Two-time NFR heeler Billie Jack Saebens is rodeoing on a fancy black mare in 2019 who just happens to be some-kind-of-famous in horse show circles: DT Sugar Chex Whiz, the 2015 AQHA Junior Tie-Down Roping World Champion, Reserve Champion Superhorse and winner of 498.5 AQHA performance points including 53 performance wins.
"She reads a cow and measures them up pretty good," Saebens, of Nowata, Oklahoma, said. "That’s what I like about her. She’s really good-minded, and she don’t really ever try to screw you. She might be a tick green for the rodeos, but she just takes everything in stride."
The stand-out mare, who won her world title with JD Yates at the helm, is by Shiners Lena Chex, who also sired two-time American Rope Horse Futurity Heading Champion DT Air Jordan, and out of King Snazzy Sugar, by NFR barrel stallion Fols Classy Snazzy, who was jockeyed by WPRA World Champion Marlene McRae.
"I actually rode a lot of the Shiners Lena Chex for DT Horses," Yates said. "They had a lot of horses they wanted to sell and put into good hands. I was fortunate enough to pick a few to put in the hands of customers of mine who made really good horses. Those bloodlines were unreal. They wanted to do whatever you wanted to do with them. Some horses have the look, and Sugar had a good hip and hind leg. She was deep through the heart girth. She took the training good, and she just wanted to be good."
Yates got her as a 3-year-old and sold her to Dixon Flowers Rope Horses in 2013, and Yates continued to show her. She qualified for the AQHA World Show in 2014, where she made the finals in the Junior Heeling and Junior Tie-Down, and she went on to win the Junior Tie-Down in 2015.
While continuing to win in the show pen, the mare had two colts by DT Horses' Hickory Holly Time and one by CD Lights, carrying one and having the other two via embryo transfer. In 2019, she'll have a colt via recip mare to Once In A Blue Boon.
"She’s what we’re basing our breeding program around," Saebens, who has ridden for Dixon Flowers Rope Horses since 2011, said. "She’s a mare that has the looks and the performance record. If we can just get some colts with some size and some bone and take her qualities as far as her mind, that’s what we’re looking for and building toward. I wish we had five more just like her."
Yates showed Sugar at the AQHA World Show as recently as 2018, where he won fifth in the Senior Heeling on her. Sugar, with Dustin Rogers on board, also made the finals in the Senior Pole Bending—an accomplishment for which Yates is quick to credit Saebens.
"Billie Jack did a good job on her in the poles, that was all on him," Yates said.
But Saebens quickly refutes that point.
"You might not realize it, but JD Yates is probably the best pole bending horse trainer I've ever seen, and that Dustin Rogers can jockey a pole horse like no one else," Saebens said.
In between her pole bending training sessions (that happened in either Pueblo, Colorado, or Nowata, Oklahoma—we still aren't sure), Sugar was excelling at the jackpots for Saebens.
"I started hauling her to the jackpots in 2017," Saebens said. "I won quite a bit jackpotting on her. I took her to the Finals that year as a second horse and rode her in the Grand Entry. So now, with Kevin hurt again, my plan is to ride her everywhere. At Odessa, she felt pretty good. We placed in the first round. At Denver, she didn’t do anything wrong—it’s just hitting the corner at the right time. I’m not scared of her going by, it's just my timing. So at home, I’m just trying to go fast a lot in the practice pen on fresh steers. It’s easy to do it on old steers. It’s just a lot of practice and getting a feel for her where she’s comfortable. Where I think I want to be is a little too far away right now. So we're figuring it out."
Yates is confident the mare will make a smooth transition to the rodeo pen thanks to her good mind, speed and trainability.
"She can run, she can stop and she's easy to rope on," Yates said. "It's a myth about the transition from horses going from horse showing to rodeoing. A lot of them could go that but just don't ever get the opportunity. It takes a horse that can run. In today's world, horses are a lot more broke, and she's broke to do whatever you want to do on her. The transition is just the difference in positioning to rope fast. Today these guys just step them up the pen, keep them little wider and they rope so fast they have to get their shoulders up around the corner."
While Sugar is preparing to show off in the rodeo arena, her first offspring—a blue roan filly by Hickory Holly Time—is heading to the colt starter's for Dixon Flowers.
"Our plan right now is to ride her, see if we can dabble in the cow horse with her and see what she becomes," Saebens said. "I want a horse that I can ride, who will be the next great one, but with size and a good mind that an open guy or an older lady can get on."TRJ