There's just something about a buckskin. And there's really just something about a buckskin that runs and faces like Rhen Richard's Pepinic Buck, better known as Festus, who has helped Richard to fourth place in the average heading into Round 4 of the 2018 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo and has helped him to $192,647.05 in World All-Around earnings up to this point.
Festus has been a part of Richard's dream season since the spring, when he bought him from Canadian header Clint Buhler. Aboard the 2006 gelding, Richard won most of his $65,232.02 in ProRodeo's regular season, qualifying for his first Wrangler NFR after 10 years in the PRCA.
"I'd been trying to buy him for a long time, but I never could make it work," Richard said.
He couldn't make it work because Buhler (brother to PRCA world champion heeler Jeremy) wasn't quite ready to part with his ace mount. Richard had asked to try him for a few years, but Buhler was busy going to the Canadian rodeos and making the Canadian Finals year after year on the horse.
"I was rodeoing—I don’t want to say for a living—but I was able to go a lot more than I am now," Buhler said. "But now I have a family, and I have a career. I still go up here in the summer a bit. If I were rodeoing full time, there’s no chance I’d have sold him. Rhen had been interested in him for four years. We could never agree on a price, and then he called me this spring, and he said he wanted to try him. I didn’t know if I wanted to sell him, but he was serious. I sent him down and he never sent him back."
Buhler found Festus so hard to part with because he'd slipped into his life at the perfect time. He was training horses, and a customer named Eddie Anderson from Rocky Mountain House, Alberta, brought the gelding to him for some help.
"Eddie had bought him from a bull sale," Buhler said. "I rode him for Eddie for three months. When he came down to pick him up, he rode him, and he said that the horse was too much for him. He said he wanted to see me have him, but I didn’t have any money at all. I told him I didn’t have any money, but I’d love to own him. He gave me two years to pay for him, and it took me six months to buy him off of what I won on him."
Festus was a true Canadian horse, raised by Alberta's Shawn Fischer. Buhler never blanketed him in the winter, and rarely brought him into a barn. It didn't matter, because he worked, and excelled, everywhere. And particularly in little setups like the Thomas & Mack.
"He was the only horse I rode for five years," Buhler said. "He was the only horse I rodeoed and jackpotted on. A lot of what I have, in terms of being able to set up my family and my property, comes down to two horses, and he’s one of them. The funny part is, I rode that horse for five years, I made the CFR every year I rode him, I won season leader on him, but nobody ever voted on him for horse of the year. No one gave that horse the respect he deserves, but Rhen took him down there and his phone is blowing up with people wondering where he got that horse, and he finished third in the Horse of the Year voting in the PRCA."
Richard is an honorary Canadian this week, with Canadian team roping fans pulling for the horse they got to know North of the Border.
"That horse was always Clint’s horse, and he was always so fast and good," NFR header Kolton Schmidt said. "It’s funny seeing Rhen ride him, but it's awesome at the same time."
Buhler has been heading home from work every night as a police officer in Calgary just in time to watch Festus and Richard do work against the best in the world, and he's been on pins and needles every night.
"I hope he keeps going and Rhen wins the all-around," Buhler said. "I wouldn’t have sold him to just anyone. Rhen takes really good care of his animals. He instantly went down there and started winning and he loved him, and I’m glad the horse is getting the recognition he deserves." TRJ