It’s easy to lose sight of the sheer equine athleticism and heart that packed the cowboys to Las Vegas.
The latest head horse to join the ranks of Scooter and Viper and Walt as the 2013 AQHA/PRCA Head Horse of the Year is Lucy’s Fast Jewel. She’s the first mare to have ever won in heading or heeling. She’s only 9. And Brandon Beers has only owned her a year and a half.
Just how good is she? When Beers rolled into Reno in June to kick off the season with Jim Cooper, he had $4,400 in championship points. “Jewel” won Head Horse of the BFI while helping her team win third place that day for $53,000.
A month later, she won the second round at Cheyenne—twice. Beers and Riley Minor tied for first in the go-round, both riding Jewel, to earn $11,264. If that’s not enough, consider that she basically earned Beers $100,000 in just three months (including jackpot money).
“Riley [Minor] calls it our ‘beatdown,’” laughed Beers of his and Cooper’s late run to third place in the world standings. The key, he explained, was having both Jewel and El Tevo Cash all summer and fall. Beers’ 2012 season had been wrecked when “Tevo” tore a stifle. But if that hadn’t happened, he might never have bought Jewel.
She was raised and owned by John McFarlane of Powell Butte, Ore., and is by Robert and Shelly Buckner’s stallion Dox King Gilligan. After leasing her, Beers realized he had to own the best horse he’d ever ridden.
“She rates so hard sometimes you can’t get to your horn, and she leaves the box so fast I almost fell off her once at Oakdale,” said Beers, 27. “What’s different is that the harder a steer tries, the harder she tries. You’d think she’d blast past one, but she’s always going the right speed.”
Jewel also has a penchant for dragging her hind end as she rates. It’s natural. She does it when you throw your rope whether you’re roping calves in the branding pen or heeling at a jackpot. In fact, Beers heeled on her at a jackpot last winter where she buried up so hard she stepped on a two-foot section of her tail. It was in a braid, hanging from her saddle, when she won Head Horse of the BFI.
"This is the coolest award I’ve ever gotten,” Beers said. “It’s mainly her award, but for me to own her feels pretty special. I had somebody ask me if I think she’ll win it again. I said, ‘I don’t care as long as I get to keep riding her!’”
While they’re fewer in number than geldings, there are outstanding female head horses on the road (think Dustin Bird’s bay Dolly, Derrick Begay’s gray Bowkay and bay Spice, Keven Daniel’s bay Cindy and Clay Tryan’s sorrel Cate). While mares are known for their toughness and try, those same traits can also make them hard to get along with.
Jewel won’t stand still, won’t be doctored for any reason and will intimidate people out of touching her hind legs. But she’s just as forceful every time she leaves the box.
“Tee Woolman told me one time that if you have a good mare, the worst thing you can ever do is get after her,” said Beers. “And I never have.”
A horse that tries as hard as she does every time doesn’t much want to be nit-picked. In fact, Jewel just prefers that you stay out of her way.
“I’ve learned how to be around her,” said Beers. “For one thing, I never try to ride her at the end of the day. She’s always the first horse I ride at practice, when she and I are both fresh. If it’s late and I’ve had kind of a bad day and I’m kind of mad, it is not a good idea to get on Jewel.”
A horse so sensitive to the speed and direction of a steer is just as responsive to the human on her back.
“A horse like that feels everything, so the tighter you are, the tighter she is; and the calmer you are, the calmer she is,” said Beers. “I’ve never had a horse like her.”