JD Yates piloted the 6-year-old bald face sorrel gelding DT Air Jordan to his second consecutive American Rope Horse Futurity Association heading world title with a score of 929.54 on four head.
DT Air Jordan is by Shiners Lena Chex out of Margies Little Jess and was raised by Dean Tuftin. The horse is owned by Kyle and Greg Hause of Gill, Colorado. Greg hopped the arena wall as the roping came to an end to hug his jockey.
"It's just the idea to compete, and have a chance to win big," an emotional Yates said, choking back tears on the floor of Fort Worth, Texas' John Justin Arena after the win. "It makes it all worth it. Hard work, just what anybody does, just happened to be roping for me."
Yates was second call back on DT Air Jordan and fourth call on the horse's full sister, DT Juno Shines. But with DT Juno Shines, Yates' son and NFR heeler Trey roped a leg. Visibly frustrated, Trey rode back up the arena, had 30 seconds to regroup, and backed in the box on his great bay, Romancing the Chicks.
"I just told him, 'We've got another chance.' That's really what grows you as a roper. A kid his age, learning to be what he wants to be—one of the best in the world—you need to have flaws in your life like that to have to reach down and step it up on the next steer. There was no doubt in my mind that he'd catch that steer. If there was anybody going to screw up on the team, it was me. Those are what makes you a better person and a better roper. I have got to hand it to him. He rodeoed all year, came home and rode all my heel horses and helped me work them. I'm getting to the point in my life where I can't take it like I used to. And he's really trying to step it up and do the right thing as far as helping me and doing that. That's what it's all about. The winning is one of the most outstanding things in the world, but how you play the game—there's no better feeling."
Trey said regrouping had been the theme of his day, with a few frustrating runs throughout the futurity.
"It's part of the mind game," Trey, who helped his dad win the futurity the year before, too, said. "I knew Air Jordan was a great chance, and I did my best to act like I hadn't even run a steer all day. It was different because we had one bullet left and I couldn't screw up. It was mentally tough but I'm glad it worked out really good. I got on Dude in the third round, and I'd tried three of them up to that point. I love him and he didn't need the runs, but I needed to step up to the plate."
Yates thought DT Air Jordan was good in 2017, but the horse has matured in 2018 to the point that Yates believes he'll truly make a top rodeo horse.
"He keeps getting better," Yates said. "I just feel fortunate to be the one chose to ride him. It's one of those horses that you get a lot of credit for horse training, but I really just had to stay out of his way and go do my job and he did most of the work."
Yates plans to show him in the senior heading at the AQHA World Show this November and believes the Hause family will allow him to make a decision that's best for the horse beyond that.
"Probably I need to let somebody who can really rope ride him at the rodeos," Yates, 58-years-young, laughed. "I do want to rope a little bit. I enjoyed going back to heeling last year, heeling for JoJo Lemond. But I don't know what my future holds as far as rodeo. It's all in Trey's hands. What Trey wants to do, I'm going to support and try to get him as far as he can. I enjoy roping and competing against these kids half my age and having a chance. Fortunately I will tell you, that I better be riding a good horse if I've got a little bit of a chance because I damn sure can't out rope them...And if you try to play it on a high level—I've got not a lot of business competing with a lot of these young guys out here roping—I've got it in my heart, so I'm going to keep on doing it."