With $91,495 won by September 1, two-time World Champion Patrick Smith can breathe his heaviest sigh of relief in years—seven years, to be exact.
Smith, 42, hasn’t been to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo since the last time he qualified with Trevor Brazile in 2015. But in 2022, he’ll make his return, this time with first-timer Tanner Tomlinson, a young gun reacher from South Texas and the 2020 Resistol Rookie of the Year. Tomlinson and Smith are eighth in the PRCA world standings as rodeo’s fourth quarter winds down.
“This feels like such an accomplishment because it’s something my kids have wanted me to do for a while,” Smith said. “That sounds petty, but I really wanted to get back with them being older. They know a lot more now about the NFR—way more than they did the last time. And with all I have going in business and in life, it really means a lot that I was able to do this. The older you get, life pulls you away from rodeo. I feel extremely grateful and extremely blessed.”
Kadabra King & Patrick Smith
Coincidentally, the horse that is carrying Smith back to Las Vegas is a horse that came from the City of That Never Sleeps to begin with. Smith’s dun gelding Kadabra King was bred by Wayne and Carolann Hodges of Weatherford, Texas, but he spent his early career under the ownership of South Point Hotel & Casino owners Michael and Paula Gaughan.
“Turbo”, Smith’s 12-year-old dun gelding by Abrakadabracre out of the Holidoc mare Quixote Jessie, has set down he bulk of Smith’s 2022 steers.Tomlinson and Smith have chipped away at the field, winning second last weekend at the Rancho Mission Viejo Rodeo in San Juan Capistrano, California worth $8,310 a man—by far their biggest check of the year. Otherwise, he and Tomlinson have plugged along—$1,500 to $3,000 at a time.
“Turbo fits so well behind Tanner and his abilities,” Smith, of Lipan, Texas, said. “He’s shorter-strided than what I’ve rodeoed on. That comes into play behind Tanner, because you can’t outrun the head rope. So I can let the steer leave, but still be in the spot to throw when I need to.”
Turbo’s Las Vegas Origin Story
But Turbo wasn’t just perfect from the start. Smith has spent the entire time since his last NFR qualification in 2015 making the horse. And it wasn’t exactly easy.
“I had Amigo, and he was getting to the end of his career, and I was really looking for something young that I could practice on,” Smith explained. “As bad as I hate to give Trevor credit because he gets so much already, he is the one who told me he knew of a young horse. He said, ‘This is the first one I’ve seen in a while that I really like, but he’s kind of a bronc.'”
“Mr. Michael and Ms. Paula Gaugahn owned him, and [National Cutting Horse Association Hall of Famer] Cookie Banuelos had been riding him for them,” Guy said. “Cookie sent him to us to rope on because he just wasn’t making it as a cutter. They wanted him to cut bad—a son of Abrakadabracre should cut. But he didn’t, so he came to us.”
Guy rides plenty of horses for the Gaughans, but this one went to Thompson for one reason: He bucked. Guy’s back, ankle and knees consistently give her trouble, so she’s long-since given up riding the broncs in their string.
“He was very talented, and I thought maybe even one for us to keep,” Thompson, who is also the WCRA’s all-time high-money earner, said. “He was a little squirrelly. And he’d grab ass all the time. If you got him in a funny spot, he could really do it. Back then, he’d do it even during a run. But he was broke and fast-footed when he came from Cookie, everything you’d look for. He was just quirky.”
Thompson roped calves and heeled the sled on him, and occasionally Guy would hope on to rope the Heel-O-Matic on him, too, when she felt confident enough that he wouldn’t do anything stupid.
“Trevor came by one day, and he rode him,” Guy said. “And he said right away Patrick would like him.”
Smith drove to Guy’s place in Abilene, and the horse humped up at the tie-rail while Thompson saddled him.
“He was extremely athletic, and really watchy,” Smith said. “His athleticism was off the charts.”
So Smith bought him. He went home and went to doing things slow—first just riding, then heeling the sled and then on to slow cattle.
“His first high-pressure situation was the Wildfire in 2017,” Smith said. “That was when Amigo was really having trouble with his knees. I rode Amigo on the first steer there, and he limped out. The only thing I had to ride was Turbo, so I got on him. And I won the roping.”
But that fairytale didn’t really last. That year Smith took him to the rodeos in Canada, and every Ferris wheel or blowing shavings bag took his attention away from the cow in the cold weather north of the border. But Smith didn’t have much to practice and jackpot on back in Texas, so he kept after it with Turbo.
“There were a lot of times I didn’t get along with him, and he didn’t get along with me,” Smith said. “But as I’ve progressed in my horsemanship, he kept getting better. I learned patience, to not try to get it all in one bite. I probably ruined decent horses trying to make them feel like Amigo. But with him I’ve learned to feel little changes day by day. They’ve added up to where, when I step on him, I’m as confident as I’ve ever been in a heel horse.”
Getting to the Next Level
In 2019, Smith purchased three-time NFR stallion WSR Hesa Dunofa Lena, so he had one of the sport’s most reliable mounts ready to roll in the trailer. That helped give Turbo a little time to continue to mature.
“He was unpredictable, but by the time he was 9, he was finally mature enough to focus,” Smith said. “Before that, he was a little kid with the attention span of a gnat.”
Finally having figured things out, Smith was ready to sell Turbo and look for another great horse. Then in the spring of 2021, Turbo got hurt. But by July of that same year, Rooster and Smith’s third-string horse were hurt, too. Smith borrowed horses over the Fourth of July, and then had Turbo—freshly rehabbed at Outlaw Equine—sent back out on the road to finish the season.
Smith finished a disappointing 34th in the world in 2021 with $36,018 won, but he had deep faith in his talented young partner and his horse—both coming into their own.
“I couldn’t sell him anymore, because he was all I had for a whole year,” Smith said. “I’ve always said I’ve had two great ones and a lot of good ones. But this year, Turbo should be in the running for Heel Horse of the Year because he hasn’t hardly made a mistake. He’s just let me do my job.”
On to Las Vegas
While Guy has had numerous horses that came through her program at the Finals, this will be a first for Thompson—especially on the heel side.
“Every good horse has a quirk,” Thompson said. “What Patrick did with that horse—he left him home and roped the dummy a long time before he even started roping live steers on him—that did him so much good. He’s just quirky and tough enough that once you broke through that, he’ll be good forever.”
Now, before anyone jumps to conclusions, Smith will also have Rooster in Las Vegas ready to roll.
“Rooster has been a huge asset to the team,” Smith said. “And when he got hurt, and I got on Turbo, we went to winning and things were going good. This horse and I jived, and we were winning. But every time I’ve gotten on Rooster this year, I’ve placed. And Rooster is 18 years old, and he’s got a future beyond rodeo. His breeding career is a priority for me, especially with the Riata Buckle. But, it will be a huge relief to have Rooster in Las Vegas because he’s been so exceptional there, too.”