On the weekend of Sept. 11-14, at the famed Lazy E Arena in Guthrie, Okla., some of the best team roping horses in the business made history under team roping's newest competition format.
Eight years of planning and organization came to a head when 18 individuals were awarded checks totaling $27,185 at the first-ever National Team Roping Horse Association event. Champions also took home top-of-the-line Bob Berg buckles and CSI saddle pads. Sonora Insurance Group contributed an additional $1,000 to the Novice Amateur classes onsite at the event, and Velvasoft Equine Products added $1,250 to the Youth classes.
An impressive 97 entries came from as far away as Nevada and Arkansas to make up 11 classes of head and heel horses that were timed and judged in two go-rounds under the NTRHA's unique format. Judges Clay Logan, Twister Cain, Britt Bockius, Bobby Hunt and C.R. Bradley scored every horse entered on five distinct maneuvers-then each team's time was converted to points for a final tally.
The Open Heading class of 13 renowned horses was a battle between Steve Orth on Dennis Schroeder's AQHA World Champion Shining Smokin Spark and nationally ranked rodeo header Mikey Fletcher on his good gray horse Clay Bay Cortez. The two finished first and second, respectively, with combined scores over two rounds of 547.74 and 538.84. Orth placed third, as well, on Virgil Jones' multi-talented 5-year-old stallion Junewoods Jerrie, to bank $2,520, while Fletcher earned $1,080.
"I've rodeoed, but jackpots are what have always paid the bills for me," said Fletcher, who was attending his first-ever judged show. "And that consistency is what they like here. I'm not really into horse shows and I'm not really wanting to rodeo, so this fits my deal pretty perfect. The steers were awesome, they had good flagging, and it was run very professional."
Fletcher says his head horse (that's been known to duck at rodeos) looked "like a million bucks" at the NTRHA show because "Fletch" kept his head on straight.
"Young guys need to realize they don't need to have a $50,000 head horse to win here," he said. "They just need one that works, because there's a division for everyone here. It's not a popularity contest. You can come to one of these and enjoy a nice atmosphere and get a fair shot on a good steer. The only thing that can take you out of it is yourself."
Heeler Cole Bigbee appreciated the light, high-loping steers and how easy the event was on horses. He also mentioned the opportunities for helpers.
"If it's close enough to home and you can go catch, why not go and get some free money?" he advises higher-numbered ropers. "It doesn't cost anything but your diesel."
Also in Guthrie, Rick Rosaschi's Kelvin Joe Chex came out on top in the Open Heeling with a 549-the highest aggregate score recorded over the entire weekend, while Clay Lewis' sorrel gelding Cody's Lena Bar won the Limited Open Heading. Ty Boggeman's sorrel mare Smurf's Cowgirl took top honors in Limited Open Heeling, while Butch Morgan won the Non Pro Heading class on his bay gelding, Bob's Hint.
Cary Chambers' gorgeous brown mare Bossy Lill Bonita won both the Non Pro and Amateur Heeling championships. Phenomenal at both ends, she was easily the equine MVP of the NTRHA's inaugural event. The stout mare not only won the two heeling classes, but also posted the second-highest score in the first round of the Open Heading under Mikey Fletcher and won the reserve championship in Open Heeling under Cole Bigbee. She will be shown by Britt Bockius at the NTRHA's next event in Glen Rose, Texas, on Sept. 26-28.
The toughest contest of the three-day event in Guthrie was in Amateur Heading, where Cody Chambers on Poisonous Peppy edged Ryon Massey on Sugar Leo Sonny by less than a tenth of a point on two head. Novice Amateur header Bryce Ward won his class aboard his roan gelding, Plenty Smoothwood, and on the heel end, it was Novice Amateur Farren Carpenter taking the win on Zan Jack Showdown. Finally, the Youth Heading champ was Ryan Plummer on Larkin Like BC.