Bubba Buckaloo paid $18,000 and six Classic head ropes for the unicorn he’ll ride with $2 million up for grabs at The American in front of past champ Joseph Harrison.
Bubba doesn’t even know his registered name, because previous owner Trevor Brazile misplaced the horse’s papers. But Bubba calls him Silver, as Trevor did, because he remembers that the one time he glanced at a copy of Silver’s pedigree, his sire’s name was Zan Par Silver. Here’s the thing about Silver, who’s 17 now: He hasn’t been sound since before Buckaloo bought him. And unlike most, he stays so much sounder when he keeps working.
“I bought Silver in 2016 from my good friend Blake Deckard, who’d gotten him the week before as part of a horse trade with Trevor,” Bubba said. “Blake doesn’t team rope a whole lot, so didn’t really need him. When I gave Blake $18 grand and six head ropes for Silver, he was 11—and he was really crippled.
“Silver has bone spurs in his left knee, and had had a cracked coffin bone in his right front that had healed up, but required special shoeing then, and still does now to keep him sound. If you don’t shoe Silver just right, and you try to change anything, he’s instantly sore.”
Why buy an unsound horse at any age or price?
“I looked at Silver and another horse at Blake’s house that day, and when I got on him, he was just a machine,” Bubba said. “I knew if I could keep him sound for a year, I could pay for him in a year. I’ve been riding him six years now, so he was a pretty good investment.”
Bubba entrusts Dr. Don Lee of Double X Equine in Sunset, Texas with Silver’s care.
“Dr. Lee injects Silver’s knee and both front feet every four to six months,” Bubba said. “I know he’s getting to the end of his rope, and I hope I can get another year out of him. Of course, I’ve been saying that for three years now.”
Bubba qualified for his first Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in 2018, and won Round 8 with Chase Tryan riding Silver.
“That was pretty cool, but winning second with Tyler Worley at the 2018 BFI on Silver is hard to beat,” Bubba said. “When I bought him, they told me he was a short-score horse. I felt like he proved some people wrong at the BFI. Bottom line, about everything big I’ve won in my career has been on Silver. My wife (Josie) has a sign in our barn that says, ‘The barn that Gray built,’ because when we don’t call him Silver, we call him Gray.’ And it’s true. That horse has meant everything to my career.
“I’m not saying Silver is as good as he once was now. Like, he doesn’t score that great. But I can always keep him behind the barrier. And when he leaves the box, he’s wide open the first five or six steps, and runs really fast to the cow. He makes up a lot of ground really quick. Silver might not be as good as a lot of horses out there, but I know I can get on him and win.”
Bubba gave Silver several months off between the rodeo in Lawton, Oklahoma last August and Fort Worth in January.
“He broke a bone in his right front leg at Casper (Wyoming) last July,” Buckaloo said. “It swelled up a little, but he never got sore, so I kept riding him. I tried giving Silver some time off, but he actually got sore when I didn’t ride him. I took him to Dr. Lee after Lawton, and he said more time off wouldn’t hurt him. But he again got worse when he wasn’t being used. I started exercising him and he got better, so I knew retirement wasn’t what he needed.”
Every run from here on out is a bonus, and Bubba knows that.
“This horse owes me nothing,” he said. “Silver’s part of our family. I say at every rodeo that, ‘I just hope we can get through this rodeo.’ He’s sounder when I’m riding him, so hopefully I can keep him going. Joseph (Harrison) and I have been roping together since we were about 10. We live about 30 miles apart, so I come rope with him every day. And we’re having a blast.” TRJ