DT AIR JORDAN
When rope horse guru Dean Tuftin bought DT Air Jordan’s sire, the great Shiners Lena Chex, from Carol Rose Quarter Horses in 2009, he knew what he was getting. A son of the $10-million sire Shining Spark, Shiners Lena Chex has 51 points in heading and heeling and has since sired three world champions for Tuftin and his customers. His get have earned 1,600 AQHA points, according to Robin Glenn Pedigree statistics, and the stud is now on his way to Brazil to continue to expand that country’s burgeoning rope horse market.
DT Air Jordan’s dam, Margies Lil Jessie, was a horse Tuftin ranched on and decided would make a solid broodmare.
“I felt like she had all the goods—a lot of foot, leg, and look,” Tuftin, who just moved his horse program to Arizona this fall, said. “Our whole program is really revolving around the mares. We’ve set ourselves up with great mares to breed to all of these studs. A lot of times you don’t know for many years if you have great mares. The marepower is everything.”
Jordan was Margies Lil Jessie’s first colt by Shiners Lena Chex, so until 2013 National Reined Cow Horse Association Snaffle Bit Futurity Open Champion Nick Dowers climbed aboard him as a 2-year-old, Tuftin didn’t know just how great the Shiners Lena Chex-Margies Lil Jessie cross would prove to be.
“Nick rode him for probably seven months as a 2-year-old,” Tuftin explained. “He got started big time on the cow horse side. Then Kelby Phillips rode him for us, and he just showed he’d be a nice head horse from the start. After that, in the fall of his 2-year-old year we started roping the dummy and lead steer on him. Nick has a ranch and will go trail cows, too, so he did all that. That 2-year-old year will set him up for success. He was a big old strong horse that could drag his butt, and that’s a rare find. We roped on him for a year and a half, then JD (Yates) has done all the show work.”
Yates picked the horse out for himself on a trip to Tuftin’s place in Oregon, and Colorado-based customers Greg and Kyle Hause bought him not long after he got back to the Centennial State.
“He had nice papers, as far as that goes,” Yates said. “I just picked him out as an individual, not so much on how he was bred. I liked the bone and the muscle, and how he was physically built to be a head horse. I start at the tail and work my way forward, and if they trip my trigger, those are what I want. I like a nice gaskin, good bone, cinched deep. You have to be a little open minded. Everything is not going to match your likings, but that horse had a lot of things I liked about him. I really thought he might be a good one.”
“He was just a big, catch-your-eye kind of gelding,” Hause added. “My wife Kyle said, ‘My God, he’d make a halter horse!’”
Yates started riding the horse outside at his place in Pueblo, Colo., and he didn’t show him as a 4-year-old to give the big gelding time to grow into himself. He was just a little big, and he didn’t know where to put his legs all the time, Yates said, but he could always stop and turn around well, even as a 3-year-old. Yates didn’t want to screw him up, so despite how fun the horse was to rope on, he didn’t hurry him along as a 3- and 4-year-old. But by August of his 4-year-old year, Jordan appeared to have all the goods.
About the same time, Yates got a call from Brazilian Raphael Correa Paoliello, who had qualified for the AQHA World Show and needed a horse to compete on. AQHA rules allowed Brazilians to lease a horse stateside, so Paoliello opted for Jordan, who had never shown before. That was his first-ever show, and Jordan came in fifth in the junior heading.
At press time, the horse had 44.5 AQHA points going into the 2017 AQHA World Show, where Yates will show Jordan himself this time. Coming off the horse’s big win where he netted 825.0 points and $26,000 at the WCRHF, Yates won’t be surprised if Jordan again proves he’s the best young head horse going.
“He could do whatever you wanted to do,” Yates said. “I wouldn’t be afraid to ride him at the BFI tomorrow. He’s got a future whichever direction you wanted to take him. He scores good, he can run, and he’s strong to the saddle horn. Everything you’d want to have in a horse, he’s got a lot of it. You know, he was a fortunate pick. I’ve picked ones out who didn’t make it before. But he just wanted to do it and liked to do it. He’s broke, he can win the show, you could go jackpot on him, or you could go rodeo. It’s not in my hands—I don’t own him—but I don’t want to go rodeo on a 5-year-old. He needs another year being a horse and riding him and roping right on him. The rider that gets to ride him, that horse will have all the talent. He could take the roper wherever he wants to go. I might be the first one to ever take him to a rodeo but other than that, that’s in the future for that horse. I’ve got a couple more things I want to do on him before I turn him over.”
Hause still wants to see the horse win more in the AQHA, and thinks he’ll keep him so that he can compete at more of the American Rope Horse Futurity Association events. After that, though, he wants to see the horse live up to his great potential on the rodeo road.
“He’s too good for me to own, and he needs to go to somebody who can make a living on him,” Hause said. “My rider is getting as old as I am and isn’t rodeoing so much, but I’d like to see somebody get him who can take him to his full potential. Is it Trevor Brazile? Maybe. I don’t know who I’d pick to have him.”
MACHO MAN WHIZ
Macho Man Whiz’s story has a bit more serendipity laced through it than that of DT Air Jordan. “Macho Man” came to Dixon Flowers Rope Horses as a halter-broke, cryptorchid 2-year-old colt, bought sight-unseen for $2,200 on Facebook. Luckily, two-time WNFR qualifier Billie Jack Saebens has a gift for picking a good one.
“I was scrolling through Facebook, and I thought he looked all right,” Saebens remembered. “He was on one of those auctions, so I put a bid on him, and I won. I thought, ‘Dang I have to drive to Texas and pick this horse up.’”
Saebens didn’t know anything about the horse other than he looked pretty good in the picture on the ad, and that the colt went back (way back) to Hollywood Dun It and Conquistador Whiz by Topsail Whiz. Macho Man’s sire, Whizlet, didn’t have a performance record, nor did the mare, Miss Oklahoma Dunit. Saebens was looking for a horse he could trade on and make a little bit on after some time in the arena, so he headed south from his home base in Nowata, Okla., the year before he made his first WNFR, and picked up the bay colt.
Kendyl Hutton, Saebens’ handy better half, puts the first 30 days on all of Dixon Flowers’ colts, and Macho Man was no exception. Her soft, patient demeanor put a solid foundation on him, Saebens said, and then the colt headed to reining trainer Sean Johnson in Kellyville, Okla., for another 30 days.
“After 30 days behind Sean, we can go on,” Saebens said. “They sure start them good enough to make a good rope horse. I’ve rode a lot of reining-bred horses and horses started by reiners, and the rope horse people call me crazy, but they’re all gentle and they’re good-minded.”
Duke Dixon, who owns Dixon Flowers Rope Horses, leaves most training decisions up to Saebens, but agrees the program has benefited from the reining influence.
“We found the reiners, specifically from certain people, are very broke and very smart,” Dixon said. “Most of them have never roped the sled when we get them. They’re so broke and they do everything we ask. In a weird way, they find roping easier than the reining. With the reining, just keeping them not tucking as much, but we’ve gone through enough of them that we have a pretty good program transitioning those horses.”
Saebens roped the machine on Macho Man for 30 or 45 days in the fall of 2015, ran 10 steers on him, then turned him out for the winter. In between Saebens’ first attempt at making the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in 2016, he’d come home and rope live cattle on the colt when he could.
“I never want to go faster than what they’re ready for. That horse is really good minded. I can go faster on him than some. After the first 45 days, I show them what I want, and then I leave my hand down and if he makes a mistake, then I fix it. I let him figure it out, and if he makes a mistake then we fix it, and come back and try it again,” Saebens said.
But Macho Man was still a stud colt, and he had trouble paying attention his 3-year-old year. If there was a mare around, the colt would look off headed down the arena, and Saebens was almost ready to call it quits with the ornery bay.
“I can remember at least four different times early on that Billie said we’d sell this darn thing,” Dixon said. “But he just kept having good enough days that we kept him in the big barn.”
“All last year, he was not very good. He didn’t try very hard, and he didn’t pay attention. I wanted to sell him. But we had him gelded, and Kendyl breakawayed on him for 45 days. Then when he came back, he was good again,” Saebens added.
Saebens was on the rodeo road with Coleman Proctor all this year, so Lane Reeves, who works for Dixon Flowers, kept Macho Man’s mind right all summer riding him in the pasture across the road, crossing creeks and checking fence. About 45 days before the WCRHF, Saebens came home from the Northwest rodeo run and started roping on his colts to get them ready for the futurity. He hauled them to different jackpots, just getting them used to different arenas.
“I might just run one steer if they’re good,” Saebens said. “I’ve ruined a lot of them trying to run 10 to 15 a day as a 4-year-old.”
Macho Man had a great day in Fort Worth when he scored 825.02 points and won $25,500 over four rounds at the futurity, but he got better every run and could have taken more, and faster, Saebens said. Saebens placed on two other horses, too, a testament to the program Saebens and Dixon have put together in rural Oklahoma.
“We raise horses to sell to guys to make a living on,” Dixon said. “I’d like to keep him, but I’ll leave that to Bill. We have so many good ones now, so many young 3- and 4-year-olds. You’ve got to sell some of them. But we do keep some for rodeo horses.”
The WCRHF, the first of its kind in the United States, gave the Dixon Flowers program a chance to show the world what Saebens has done.
“It gives programs like ours a place to showcase our horses,” Saebens said. “The AQHA, you have to go all year and spend all that money to go to the World Show. Hopefully, these horses—the cow horses that don’t work—they don’t have too many other places to go. I think people will start looking harder to take them to the Rope Horse Futurity.” n