World champion Rich Skelton has earned quite a reputation in the rodeo arena with a rope. He's also known for always riding an exceptional horse. In 2004, his great heel horse Chili Dog won the AQHA/PRCA Heeling Horse of the Year award.
Riding a good one is always part of Skelton's game plan. He's the preparation king, and this humble heeler is quick to credit his partners, who currently include the legendary Speed Williams and Chili Dog. Speed needs no introduction at this point in his career, and the horse half of that combo is gaining respect and notoriety of his own every time they stop the clock.
The top 25 heelers in the world voted Chili Dog, whose registered name is Pets Ten, the 2004 PRCA/AQHA Heel Horse of the Year. Skelton's honored to own his second such equine superstar. His iconic Roany, who these days is used on a limited and pampered basis, took the title four times when he was the first one loaded in the trailer.
Williams and Skelton endured their shares of ups and downs during the 2004 season. But Chili Dog always held up his end. Here's what seven-time Champ of the World Skelton had to say about his current first-stringer, who was honored alongside Tee Woolman's Megazord, the 2004 Head Horse of the Year, at the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association's 2004 Awards Banquet December 2 at The Mirage in Las Vegas on the eve of the 2004 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
KS:Why do you call him Chili Dog?
RS: The kid I bought him from named him Chili Dog, so I kept it.
KS:Who's the kid and when did you buy him?
RS: I bought him from Andy Paul Jones in Roaring Springs, Texas, in May of 2003.
KS: How old's Chili Dog now?
KS:We all know Chili Dog's a sorrel horse, but are there other distinguishing features about his looks?
RS: He has some fire brands on him from when he was a colt. They branded him on the ranch when he was young. He's got a 72 on his left shoulder and a 5 on his left hip. I think the 72 tells what stud he's
out of and the 5 is the year he was born, which was 1995.
KS:Is there anything special about his bloodlines?
RS: I really don't know anything about that. I saw him one day at a USTRC roping in San Angelo. I asked him to price the horse, and he priced him pretty high. Andy Paul was entered at the rodeo in Junction, Texas that night and so was I. He couldn't make his mind up if he wanted to sell him or not that night. We decided I'd try him, but he wouldn't let the horse go with me if he didn't go, too. So I took him and the horse home, and they stayed a week. I rode the horse at the Windy Ryon that next Friday, and bought him.
KS:Who else rode Chili Dog in 2004?
RS: Kyle Lockett, Denny Watkins and Wayne Folmer.
KS:How long have you ridden him full time at the rodeos?
RS: The only place I didn't ride him in 2003 after I bought him was at the NFR. The first rodeo I took him to was the (Wrangler ProRodeo) Tour Finale in Vegas. I won second on him and $15,000. I paid for him in about three weeks. I rode him at the other finale in Omaha and won another $25,000. I rode Roany at the Finals in 2003, but rode Chili Dog at the 2004 Finals.
KS:What's Chili Dog's greatest strength in your eyes?
RS: He's a lot different than Roany. He doesn't take as much
riding and he's more broke. He has a lot more cow in him than Roany, too. He's a different type of horse. Where he is a lot like Roany is he can run and stop and he scores good. He wants to please you all the time, and he does his job.
KS: Is he a good traveler?
RS: Oh yeah. He eats good and drinks good. He loves it. This horse does whatever you want to do.
He's just a great horse to be around. And they used him in those ranch-horse competitions when he was younger, so he's really broke.
KS:Describe Chili Dog's personality.
RS: He's good. He's been ridden on a ranch and is broke enough that he just does whatever you want. He's very gentle and easy going.
KS:Does he have any weaknesses?
RS: There isn't one thing I wish he did better.
KS:Is he stronger in some setups than others?
RS: No, he does it all. I've ridden him at the BFI, which has a longer score, and the tour finales, which are fast tracks. This horse does good everywhere. That's unusual. Most horses are better at one or the other. But a good horse wants to please you and will do it all.
KS:Why do you think he deserved to win this award?
RS: Because he works good for me, and if anybody else rides him they get along good, too, because he's so easy to rope on. He's not a one-man horse, like Roany. Anybody can get on this one and catch on him.
KS:It's got to be hard to fill the shoes of a horse like Roany, who was the AQHA/PRCA Heel Horse of the Year in 1997, '98, '99 and 2001. How does Chili Dog rank among all the horses you've ridden in your career?
RS: It's hard to take anything away from Roany, but this horse is a lot easier to rope on than Roany. Some horses are winners that let you win, and they're both that way. They're two different types of horses, but both of them let you win in every situation. Roany has a lot more fire to him. This horse is a lot more laid back and has a lot more cow.
KS:What's Roany up to these days? And how old is he?
RS: I think Roany's 18 now.
He just hangs out and gets put on the walker every day. I hope to ride him at a few rodeos in 2005; some of the bigger ones. He's had to have a couple surgeries-after kicking a pipe, and then after slipping in a wet spot at the rodeo in Sheridan (Wyo.). But he's doing good now.
KS:How big a part are the horses to what you do?
RS: They're all of it. Without the horses giving you good opportunities to catch, you're not going to win very much.
KS:How does this award stack up against all the other things you've won in your career?
RS: It feels pretty neat to have two horses that have won it. To have two in the same category is pretty cool. It feels good to be noted for riding good horses.