“There’s not a lot of steering during the run. Which is okay, because I figure he’s roped more steers than I have. It’s a little nerve-wracking the first couple of times, like, is he going to turn in? Then it’s so smooth and he’s stopping and it’s like, there’s the feet and I’ve already got them roped. Dally!”
- Jim Ross Cooper on how it feels to ride Jackyl
Two decades ago in south Texas, Jim Ross Cooper’s number-one horse was a scrawny dun colt that didn’t know his Spanish nickname meant “little chicken,” or that his mother was traded by a Mexican for a bloodhound.
Nearly two million dollars, two gold buckles and 13 NFRs later, the highest-earning horse in team roping history doesn’t know that most 24-year-olds aren’t even getting saddled. They’re definitely not being hauled 100,000 miles a year and certainly not winning go-rounds at the NFR.
“It’s the most amazing thing in the whole world to me,” said Jade Corkill, who sold Jackyl last year to Cooper. “On the final night of this year’s NFR, when the announcer started talking about that horse, a bunch of us in the tunnel kind of got goose bumps. Then Jim goes out and wins the day money! I almost loped around the building to see if Jackyl had a heart attack and died right there at the stripping chute, winning the 10th round like that.”
It might have been the perfect moment, like sinking a shot at the buzzer to win the NBA championship in the final game of a legendary career. But there is no final game. Jackyl hasn’t lost a step. That’s despite being sold in 1999 because his first owner thought he was a cripple.
For six years, Kory Koontz won everything (including the Wildfire Open three times) on “Ticho” after renaming him Jackyl. For four years, Michael Jones did the same. Koontz—and everyone else—probably assumed Jackyl’s career would end with Jones, who stopped competing four years ago. So in the fall of 2012, the guys at the Columbia River Circuit Finals Rodeo nearly fell off their horses when Corkill rode his new superstar dun into the warm-up pen.
“It was like, ‘That’s not good, giving the best heeler the best heel horse,’” recalled Cooper. “And a month later, Jade went and proved us right.”
Jackyl might be “the best horse,” but unfortunately he was never registered, so he’s never been eligible for a PRCA/AQHA Horse of the Year award. His mother was just a yearling when Bob Wyatt’s father got her in trade for a dog he used for trailing deer. Rumor has it she was actually out of a registered mare, but the mare had been snuck across the fence onto the Welder Ranch to get bred by Poco Plan. The rancher wasn’t about to sign off on that little arrangement, which sealed her paperless fate—and that of all the colts Wyatt eventually raised out of her, including Jackyl.
Fast-forward to 2014. Cooper was sure Corkill would never sell the horse he was riding when he came tight on his first gold buckle. But he popped the question anyway and Corkill, already the owner of Switchblade, decided to sell. Cooper took possession of Jackyl in January. He spent the winter and spring trying to save the old road warrior by splitting runs between Jackyl and his two back-up horses. It did not go well.
“Michael told me once that Jackyl won’t give you everything if he feels like he’s riding the pine,” said Cooper. “It sounds odd, but it’s true. The more you ride him, the better he works.”
When Cooper started camping on Jackyl, they earned an astounding $40,000 in six weeks. Just how bad a cat is this horse? At Nampa, Cooper himself was high call and he mounted a few other guys that flew in from Salinas. Kollin VonAhn, Jared Bilby and Cooper won first, second and third in the short round on Jackyl. The horse earned $13,140 that day, but nobody knows about most of it.
In fact, through Dec. 31, 2014, Jackyl’s earnings are estimated at $1,921,108, and that doesn’t include money won when people borrowed him or if they forgot about various jackpot checks.
“There’s no way to explain the feel of that horse,” Cooper said. “You can’t teach it and you can’t train it. I feel like I finally found a horse that fit me perfectly, because I’m a naturally aggressive person. That horse really drops and wrecks a steer, but he never stops until he’s supposed to stop. He just knows when to do everything.”
What he doesn’t know is how much money has been paid for him five times over, or that he’s one of the last great-grandsons of both Doc Bar and Poco Bueno.
But who doesn’t want to see him have another $100,000 season and blow past the magical $2 million mark? Who doesn’t want to see him take one more NFR victory lap; throw that defiant mane with one more gold-buckle stop?
Certainly not Jim Ross Cooper.
Jackyl by Cooper
Feed: Alfalfa and grass hay
Supplements: Formula 1 Noni, joint injections as needed
Therapies: Aquatread sessions
Headgear: Flat leather tie-down and chain port Petska bit
Saddle: Relentless by Trevor Brazile
Pad: Relentless ¾-inch felt with cutout
Leg Gear: Classic Equine all the way around
Jackyl has so much King blood in his veins, it’s no wonder he’s been The King for so long. Cal Bar was a full brother to the grandsire of cutting superstar Peptoboonsmal. But Jackyl’s stamina and grit likely come from Miss Super Fleet, by a son of the immortal Thoroughbred Depth Charge and out of a Gill Cattle Company mare.