The name Ryan Motes has been synonymous with 2013 AQHA/PRCA Horse of the Year CD Starbucks for the bulk of the Texas roper's million-dollar career. But at 21, the son of CD Olena out of the Grays Starlight mare Cari Me Starlight is in the Motes' rig this summer as a companion for his younger full-brother CD Rockstar, aboard whom Motes won RFD-TV's The American and $433,333.33.
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"I rodeoed on Starbucks forever to win a million, and now I’ve rodeoed on Rocky just a couple years and probably won a million in this short time," Motes said. "He was my second stringer not for a bad reason. I had one of the best ones there is during all of Rocky's career. When I went to practicing for the NFR on him is when he really started seeing it. They felt similar. When I went to rodeoing on Rocky it was crazy how close they felt to working the same."
Motes and his family raised both horses—first as cutting hopefuls—at their place in Weatherford. While Starbucks was a heeling prodigy early on, just as Motes' career was taking off in the amateur ranks, Rocky, a tick bigger, stronger and faster than his brother, showed the most promise on the head side.
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"By the end of his 2-year-old year, we decided he really travels like a running horse. He throws his front leg out there like a race horse. My family knew at that point and how much success I’d had on Starbucks at the amateur rodeos at 7 that year, so we decided he would go to the roping pen. We roped on him, and eventually I gave him to Courtney. He was Courtney’s head horse for a long time. Chad Masters loved him forever. Chad and Luke (Brown) both liked him. I wanted $50,000 for him as a head horse, and that was probably 10 years ago. It was back and forth with those guys for a long time, and we never did get a deal done. Chad said a while back, 'Aren’t you glad you didn’t sell him as a head horse?'"
On the Rodeo Road
Motes rode Rocky at the 2010 Texas Circuit Finals behind Justin Davis where they won the average, and jackpotted on him on and off for the next few years behind Starbucks and his mare Goldie. But in 2014, Starbucks tore a muscle in his shoulder at Cheyenne, and Motes was on a final push to get himself and his partner Aaron Tsinigine to the NFR.
"I took Starbucks to CSU, and went on with Rocky from there," Motes said. "We did good everywhere right off the bat. We kept winning and that was the year we came from out of the top 30 after Cheyenne and by the time we left Ellensburg we were 10th or 12th. I rode him right up until the end of the season and rode him in California and Starbucks was back for the other rodeos."
Motes missed the Finals by a few thousand dollars that year, but Tsinigine got there to rope with Clay O'Brien Cooper. The next year, Tsinigine and Motes went all season, and Rocky got plenty of runs in the winter while Starbucks was on break.
In the fall of 2015, Motes wasn't quite sure which horse he'd ride at the Finals behind Tsinigine's great horse Smudge, as both Starbucks and Rocky were at the top of their games.
Surviving Colic Surgery
"It was Thanksgiving, and we were leaving the next day to go to AZ to practice with Tsinigine," Motes said. "And I woke up that morning, and Rocky had been down in the stall pawing, and then he colicked that night. We had to do full colic surgery on him at midnight the night before leaving for the NFR."
Dr. Weston Warnock did the surgery, and Motes pulled his mare Goldie, still fat and barefoot, out of the pasture to head to the Finals as a back up. Dr. Warnock oversaw his care while the Motes crew was in Vegas, where Motes rode Starbucks to get his header a world title and finish second himself.
"I gave him extra time off, and started him back at the Windy Ryon," Motes said. "That was the ERA year in 2016, so I rode Starbucks at the few rodeos we went to, and I jackpotted and amateur rodeoed on Rocky."
Motes rode Rocky to win the first-ever Lone Star Shootout in 2018 behind Lane Ivy, and it was aboard Rocky that Motes barely missed a 2018 NFR qualification. Back with a vengeance with Coleman Proctor in 2019, Motes punched his ticket to the Finals in February with his record-shattering $433,333.33 win at RFD-TV's The American, with $50,000 of it counting toward the PRCA's world standings. As the summer run gets underway, Motes already has $72,447.83 in PRCA earnings—well above the threshold for an NFR berth a year prior.
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"Even though he’s bigger he’s got such good timing," Motes said. "He’s pretty good sized. He travels wider eyed and higher headed than Starbucks used to. He’s barely taller than Starbucks. Apparently he must look quite a bit bigger. He feels faster than Starbucks back in the day, but it’s hard to tell that many years apart from Starbucks' heyday. Rocky is maybe a little bit freer running than Starbucks. Starbucks always was in the right place at the right time and knew what was going on. Rocky, I can hold, hold, hold and then go to the steer. He can fly, and he really rates down pretty good. He’s maybe more aggressive with it than Starbucks. But you can ride them both exactly the same. I’m fortunate, most of the time you don’t have two brothers who are so similar."
With Motes' relatively cushy spot heading into the summer run, he and Courtney are only taking one rig to the summer rodeos. In it? Starbucks and Rocky. Starbucks will make some choice performances, when needed, to give Rocky a break.
"Starbucks is a real nice option to have as a backup horse," Motes said. "At 21, he’s 100-percent sound, and I try to take care of him. He’s taken care of me forever. I don’t want to have to retire him from riding him. He’s like Jackyl. He does not like staying at home. He still feels great. At the house he feels lazy, but I rode him at Greeley and Spanish Fork last year. You don’t realize; you ride him at the house and he feels like a kid’s horse but get him to a rodeo and he knows half the words to the National Anthem and he’s lapping the warm-up arena and spinning before the booms go off." TRJ