Three different heel horses were ridden to first and second in the world in 2012 and first in the world in 2013. It’s no coincidence they all came through Kory Koontz.
The 19-time NFR heeler from west Texas has been known for his horses since Iceman grabbed Heel Horse of the Year honors three different times in the 1990s. Koontz’s next great dun, Jackyl, was already a legend when Jade Corkill rode him to a gold buckle in 2012—barely beating Clay O’Brien Cooper on another Koontz horse called LB. And Koontz once owned Switchblade, on whom Corkill recently won his second straight gold buckle.
Meanwhile, Koontz was busy earning more than any other heeler ($91,875) at the 2012 NFR—on a new horse that looked suspiciously like Jackyl.
Craig Mader, a #8 heeler from Gillette, Wyo., had heard Koontz was afoot in 2012. He knows good horses (Bobby Harris rode two of his at various NFRs), and reckoned his dun gelding, Playboy, would suit Koontz. He assured him the horse would pay for himself in Las Vegas.
After all, Playboy had done the same for Mader, who first borrowed him from Kris and D’Aun Brown of Texas for a World Series Finale.
“The first roping where I used him, I won $25,000,” said Mader, whose wife and daughter then conspired to buy the horse for him. “The first place Kory took him was Allen, Texas, where he was 3.8. That horse is just a winner, although he gets a little tight for me. He would make you win. Even if I wasn’t roping very well, he’d kind of snap me out of it.”
Playboy was bred by Jan Houck and went to the Brown family as a colt in a trade. Kris and D’Aun’s son, CNFR Champion Billy Bob Brown, won two trucks and a trailer on him before he even had a driver’s license. In 2007, Playboy was the Texas High School Rodeo Heel Horse of the Year.
“He’s not as dynamic with as much speed as the other really good ones I’ve had,” Koontz said. “He’s not the one everyone oohs and ahhs over. But he’s really solid and he gets the job done.”
That may be an understatement. In October, 42-year-old Koontz went on a tear with Chad Masters, zooming to second in the PRCA world standings while grabbing another $30,000 over five days of jackpots in Oklahoma. This year, Koontz is heeling for Bubba Buckaloo.
Playboy may not quite be Iceman or Jackyl, but there’s yet another dun gelding in Koontz’ corral that has a chance. He’s a 5-year-old colt by One Hot Jose; a gift from Joe Braman in gratitude for once getting to ride Iceman.
“I really want a horse that’s a combination of Iceman, Jackyl, Switchblade and LB all rolled into one,” Koontz said, laughing. “And you know how rappers always have a remix of a song? So I named him Remix. But so far, we’re still in the mixing stage on that one.”
At his best, Playboy reminds Koontz of Jackyl. But it takes work to keep him from pulling the same stunt Jackyl did that nearly cut off Corkill’s hand in the NFR’s first round.
“Jackyl always wanted to be short,” Koontz said. “Jade [Corkill] is great at keeping horses collected and up in the bridle. But if things get tight, the horse needs to stay together and keep pushing forward.
“In that first round, things got tight and Jackyl used his front end to stop, which made the rope run and it sucked in that coil and Jade’s left hand with it. If a horse keeps his butt down and his shoulders up, your rope won’t run.”
Koontz had drills he did with Jackyl to keep his shoulders up and moving forward so the horse never had time to punch his front end in the ground. But he never needed those drills on the more free-moving Switchblade, which Corkill then used for nine smoke-free rounds.
But he needs them again now. Playboy has that tendency to use his front end, which can take away your throw before it ever has a chance to cut your digits.
“I worked a lot with Playboy on breaking at the poll,” Koontz said. “The horse would stop and back up into the bridle, but I wanted him to give and still move forward. Through that corner, when I set it down, I want a horse real collected and on his butt, with his shoulders lifted so there’s less opportunity to cheat.”
Playboy by Koontz:
Feed: Alfalfa; occasional grass; Strategy Healthy Edge in summer
Supplements: Previcox tablets
Therapies: Classic Equine MagNTX sheet and bell boots
Bit: Petska chain
Saddle: Custom Martin Team Roper
Pad: Classic Equine Zone wool top
Leg Gear: Classic Equine Legacy