When Jade Corkill rode into the box at the 2012 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo aboard a small dun, team-roping junkies in the crowd whispered, “Is that Jackyl?”
Corkill’s PRCA/AQHA Horse of the Year, Caveman, had come up lame the month before, and Corkill was without the horsepower it would take to win his first world title. That was until he called Michael Jones.
Jones had bought Jackyl in 2006 from Kory Koontz. Koontz bought the young outlaw seven years earlier from Tyler Magnus, who first saw the horse in the late 1990s when a young Travis Graves was riding him for Oklahoma’s Ryan Miller, trying to get him sold.
“I had lost Iceman, and spent a year and a half trying to find something else I could just make a living on,” Koontz remembered. “Tyler had owned Jackyl for about three months, and he was still pretty green and kind of an outlaw... I tried him at an open jackpot and Jackyl reared up out of the box twice on our short round steer. I still won first and third in the roping, and decided to buy him.”
Koontz didn’t know what he had when he bought the unregistered dun, but he didn’t have much else to ride so he just started hauling Jackyl as his #1. The horse was tough to get along with, and would buddy up with other horses and act like a stud from time to time. He stomped Koontz’s dog for coming into his pen, breaking the dog’s leg.
But he learned how to get by him and the partners developed some mutual respect. Koontz and Jackyl would go on to win three Wildfire Open to the Worlds, the California Rodeo Salinas and qualify for four WNFRs.
“He started to be known for how hard he stopped and how he finished,” Koontz said. “When he was younger, he could really run, too. But he would get tighter and tighter, so he got to be the kind of horse I’d ride in the shorter setups where he’d be above average.”
Koontz owned a horse named Switchblade, too, and started to ride him in most arenas. Jones was looking for a top horse and Koontz felt he could part with Jackyl in 2006. Jones rode him at the NFR from 2007-2009, after letting Allen Bach ride him to win the world in 2006. All along, though, the heel horse was never eligible for the PRCA/AQHA’s Horse of the Year award because he was either unregistered or his papers were lost. All his owners maintain he certainly would have won the award given the chance, the fact that he couldn’t be nominated was a true shame.
So in 2012, when Corkill was out of horsepower, Jackyl was the first good one he thought of. The horse had hundreds of thousands in earnings with nearly every style of roper, and he’d been in semi-retirement.
“I just called and asked if Jackyl was sound, and if he’d be for sale,” Corkill said. “I bought him for the Thomas & Mack specifically. Every horse has their spot they go to, and his is perfect for there. Where he goes, he doesn’t get too close, and you can’t really over-ride him. And he finishes so strong. In that arena, it really matters and those tenths of a second cost thousands.”
Corkill was flawless aboard Jackyl during his first gold buckle campaign at the 2012 WNFR. Jackyl carried Corkill through the world title race and into 2013. Corkill rode Jackyl in the buildings, at the George Strait Team Roping Classic, the Ram National Circuit Finals (which Corkill won), on-and-off throughout the summer run and at the Justin Boots Championships in Omaha, Neb. He was called to duty at the 2013 WNFR, but Corkill caught his left hand in his dally in Round 1, so he switched to Switchblade—who he now owns, too—for the rest of the Finals to keep from losing his rope.
The 22-year-old gelding doesn’t take much maintenance for all of the miles he’s seen, either. In the year Corkill’s owned him, he’s had the horse’s right knee injected once, this past November.
“He’s the toughest horse there’s ever been,” Corkill said. “He wants to be out here. I’ve never had a horse that loves heeling as much as a person. If you go to get another horse out of the pen to take, he’ll bite at the chain on his pen. And if you just whistle, he’ll come running up to you in the field. At the NFR, when you go to cinch him up, you have to hang on. He’ll lunge forward and charge up the tunnel. Michael told me he’d do it, but I guess I didn’t think it was going to be like it was. I smoked Dakota Kirchenschlager down the first night in 2012 because I just didn’t see it coming. He just knows he’s there.”
When Corkill bought Jackyl, Koontz warned him to be careful with the horse around Colby, Corkill’s 2-year-old son. But all the years and the miles had mellowed the horse Koontz knew.
“When Colby gets on him, he looks 100% crippled,” Corkill said. “He barely moves. Colby ran barrels on him in Stephenville. He’s so careful and he knows to take care of him.”
While he may have calmed down out of the arena, Corkill said there aren’t any signs of him slowing down. “Jackyl’s got a respect back for the game, he’s just on a different level.”
And Koontz’s take on Jackyl? “This is more of a lifetime achievement award for him. If any horse has earned it, it’d be Jackyl.”