Cracking Out

Shay Dixon Carroll and Jace Helton Successful in ProRodeo Debut with 2024 San Angelo Win 
Shay Dixon Carroll and Jace Helton made the most of their first Pro Rodeo together, winning the 2024 San Angelo Stock Show and & Rodeo title for $8,582 a man.
Jace Helton heeling a steer behind Shay Carroll to win the San Angelo rodeo.
Shay Carroll and Jace Helton winning the 2024 San Angelo Rodeo. | Andersen/CBarC Photography

The San Angelo Stock Show and Rodeo may have been Shay Dixon Carroll and Jace Helton’s first ProRodeo together, but the hundreds of practice steers they’ve ran together paid off as they took home the 2024 title April 19, for $8,582 a man.

Three-time NFR qualifier Carroll, 33, and 2022 CNFR champion heeler Helton came from fifth call back in San Angelo for the win with a 13.9 on three steers. Just a 21-year-old Weatherford College student, Helton is still on his PRCA Permit. Though Helton’s no team roping rookie, the anticipation of watching some of the best in the world—like world champs Tyler Wade and Wesley Thorp and gunslingers Dustin Egusquiza and Levi Lord—rope after them in the short round had him nervous.

“I could kind of feel like things were going our way,” Helton said. “I was way more nervous after we roped than before because winning’s good no matter what, but winning first at a big [rodeo] like that is way more important. No one cares if you win second.”

Carroll and Helton’s San Angelo strategy

Carroll and Helton went from the March 30 long score of The Feist to the fast setup of San Angelo for the slack April 2. There, they agreed aggressive was the right plan of attack for the first round. They drew a strong steer that stepped left, and they were 5.3 on him and outside the money.

Before roping their second steer and with just three teams clean on two, Carroll and Helton planned to play it safe. But, halfway down the arena where most teams had been a short 5-second run, they clocked a 4.1. Helton credits Carroll for the run that potentially set them up for the average win.

“When I got him on the second jump; the run was just over,” Helton said. “It came tight fast. Shay faced amazing and, as soon as I had it around the saddle horn, the flag was dropped. I think that run kind of made the whole deal for us. ”

It was 17 days before Carroll and Helton roped their short-round steer in San Angelo on April 19. With a 9.4 on two head, they made it back fifth high call. Helton was just focused on catching their steer and getting paid.  Their steer was good but started slow and didn’t get out of a trot until the barrier pulled. To accommodate, Carroll shortened his loop down running to the steer, a drastic change he’s happy he made.

“I’m glad I shortened my loop down because he did roll his head back, and he stepped left into me,” Carroll said. “It all worked out really well. I don’t know if you could plan it again to work like that.”

Carroll and Helton put a 4.5-second run on the board to lead the aggregate with a 13.9 on three steers and sweated out the rest of the round by the out gate. The lead held, and the team clinched the San Angelo Rodeo title for $8,582 a man, plus $1,110 a man for splitting second in the short round.

San Angelo winning horsepower

Carroll was given Sparks In The Bud, the 10-year-old buckskin he calls “Chris,” from Steve and Trish Greenberg as a 4-year-old.

Shay Carroll’s grandmother and Chris.

Chris has become Carroll’s main mount, getting the call for The American Rodeo, the BFI and now San Angelo, proving he can excel in any setup. His importance to Carroll extends beyond the arena, though.

“When I took him, I was thinking he would be a good horse for my grandma to have and ride because he was gentle, broke and sound enough you could ride him, just not rope on” Carroll said. “I gave him to my grandma. After two years turned out, he came sound and my grandma called one day and said, ‘I think this horse is too good for me to have, you need to take him back.’

“So, he’s kind of my grandma’s and my horse,” Carrol explained. “That’s kind of how she kind of stays connected with roping and she feels like that’s partly her horse.”

Helton was riding 13-year-old CSR Pepto Play he’s had for two years. Though “Dracula” has struggled with setups like San Angelo in the past, he’s begun to excel on them over the last few months.

“He’s super, super broke,” Helton said. “He’s really talented and never really takes your throw away. He a really good horse, and I really, really like him.”

Playing 2024 by ear

Helton wants to take advantage of this year on his permit as it’s likely to be his last. With $18,010.11 won thus far, his main goals for 2024 are to win as much as he can, go to the PRCA Permit Finals—which qualifies the winners to 2025 RodeoHouston—and set himself up for his rookie year.

For Carroll, the rest of his season will depend on how Chris does going down the road.

“I don’t have this projected plan,” Carroll admitted. “Kind of go with what’s going on in the moment. I think as long as my horse is working good, and I think if he gives me a chance at Reno and Greeley, I just need to go to the big ones. I think if you have a horse that makes it easy, I think you have to go to the big ones because the team roping seems to really revolve around the head horse.”

— TRJ —

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