Two-time World Champion Heeler Paul Eaves will still be riding his signature mare, Docs Gunslinger Chic, a.k.a. Jade, when he makes his comeback from shoulder surgery March 13 at RodeoHouston.
But now, the mare is under the ownership of Highpoint Performance Horses‘ Jason Martin and Charlie Cole—two of the horse industry’s leading breeders and trainers across the Western performance market. The Pilot Point-based trainers have over 100 AQHA World Championships between them and own top stallions like Slick By Design and Winners Version.
Martin and Cole bought the mare in February in order to help build their rope horse breeding program within the Riata Buckle and Royal Crown incentives. Jade won’t carry her own colts, but the Highpoint team plans to breed her in April 2022 to the Relentless Remuda’s Show Me The Buckles and their own NFR stallion Slick By Design.
“We pursued the opportunity to buy Jade because she’s outstanding—from her pedigree to her personality and her conformation,” Martin said. “She’s the only mare to have won a gold buckle in the heeling in the last few decades and probably ever, and she’s been ridden by one of the best to ever swing a rope.”
Eaves will compete on the mare for the rest of his and her careers, with breaks built into the spring and fall for breeding via recip mares.
“We’re excited to be a part of Paul’s journey with her,” Martin added. “As owners, it’s always been a highlight for us to watch our horses on the biggest stages, so we’re really looking forward to this partnership.”
The sale of Docs Gunslinger Chic to Highpoint marks a major shift in the rope horse breeding business, an early indicator of the impact of the incentive programs like the Riata Buckle and Royal Crown on the market.
The Riata Buckle Futurity—set for November 2022—will pay out at least $2 million to ropers of every level in a time-only, four-head format. At least one member of the team needs to be riding a Riata Buckle-eligible horse at the event, already upping the demand for Riata Buckle prospects.
The Riata Buckle Futurity will be split into two futurities for Riata horses, all age 5 and younger. Over time, breeders and ropers will come to call these futurities the “Upper” Futurity and “Lower” Futurity. These will be slide ropings, using Global Handicaps to determine the numbering. The “Lower Slide” is a #10.5 slide roping. Teams may enter as a #9.5 team, #10.5 team or #11.5 team. The #10.5 teams will have straight times, the #9.5 teams will subtract 1.5 seconds, and #11.5 teams will add 1.5 seconds. The “Upper Slide” is a #13.5 slide roping. Teams may enter as a #12.5 team, #13.5 team or# 14.5 team. The #13.5 teams will have straight times, the #12.5 teams will subtract 1.5 seconds and #14.5 teams will add 1.5 seconds. The Riata Buckle will also feature two aged events, and it will mirror their futurity program. It will be for horses ages 6 and over, offering the same divisions.
Much like its sister events the Ruby Buckle and Pink Buckle, the Riata Buckle will offer a sale in which stallion owners can promote their program’s progeny. It’s that sale that’s helping drive the Highpoint investment in the rope horse business.
“We want to insure we’re bringing the best possible young horses to the market,” Martin said. “Jade, combined with some of the best studs in the sport, will be the start of this endeavor for us.”
For Eaves, its a win-win because he will still have the mare in his rig for his 2022 campaign and beyond.
“Being able to still ride Jade was the most important part of this whole deal,” Eaves said. “She’s how I make my living, and she’s been a key to this part of my career. It’s amazing that the team roping business is growing so much that there’s a demand for a great mare like her, and I’m glad she’s still in my rig. She means so much to my wife Amanda and my kids, it’s really something to know that someone else notices how great she is and wants to be part of this ride with us.” TRJ