How many rope horses earned $230,000 in just seven months this season, or helped a guy match a 17-year-old arena record? Meet Trevor Thiel’s Muenster—the tie-down roping horse that many feel is the best on the road today.
Before the end of March, 19-year-old Muenster had packed Scott Kormos to the win at RodeoHouston (worth $55,300) and helped Tyson Durfey go 6.9 seconds to win the first-ever American (for a cool $100,000). Then in July, a year after he’d carried Kormos to the average title at Cheyenne Frontier Days, Muenster helped Cade Swor tie the 9.9-second arena record at the Daddy of ’Em All.
“What’s so unique about this horse is you can run a 160-pound Holstein indoors or rope a big, fresh calf at Cheyenne and win at both places,” Swor said. “He knows when to just turn one around and when to give one a pretty big jerk. It’s almost like he wants to win just as bad as whoever is on him.”
Justin Maass has ridden him plenty, too. A handful of years ago, Thiel left his hometown of Greeley, Colo., to spend the winter with Maass rodeoing, and that’s when several Texans--—like Kormos—noticed Muenster’s skills.
The Thiel family found the sorrel cutting reject 15 years ago in Muenster, Texas, and put him through their training program in Belle Fourche, S.D. Since 2010, Muenster not only has taken Kormos to three NFRs, but did it while carrying at least one other guy the entire season.
“This horse was getting it every day; getting double the runs of any other horse,” Kormos said. “And if you go back and watch film, he leaves the corner and pins his ol’ ears back and gives it everything he’s got every time no matter who’s on him.”
When Thiel, Maass and Kormos all ride Muenster at the same rodeo, he works a little differently based on what each guy needs—yet he always nails it.
“I don’t have the killer instinct on my horse that I have on him,” added Kormos. “When I back in there on Muenster, I feel like I have a chance to win every time I nod my head.”
Swor feels Muenster should have won Horse of the Year for what he accomplished last season and this year, too, before he went home sick the first week of August.
“The older he gets, the better he gets,” Swor said. “Whenever you ride him up at Cheyenne, his whole demeanor changes. He knows they’re big and he gets on the muscle, like he knows what’s up. That’s one of the top five horses I’ve seen in a decade. I have a lot of respect for that horse—they’ve run a lot of calves at the Daddy and only tied two in nine seconds.”
In fact, Kormos, Swor and Thiel have collectively raked in $56,392 just in Cheyenne on Muenster since 2012.
“He’s 14.1 hands and maybe 1,050 pounds—he’s a glorified pony,” said Thiel. “But he can run a calf to the camera pit and just not give an inch. He’s a freak. That’s all there is to it.”
What makes Muenster so freakish has to do with how much he loves his job.
As a youngster, he got breaks in training so he’d keep craving it, and even now he never runs a practice calf. The Thiels try to make it fun for a horse, and they evaluate each young horse for which event suits it best.
For instance, the family trained another great calf horse named SX Docslider. But when “Slider” didn’t seem to like pulling calves, Trevor’s sister Kirby put him on the barrels. He went on to win the 2004 NFR average title in that event under Molly Powell.
To keep a great horse going for 15 years, Thiel credits good shoeing and regular conditioning (he lopes his money-maker a mile a day when he’s home), plus eliminating back soreness.
“Muenster never worked as consistent as he did once I had a saddle custom-built to fit him,” Thiel said. “You want the back of the saddle to stay down throughout the jerk and when the horse pulls, you don’t want the saddle to rock up on his withers like it can if it’s too narrow.”
Heading into winter, more than one cowboy is crossing his fingers that Muenster overcomes his illness. But either way, his legacy is intact—and his place as a lifetime member of the Thiel family.