If there’s one horse Logan Olson wouldn’t mind having back, it’s Frenchmans Fix. But if there’s one guy who’s not about to give him up, it’s Nick Sartain.
The 2009 world champion header—aboard that particular horse—zoomed into the top five in this season’s PRCA standings in April, without even counting the $27,500 he earned on him at RodeoHouston or the $9,598 banked at the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo.
“He’s just a blessing to me,” says Sartain, 35, of the 10-year-old buckskin. “He’s just awesome. When I first got on him and loped him, he just had a real nice little feel to him. He’s not real big, but he doesn’t know he’s not big. He doesn’t know it at all.”
The horse Sartain calls “Snort” (he can be a little snaky) was actually purchased from Jacque Woolman by Brad Ozeroglu, whose Oklahoma-based company Titan Oilfield Chemicals sponsors Sartain. But Snort was raised and trained by Olson, whose father produced the horse out of their good all-around mare, who herself was out of their nice tie-down roping mare.
Back in 2008, Olson was starting a family and didn’t plan on rodeoing, so he sold Snort to Bryan Robbins of Stephenville, who sold him once more before Tee and Jackie Woolman bought him.
“That horse has been in good hands his whole life,” says Sartain. “He was pretty much always ridden by Logan Olson, Broc Cresta (Olson’s partner at the time), Dakota Kirchenschlager (who worked for an owner), or Jackie Woolman. That makes all the difference. If a horse doesn’t develop bad habits, you don’t have to fix bad habits.”
Now, Sartain is primed for a second-straight NFR appearance—his fifth overall—and is in contention for a world title with legend Rich Skelton. But it’s been a while coming. For three years following their gold-buckle ’09 season, Sartain and Kollin VonAhn tried to find the magic again, to no avail. Finally, after a 16th-place finish in 2012, Sartain encouraged VonAhn to forge ahead without him.
“Last year people would say, ‘It’s good to see you back,’ and I was like, ‘Man, I never left,’” jokes Sartain, who lives about 40 miles west of Guthrie, Okla. “We just weren’t winning much. Kollin roped great but I didn’t have the horses I needed and I wasn’t getting the job done, so I pulled up and decided to stay home and ride horses and give lessons. Then Rich talked to me and promised we’d find the right horse. He was right.”
The fact that both Sartain and his eight-time world champion heeler now ride matching buckskins is the fodder for plenty of ribbing from their buddies. But the joke will be on the jokesters if this team of double world champs can stay hot.
“The first year after I won the world, I wanted another one so bad it was almost worse than before I won it,” Sartain says. “That’s the only way Rich and I are different—he would just be adding to a long list. But I’d like to help him add to it!”
Because Snort is compact and quick-footed, Sartain was worried at first he might start getting tight or quick in the corner. But the horse has stayed as honest as the day is long and continues to give Sartain everything, every time. That’s partly because Sartain works at keeping his horses softened up, or listening in the run.
“The key is practicing on the right kind of steers,” he says. “You want lighter, weaker steers that aren’t hard to pull and don’t just haul butt every time. I’m into letting my horse take it easy. A lot of people are all about getting horses to run and getting the most out of them, but that keeps the fire turned up so high. I’ve got to let one come back down and be controllable.”
And the best way to keep horses listening? Keep them liking what they’re doing.
“I’m not pulling big steers or ducking back a bunch,” he says. “I spoil them that way, and I ride outside a lot. For those younger horses that are 7 or 8, or even 10, that are getting a lot of runs in the arena, it helps a great bit. It frees up their mind. It’s just awful good for a horse that’s having pressure put on him all the time.”
Feed: Alfalfa and coastal hay; grain rarely
Headgear: Kerry Kelley correction bit; leather-covered rope-nose tie-down
Pad: Relentless Gel
Leg Gear: Relentless Sport Boots