Brady Minor is just the second heeler in 25 years to have ridden two different AQHA/PRCA Heel Horses of the Year in his career—and the horses were just 5 and 7 years old when he got his hands on them.
Minor, who will turn 30 on Dec. 16, spent the past three years readying 10-year-old Rey Shines On Top to take the place of his 2011 Horse of the Year, CDS Quixote (“Dugout”), now 17. “Rey” placed second in the voting in 2013—the first season he was ridden full-time—and won Horse of the Year outright this year. Only Rich Skelton has had two different horses win the prestigious award—Roany (four times) and Chili Dog (twice).
But Minor downplays the status that has him in company with the eight-time world champion.
“Dugout has been really easy to ride for a long time,” Minor said of the horse he bought young from B.J. Campbell. “Jade Corkill won the George Strait on him in 2011, so he shined that year. And Rey, that’s been a stroke of luck that he turned out to be a good one. Maybe I’m picky. I do know I’ve passed on a lot of horses. And I knew these two had potential."
Rey got an excellent start with Dean Tuftin, a former NFR heeler who now raises and trains rope horses carrying the brand of DT Horses out of Bend, Ore.
“When Dean sent this horse to me to try, I took him to a roping and won first and second,” said Minor, of Ellensburg, Wash. “I figured I’d better buy him.”
Minor and his little brother, Riley, will enter the 2014 NFR in the top five in the world with their best chance yet at a world championship. They didn’t notch any major five-figure wins over the regular season, but earned decent paychecks consistently.
In 2013, Brady picked up nearly $83,000 inside the Thomas and Mack Center on Rey. With Las Vegas Events promising to increase the NFR’s added money by 40 percent and considering that the last George Strait Classic paid $133,000 a man to win, great heel horses are more in demand than ever.
“We have all these big ropings now with a chance to win $100,000 on a horse, but you can’t go buy one because nobody wants to sell a horse like this,” said Minor, who’s been looking for a finished backup horse for months.
That’s part of the reason he’s already grooming a new 5-year-old from DT Horses, just like he was when Dugout was voted the best in the world in 2011. Minor knows it’s worth it, no matter how long it takes.
“I’m not going to lie,” he says. “Without this horse, you wouldn’t see me at the Finals this year.”
But it does take a while. More than once during those early years, Minor thought of selling Rey because the horse wasn’t handling the crowds at indoor coliseums.
“He’d work good at home or at a jackpot, but at a rodeo he’d go down the arena and look off at the crowd and not pay attention to the steer,” he said.
One thing that helped more than anything was when Minor camped on Rey for a month in Arizona while practicing for the 2012 NFR.
“I was always looking for those fast goes and he caught on,” he said. “He had to start watching and be ready to turn fast.”
Rey was the practice/jackpot horse and Minor just kept adding rodeo pressure slowly, only riding him during slack and just at outdoor rodeos until finally, he had to take a risk.
“I rode him at San Antonio in 2013, which was his first big indoor rodeo,” Minor said. “He handled it well.”
Minor doesn’t take it easy on a green horse, which is how he finished the best horse in the world. But once that horse is solid, he gets several years out of him with the opposite approach. Dugout, for instance, gave Minor 11 great years.
“I just keep my good horses legged up and only run about six slower steers on them in practice, to keep them relaxed and out of rodeo mode,” Minor said.