Full Circle: Snow's 'Play Sleeping' is First ARHFA Grad to Make Rodeo's Big Show

Cody Snow rode Bert and Megan McGill's Play Sleeping in Round 1 of the 2022 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo to bring the rope horse futurity game full circle.

ARHFA grad "Sleepy" makes his NFR debut under Cody Snow in Round 1. | Jamie Arviso

Cody Snow cracked out a new mount, Play Sleeping, for Round 1 at the 2022 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. The decision paid off with a solid first-round check to kick off his week the right way.

That go-round check completed a circle that those who aren’t necessarily hooked into the rope horse futurity game might not have seen coming: The10-year-old gelding by Lenas Stylish Doc out of Sleepys Poco Rosita is the first American Rope Horse Futurity Association finalist to go the distance from show horse to NFR horse. Those fundamentals fostered at the futurity level are now allowing him to play on rodeo’s biggest stage.

ARHFA Origin Story

Owned by California horse trainer Bert McGill, “Sleepy” came from Texas’ Patterson Ranch. Horseman and cowboy Tripp Townsend, from Earth, Texas, bought him and cowboyed on him as a 2- and 3-year-old. McGill had purchased horses from Townsend in the past, and the two had an understanding that, if he had something he thought McGill would like, Townsend would give him a call.

“I bought two horses that day but, at that time, the rope horse futurities barely existed,” McGill remembered. “So that wasn’t in my mind. You could head steers on him whenever I got him from Tripp, and there was just something about him—something I felt could be special. There was so much potential.”

McGill got the horse home and put him through his routine on the West Coast, pairing in-arena work with pen roping and outside riding.

“When he was 5, that’s when they announced that they were going to have the American Rope Horse Futurity Association World Championships,” McGill said. “So we loaded up and went. He placed in a round, and came back third in the short round and ended up third in the average, behind J.D. Yates winning first and second.”

The horse turned heads there, and he had McGill hooked on the rope horse futurity business.

Play Sleeping’s Next Level

“I had lots of opportunities to sell him after that,” McGill said. “But I wanted to see if I could take one from a ranch gelding barely started heading and go through the futurity process, then go through the seasoning, jackpots and rodeos, and see if I was right and take one and get them to the biggest stage. I wanted to put him in the position to get to the highest level.”

For McGill, being longtime friends with Snow was a big part of the process. He made a deal with Snow after the horse’s futurity career ended that Snow could take the horse to season, as McGill himself was too busy chasing kids and pursuing business ventures.

“I always liked him,” Snow said. “I wanted to buy him, but he meant a lot to Bert and his wife, Megan.”

Snow jackpotted on him and rode him for a year, comfortable riding behind McGill because of the buttons McGill instills in them.

“Everything Bert teaches horses is easy for me to do, too,” Snow said. “He scores easy, runs to the steer good and has a good move in the corner and keeps his feet moving in the face. He is responsive. I don’t like horses that get their motor rolling and get stiff. When they are broke and can pay attention when they’re going fast, you can do whatever you want with them.”

He even rode him to break in steers inside the Thomas & Mack as a 7-year-old, and he felt confident in him even then. After giving him back to the McGills for a few years, Snow decided it was time to bring Sleepy back into his string—whether McGill would let him buy him or not.

Snow picked up the horse early this fall, with the plan that he can keep riding him and get him ready to rodeo on in 2023.

“It was in the back of my mind to ride him at the NFR, and I’ve been riding him a lot to get prepared for it,” Snow said. “I rode him at Charly Crawford’s [American Military Celebration] roping, and I wasn’t scared to ride him. But I don’t like getting off a horse that I’ve rode for the last six years. But I was kind of looking for a reason to get on him.”

Vegas, Baby

Cody Snow Play Sleeping
Cody Snow turns his first-round steer on Play Sleeping at the 2022 NFR. | Jamie Arviso Photo

The reason to ride Sleepy came after the run-through on Tuesday in the Thomas & Mack, when Snow’s 2021 AQHA/PRCA Head Horse of the Year Ima Fresnos Dee came up sore.

“She tweaked something, and I bet I could have still ridden her, but I didn’t want to risk it,” Snow said. “The only building Sleepy had ever been in was Northside, and this was a lot bigger deal than that.”

At fourth out, Snow and partner Wesley Thorp made a 5.3-second veteran’s run, worth $7,461.60 a man to kick-start their week.

“He’s pretty free and will do really good here,” Snow said. “It’s better to ride one that’s a tick greener because you can pick the horse off the steer instead of pushing toward the steer. I can give Wesley a good look and I know what to expect.”

Full Circle

For ARHFA founder and AQHA World Champion Jay Wadhams, the proof is in the pudding with this futurity-horse, coming-of-age story.

“My program is a good finished horse, that’s what I’m trying to build,” Wadhams said. “Jordon Briggs won the world [and leads the current WPRA world standings race] on a horse her husband Justin showed at the ARHFA World Championships, too.”

For McGill, Play Sleeping is nearly a prophecy come to fruition.

“What intrigued me about the futurities [was,] in the past, the only way to season your head horse was to take your colt to a local jackpot and go and try to win something and cause problems in your horse,” McGill said. “Or you go down there and you donate and lose a couple hundred bucks. When the futurity system came through, we got to haul these horses all across the country to real venues, get them seasoned on appropriate, sorted cattle. You are able to not only season your horse and make runs that can give them confidence for the future, if you do well, your horse will pay his way, too.

“I think, now, with all the different futurities, you’ll see a lot more top-end horses that people will be hauling at a younger age,” McGill concluded. “It’s causing an evolution, as far as more great horses out there getting hauled and being put in a big spotlight at a younger age. That’s all because of the futurity system.”

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