If ever team roping had fairytale endings, Manny Egusquiza and Kory Koontz winning the 2021 Bob Feist Invitational—worth $150,000—would be one.
Egusquiza, 44, and Koontz, 49, paired up to rope at the 44th annual BFI, in its second year at the Lazy E Arena in Guthrie, Oklahoma, on March 14, capping off a long-time friendship with a win that defined the elder Egusquiza’s career and galvanized Koontz’s.
Egusquiza and Koontz came into the top 15 short round at high team back, where they had 9.01 seconds or less to capture their sixth steer to win the roping. They roped their steer in 7.16 seconds to secure the win with a total time of 46.48 seconds on six head, worth $150,000.
“It’s sure enough an amazing feeling of accomplishment,” said Koontz, who won back-to-back BFI titles in 1995 with Rube Woolsey and 1996 with Matt Tyler. “This is a huge roping—a tough set up, big, strong steers, a long score—all of the variables that play into making it difficult so that at the end of the day the best team wins. I feel so blessed that we were that team.”
The win pushed Koontz to $239,514 in career Feist earnings, second only behind Clay Tryan, who finished third at this year's BFI with Jake Long to now have $252,111 in BFI money. Before 2021, Koontz's fastest time on six head at the BFI was 47.63 seconds with Tyler, but he and Egusquiza bested that by 1.15 seconds in Guthrie.
This made for Egusquiza’s first BFI win, having only $20,500 in Feist earnings before March 14, marking the biggest single victory of his team roping career.
“I was peaceful all day. I think it’s because I was prepared,” said Egusquiza, who was a former PRCA team roping director. “I’m not saying that I wasn’t prepared before, but everything has to fall into place between your horse, partner, drawing steers, and staying focused. I never got nervous or worried. I was just kind of in chill-mode.”
Koontz, who roped with Egusquiza’s younger brother Dustin from 2017 through 2019 in the PRCA, has been long-time friends with Manny before his and Dustin’s partnership ever began.
“Manny had a lot to do with me and Dustin even roping together," Koontz said. "Through all of this, I was practicing at his house, and we decided that we might as well rope together because I was going over there and roping all the time.”
So far this winter, Egusquiza and Koontz have $4,017.02 won a piece, and are both 36th in the PRCA's world standings. They won the bulk of their money at the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo and picked up a check at the Dixie National in Jacksonville, Mississippi.
Egusquiza, who first came to the team roping world's attention as a Southeast Circuit standout, didn’t have him family in Guthrie to watch him compete. His wife, Candis and son Cody, 18, were attending a high school rodeo and his daughter Ann Marie, 19, went jackpotting, which made for many phone calls throughout the duration of the roping to fill each other in on their events.
“I was back and forth all day between roping here and on the phone with them to see how they did,” Egusquiza said.
Fortunately, Egusquiza had Dustin there, who roped with Travis Graves, to watch him as he backed in the box.
“I feel comfortable because I have a guy in my corner,” Egusquiza said. “When you have a guy that’s literally on your team wanting you to do good. It means a lot.”
Egusquiza headed on a 15-year-old gelding registered as Tys Lucky Star, a.k.a. Sleepy, that was raised by Oklahoma NFR header Bubba Buckaloo and had been barrel raced on in ProRodeo by Ivy Hurst.
“He let me score them out there,” Egusquiza said. “I didn’t think that I had great starts, but I had decent starts and he let me go to them and catch them, and he let me do it all day. The Wileys (Chase) ended up with him, and they let me ride him. He’s not going to run as fast as the fastest horse here, but he scores great, and he lets me take my shot and his shot fits me.”
Koontz was heeling on his 13-year-old dun gelding, Mr. JB 0839, a.k.a. Remix, who won his own title of Heel Horse of the BFI—a feat Koontz was yet to accomplish, even after a career filled with the greatest heel horses of all-time in Jackyl, Switchblade, LB and Iceman.
[Read More: Finding the Perfect Corner with Kory Koontz]
“I never thought that he would be much more than just a good horse,” Koontz said. “He proved today that he’s more than that. This is an honor that I’ve never won—the Heel Horse of the BFI. That is pretty cool to be able to put this trophy on the mantle and be able to look and it and know that Remix got me there.”
Remix and Koontz’s partnership didn’t start off on the right foot when Koontz got him from Joe Braman as a yearling.
“Me and that horse have been through a lot together,” Koontz said. “He was a bronc and he’s done a lot of stupid stuff and I just kept weathering the storm. I’ve rode him at some big stuff, but he never just seemed like he was all the way there. He was still inconsistent.”
The strong-willed gelding and Koontz were in a road accident on January 16, 2020, which left Koontz’s truck and trailer totaled, and he lost his new mount Rudy. Remix came out of the accident beaten up.
[Must-Listen: The Story of Kory Koontz's Remix]
“That, sure enough, was a money pit ever since that happened,” Koontz admitted. “I haven’t looked at my glass half-full. I’ve always looked at it as just overflowing. The wreck didn’t really get me down. I just kept working and doing what I do and put in the effort and time. I never had the 'poor me' attitude. I just don’t think that gets you anywhere.”
Koontz, with the help of Outlaw Equine’s Josh Harvey and team, fought hard to help bring Remix back to fighting shape. After weeks of therapy on the AquaTred and walker, Remix came back better than ever before.
[Related: The Triumphant Return of Kory Koontz's Remix]
“When I brought him back out of that, I don’t know what changed, but he’s been the best that he’s ever been since getting him back 100%,” Koontz said. “For this to all come to this day and a big win on Remix is great.” TRJ