No Accident: Wade’s Bay a Result of Historic California Breeding Program
Tyler Wade's Espuela Bro oughta be good—he's the product of a the famous Driftwood Ike stallion Blue Light Ike out of a the Thoroughbred mare Brio Victress, with a solid start in California's cattle country.

Tyler Wade’s bay gelding, Espuela Bro, has given the third-time NFR header from Terrell, Texas, the goes of his life through five rounds of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

So far, Wade’s won two go rounds, turning the other three steers in the money slot. Wade and Davison have won just over $62,000 this week, with fans taking quick notice of the sharp-scoring, great facing head horse that’s making it happen.

[Read More: Wade and Davison Tee Off with Round 1 Win]

[Read More: Horses with a History—the Gill-Murray-Wheatley Horse Connection]

[Read More: Wade and Davison Strike Again in Round 3]

“In the back of my head, I thought I was crazy for riding him.,” Wade said of the 12-year-old appendix-bred gelding he calls Spur. “There were a lot of things I didn’t like about him when I bought him. I haven’t got all the kinks out to throw him to the fire like this. He’s quick and catty, and he’s the most athletic horse I’ve ever rode. If you ride him right he feels amazing.”

The horse’s performance this week is no surprise to California header Joe Murray, who raised the horse and who headed at the Finals for Gary Gist in 1976, Rickey Green in 1977, and Gary Hemsted in 1978.

“I owned his mother, Brio Victress, and his dad, Blue Light Ike, too,” Murray said. “I’ve had three horses by Blue Light Ike at the Finals—the one Cody Cowden rode the last time he was there, the horse Spencer Mitchell rode in 2012, and the mare Nellie Miller won the world on and is running this year again is out of a daughter of Blue Light Ike. We’re just ranchers who have some broodmares. We’ve been fortunate to raise some higher-level horses. But it’s not an accident with some of the horses we have. I started out with David Gill’s breeding back in the 60s and 70s, and they had an awful lot of good team roping horses come out of their program. We’ve been real fortunate to have some high level horses.”

Murray on Espuela Bro shipping cows as a 4-year-old. Courtesy Joe Murray

The Thoroughbred mare Brio Victress was given to Murray by NFR barrel racer Marilyn Camarillo when she was moving from California to Oregon, Murray said. He raised five or six horses out of that mare, and Spur was one of the two horse colts she had.

The combination of Driftwood and Thoroughbreds like Bold Ruler and War Admiral works out to all the run a roper could need with all the cow he could ever want.

“I broke that horse, and I cowboyed on him,” Murray said. “I rode him to ship. All that mare’scolts are real good-minded, especially for straight Thoroughbreds. If you put somebody on him, and said he was out of a Thoroughbred mare, they wouldn’t believe you. All our colts are that way. They weren’t real crazy or anything.”

Murray sold him in 2011 at their famous Horses with a History Sale, held every two years in partnership with David Gill and Jim Wheatley. North Dakota father-and-son Lee and Luke Morast bought him, and went to roping on him.

Murray said despite the horse being half-Thoroughbred, he was cowy—a trait Wade says helps make him great today. Courtesy Joe Murray

Wade was nearly afoot mid-summer, after losing use of his former NFR-mount Fonzie to a chronic ankle injury. He was borrowing horses, riding third stringers and just barely getting by. He had to stay hooked, though, as he and Billie Jack Saebens had already won over $30,000 in eight rodeos in the winter of 2019.

“I tried 70-some horses in the last two years,” Wade lamented. “I needed one extremely bad. I was talking to Lee Hansen at Deadwood, and I told him I needed a horse and asked if any were around. He told me an old man in the stands had been telling him he owned a good one. I walked over and introduced myself, and got his phone number, and the next day I bought him.”

But within a couple weeks, Wade’s new mount was sore, needing time off. So Wade was once again without a mount at rodeo’s most critical time. He borrowed a roan horse from Coy Brittain named Hancocks Boon Scooter to get him through the rest of the year, but without horsepower of his own, Wade blames himself for not helping get Saebens to the Finals.

“Billie Jack had such a good horse,” Wade said. “But I just kept letting him down.”

When it came time to figure out what he was going to ride at the 2019 NFR, again for Cole Davison, another odd man out for the second year in a row, Wade didn’t make up his mind until the night before the first round.

“He’ll watch a cow pretty good,” Wade said. “If something goes wrong, he’ll read the cow before you can. A horse like that is great to have. He’s so smart, you have to ride him harder or he’ll out think you. He’s ready to work and drag that back leg when you throw your rope. You have to make sure you use your feet and your hands right, because he wants to do it anyway. There are big, dumb, easy horses out there. He’s not as easy, but he’s one of the best I’ve rode. Speed isn’t an issue.”

Wade’s pinged the start and stuck fast for five rounds. Hubbell Rodeo Photos

Murray’s been watching every night, and he’s been impressed with how fast Wade’s been able to get it on the steer.

“He’s roping awful fast. He’s been the guy who gets the starts and gets it on them all week. He’s got phenomenal starts. Even when that horse is ducking hard, he’s got his shoulders up and he’s not washing those steers out. It looks like to me he’s done a hell of a job. How can you complain? He’s getting starts like everybody dreams of. Those steers are right there. A lot of guys are struggling. Nobody is getting the go like Tyler is getting, and that horse is finishing into the wall. With an older man like Lee finishing that horse, it gave him a lot of time to get solid.” TRJ

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