Dustin Egusquiza and Travis Graves stopped the clock in 4.0 seconds in Jackson, Mississippi at the Dixie National Rodeo to earn $5,554 each—a little financial cushion to help them weather the Texas storm that's ravaging the state this week.
"Did we win it?" Graves said when we called him Thursday morning. He's been a bit busy, stuck without water to his horses and cows in the frigid Texas weather that's brought the state to its knees. He's spent the week breaking ice in his pond for his cattle and managing the four-hour, twice-per-day chores of hauling water to his horses.
Egusquiza and Graves got out of Jackson just in time to survive the treacherous drive home before the worst of the storm hit, making it home in 11 hours when it should have only taken 7. But the win—their second indoor win of the year, after they bested the rest of the field in Odessa in early January—catapulted Egusquiza to third in the PRCA world standings with $10,554.24 won, and Graves to second with the same amount.
"When we roped, 20 or 30 teams had already gone," Graves explained. "It was a weird run. The steer didn’t go anywhere. Dustin did a really good job not breaking the barrier. I started and saw the steer wasn’t going anywhere, and I pulled up and the steer went hard right. He reached a ways and did a great job getting a hold of him, and the steer handled good. I heeled him the first or second hop. It felt like the slowest 4-flat in the world."
"I looked at the steer before we roped," Egusquiza added. "I couldn't tell—he looked really good and he wasn't just skinny, and I thought he could take off and run. But when Wesley (Thorp) jumped down there in the chute, he didn't look like he had much to him, like he needed wormed or something. It was a good thing I was thinking about it because he was pretty slow. He was lost acting and stepped off to the right. TG heeled the crap out of him."
Egusquiza was on the horse he rode at the Finals—now 17-year-old Jack.
"He scored pretty good," Egusquiza said. "I felt like I kind of wanted to go, and I moved, and he stepped with me. I was still too early so I got me another throttle and he waited with me."
Graves has won both Odessa and now Jackson on a brand new mount: a 6-year-old Muleshoe Ranch-raised gelding named Golden Boy Boon.
The 14.3-hand dun, though only 6, is far from green. In fact he's been through some of heeling's best hands in the last year. Graves bought him right before Christmas from Lane Siggins, who got the horse on trade from Wesley Thorp, when Thorp traded for the gray gelding Siggins won the BFI aboard in 2019.
"There was not one place I went to in the state of Texas that someone didn’t come up to me and say 'Hey that’s the horse Wesley had. I ran 30 on him at a 13-slide,'" Siggins laughed. "I swear they were amateur rodeoing on him as a 3-year-old. I fed him up and put my finish on him, but that horse they used him before I got him. They were even going to make him or not. I rode him at the Tour Finale and the Circuit Finals. Me and Ross Ashford both rode him there and he didn't mind at all."
Thorp had only bought the horse when COVID-19 hit, after noticing him at a round robin.
"They had a round robin at Jarrod Cross’s house literally the day they shut everything down from COVID," Thorp remembered. "I went over there, and they had an open, 13-slide and 10-slide, all muley ropings. It was seven-by-seven, and you had tons of runs each roping. Tanner Lambert was there, who owned the horse, and Kutter Johnson was heeling on him. He rode that one horse all day long. He caught my eye—he looked good and he was tougher than heck. A few months down the road he decided he’d sell him. He brought him to the house, and after three times bringing him to the house—he had an abscess at the time so we wanted to make sure he'd pass the vet check—I bought him because his x-rays were clean."
Thorp didn't keep him long, because though he liked him, the horse was smaller than he needed and he already had his stand-out futurity prospect Juiced Up Cat, aboard whom he'd go on to win the American Rope Horse Futurity Association world title in 2020. So he sold him to Siggins, who sold him to Graves.
"He’s the best horse I’ve had in a long time," Graves said. "He’s easy to catch on, and he wants you to catch. He’s quick-footed and he’s a winner."
Graves plans to show the still-unnamed gelding in the 2021 edition of the American Rope Horse Futurity Association World Finals next October, but in the meantime the horse will be Graves' number-one for the rodeo season. He's also got Dual Chip, the brown gelding that came from Joseph Harrison who Graves rode to multiple NFR go-round wins, as well as Manny, his senior breeding-stock Paint gelding, as a backup. TRJ