Buck Daniel’s Lake Cattle Company horse program in Okeechobee, Fla., is no back yard breeding program. Crossing Bob Acre Doc, Peptoboonsmal and Dual Pep stallions on bigger boned mares from older bloodlines, Daniel is producing bigger colts with cow sense and athleticism. With over 500 horses on the ranch, there’s no room for mistakes.
That’s why the little blaze-faced colt that is now turning heads at every ProRodeo that last year’s Tie-Down Roping Rookie of the Year Shane Hanchey enters, really turned a few heads when he popped up out of the Florida saw grass as a newborn.
“His mother is an old-time bred mare that my father had that goes back to Old Sorrel,” Daniel, whose nephew happens to be two-time world champion runner up D.R. Daniel, explained. “She was 26 and hadn’t had a colt in six or seven years. My neighbor had a Gunsmoke bred stud that was 28, I believe. He said that he needed a horse to be with him. Since there was no chance of her getting bred, I stuck that old mare in there. She stayed with him four or five months and my neighbor called and said, ‘I think your mare is bred.’ I thought, there’s no way. But she come up bred and that’s the way he come about.”
Mr. Buck, as he’s affectionately called, registered him as Smokin Reata, brought the colt into the fold and treated him like all the rest on the ranch.
About that same time, his nephew put him in touch with an up-and-coming calf horse trainer in Sulphur, La., named Jason Hanchey. Hanchey was working with his uncle, Butch Lott, at the time. As fate would have it, when Mr. Buck stepped out of the truck, he recognized Lott, who’s father he had rodeoed and shown cutting horses with in Florida.
“When Butch’s dad passed away, I lost track of Butch,” Mr. Buck said.
But he liked Jason’s style and sent him a Missin’ Cash horse and told him, “‘As long as you’re working for Butch, I won’t hire you. But if you ever go somewhere else, don’t you dare call anybody but me.’ He called and I moved him on down here and he rides a bunch of horses every day. He married a girl down here in Okeechobee and we all become a family.”
But before Jason moved to Florida, his little brother, Shane, had been tagging along, crossing the road to rope calves with he and Uncle Butch. As a freshman in High School, Shane roped calves, but his main focus was on baseball.
Meanwhile, Jason was quickly discovering he had a four-legged phenom.
“I was still living in Louisiana, and Mr. Buck sent Reata to me as a two-year-old,” Jason said. “His step-granddaughter had rode him like three or four time and all they did was walk around in a straight line. I started that colt, put a little handle on him for 30-45 days and went to roping on him. I started roping donkeys on him in an 80’ x 80’ pen in an O-ring snaffle. By the fourth or fifth day, that horse went to dragging his butt. There was never any back up. From that day on, we just kept going forward and forward. He just trained himself. I showed him what we were doing and that was it. His heart’s huge and his try is there. You look at him and he doesn’t look like the most athletic horse, but he’s just spectacular.”
The very next year, at his first trip to a show, Jason rode the horse to a second-place finish at an AQHA event in Tulsa. The next year, as a four-year-old, Jason won the Jackson, Miss., ProRodeo on Reata.
“I went down to Florida when I was a sophomore for a big jackpot roping,” Shane said. “I flew down there for that roping—it was the first time I ever flew—and Mr. Buck let me on that horse and I did good. I placed in every round and won the average. The next day we were sitting around having lunch at a little café and he asked me how I liked that horse. I told him it was the best horse I had ever got on. He said, ‘If you can find a ride back to Louisiana for him, you can take him.’ I said, ‘He can have my plane ticket, I’ll find my own ride.’ I got rid of my baseball equipment and ever since then it’s been all about rodeo. If it weren’t for this horse, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”
And, in case you haven’t checked the PRCA’s World Standings, Hanchey’s in the top three at press time and he has no hesitation in giving the credit to his little mistake of nature.
“He doesn’t do anything wrong,” Shane said. “He does the same thing every time. Backs in there and scores and runs every time. He never takes your throw away and he stops and pulls every time. On this level, you’ve got to have something that lets you win on every calf. The whole thing about him is you can bring him to the NFR one day and Cheyenne the next and he’s the same horse: So solid.”
In fact, he’s so solid that Tuf Cooper came to Shane to borrow him for his first trip to the Wrangler NFR. He tied a calf in 6.7 in the ninth round on the horse and then borrowed him again the next year and rode him and another horse to the NFR average title.
Jason, the horse trainer, has another way of explaining it, “I’ll put it to you like this: We run about 550 head of horses out here and I would guess I’ve got 40 head of horses I could tie calves down on right now. In 2007 and 2008 I trained the junior world champion calf horse in the AQHA. In 2006, I trained the reserve world champion senior horse, and in 2009 I trained the reserve world junior champion calf roping horse. Reata stands out over all them. We’ve got great horses, but he was an accident.”
Reata, along with a horse named Jacks Cash Daniel, have rejuvenated the Lake Cattle Company horse program. In fact, Mr. Buck is planning a production sale in Lufkin, Texas, for September.
But as Jason said, Reata is one-of-a-kind. At RodeoHouston, the tie-down ropers are first to run, and Shane was the first roper of the whole rodeo. To kick things off, RodeoHouston shoots off fireworks, blares rock music and generally creates a spectacle. While the rest of the calf horses scattered like quail, Reata simply stood still with his ears back, licking his lips.
But with all this praise, it took some digging to discover he does have one flaw. He cribs.
“When I hauled him, everybody asked, ‘Does that cribbing bother you?’” Jason said. “I said, “Heck no, he’s good enough if he wants to smoke a cigarette I‘ll light it for him.”
Shane would do that and more. He knows he owes his career—young though it is—to the horse.
“He’s meant everything and more,” Shane said. “If it wasn’t for this horse, I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in today, and in life, really. This horse makes me a better person, not just a better roper. The way I’ve come about getting him—I didn’t just go write a check for six figures. I don’t know what the word is, but he’s so calm and collected and humble. I think that’s the reason I win so much on him. He’s just relaxed and prepared to win.”
For the ProRodeo spring slow-down, Shane sent the horse back to Florida for some rest, relaxation and tune-up before the summer run cranks up. (Although Jason claims the horse hasn’t needed a tune-up since Shane was in high school.)
“I can’t wait to get him back,” Shane said. “It’ll be like stealing when I get back on him.”