horse would need 90 days off after he removed the chip.”
But it was just 70 days before the 2022 BFI, which was held April 2 at the Lazy E Arena.
“I didn’t want to do anything to jeopardize him long term, but I talked it over with Charlie,” Speed said. “We kept Green Light in a stall, then 45 days after the chip was removed started him on light exercise, just walking him around. Then we long-trotted him about 10 days.
“I ran the first steer on Green Light five days before the BFI, and he loped. My wife watched, and said, ‘I thought you said he could run.’ We just ran two slow steers on him and quit. Those first few days after surgery, I just let him feel his feet and go his own pace. A couple days before we left to go to the BFI, he fired. He really ran. I texted Charlie, ‘We’re good.’”
In abundance of caution, Speed gave Green Light another month off after the BFI. Speed broke the barrier for Gabe—who’s 15 and roped in his first BFI this year—on their third steer at the BFI, but won the BFI Legends Roping with Matt Sherwood riding Green Light.
“Now that Charlie’s gone three-for-three with outstanding results, it makes me feel like a dumb ass for all the years I wouldn’t even consider a horse with a chip,” Speed smiled.