With the rope horse futurity industry ever growing, it was inevitable that Kaleb Driggers, reigning PRCA world champion header, would choose to try his hand at the lucrative game. It was not long before he turned to California horse trainer and former ARHFA World Champion Andy Holcomb.
Coming from two opposite ends of the country, their partnership was very unlikely. But Driggers’ drive to succeed in the futurities—his love for roping and horses all combined into a judged event—and his hunger for knowledge drove him right to Holcomb’s doorstep. Though showing was new to him, buying horses, making them better and placing them in a home to succeed is something in which he’d always specialized.
“It is something that I have always enjoyed,” Driggers, 33, said. “Last year I was at the BFI when I looked around and counted 10 horses being ridden there that I had owned. That’s a special place to have a massive amount of horses, due to the extreme setup.”
But buying and selling high-end Open mounts isn’t the same as training the elite-level prospects from the ground up in the futurity market.
Since he first hopped on the PRCA scene in 2008, Driggers has spent the majority of his career performing in an industry where speed trumps all else, sometimes even horsemanship.
“The way that we want our horses to perform for us on the daily, to cut off the clock as fast as possible, isn’t always the most correct way for a horse to perform,” Driggers, the Georgia native who now makes his home in Stephenville, Texas, explained.
As he broadened his focus, however, he has found himself going back to the basics, where slow and steady set the foundation for success. And that’s where Holcomb’s skillset shines.
“I have always seen Andy around at the circuit rodeos in California, and we tried to buy several of his horses throughout the years.” Driggers said.
Holcomb’s background in the cow horse and snaffle bit, combined with his knowledge of roping, made it a perfect fit for Driggers.
“His ability to dress a horse up is second to none, in my opinion,” Driggers said. “He knows where their feet are and where they need to be. With his knowledge of rodeo and his keen sense of what it takes to win at the shows, Holcomb’s was a perfect home for my horses. Not all horses are made to be show horses; my best rodeo horses are not show horses. But Andy puts such a solid foundation on all of them that when he is done, they can go in any direction.”
Driggers and Holcomb have combined for many show wins, with Driggers as the helper and Holcomb as the exhibitor. Track records show they have won nearly $116,500 at the futurities since teaming up in 2021.
“I believe we complement each other well, being that he makes a living going fast and I make a living out of going slow,” said Holcomb, the San Juan Bautista, California, native. “I believe to make a truly confident, high-caliber horse, there has to be balance between the two. We also both take constructive criticism well. We can talk about stuff we need to improve on, making it easier to talk about little things in a run or where a horse needs to be because in the end, we both have the same goal.”
While Driggers attacks the rodeo road, he is also keeping an eye out for the best prospects he can get ahold of, most of which are Riata Buckle or Royal Crown eligible due to the huge incentives. With similar taste in horses—good minded, quick footed, flashy and can read a cow—Holcomb always looks forward to getting his hands on the young athletes.
At the end of the day, the process is quite simple and works well between the two. Both guys are very eager to try and find the best horses in the country and train and show them through Holcomb’s program and eventually place them in the best fitting home—whether that be a jackpot team roper or under the bright lights of the rodeo scene. And while they may be states away, they are always looking to help each other when they can.
“I am sure he gets tired of getting videos from me while I am at home trying to work on my horses asking for advice,” Driggers said. “But he is always honest with me and tells me exactly what I need to hear and I respect that as I am the same way.”
Coming from a background of judged events, Holcomb has always put an emphasis on points and precision. Looking at a run as more of a sequence, he breaks it down into parts—how the horse stands in the box, runs and rates to the steer, sets and handles, and then pulls and faces. This is something Andy preaches to everyone, Driggers included.
“By running to the steer and taking an extra swing, you are showing the rate aspect as well as setting him up in the corner to give a better handle,” Holcomb said. “Someone coming from rodeo might be used to throwing a little more rope, but in turn do not set up their horse as well.”
Holcomb also had something to learn, though, when he realized his heelers, both NFR qualifiers and world champions, were slipping legs for him.
“There was only one common denominator,” Holcomb said. “Me.”
This is where Driggers’ years of experience and fierce sense of what it takes to win came in handy.
“I tend to pull my steers a little straighter, but Kaleb talked about how by keeping the steers head through the corner and coming back up the arena a little more, I could keep the rope tighter,” Holcomb explained. “This might cost me a point in the face but not as many as slipping a leg.”
He found another hole could be in the face itself. Pulling a little straighter and asking the horse to use its hind end created slack in the rope momentarily. Holcomb credits Driggers for giving him a more “competitive edge,” encouraging him to stay aggressive and not to safety up when he normally would.
“I was caught in a different kind of face,” Holcomb said. “I liked to sit back and draw them into the ground, but Kaleb showed me how to stay forward and get them to swivel their hind end around, without bending too much.”