For Matt Sherwood to have the out-of-nowhere breakout season he's had, one piece of the puzzle he had to have was a dependable horse.
After the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association announced its annual AQHA Horse of the Year award, it proved that Nicks Rockets Rojo (Nickolas) was more than dependable; he is exceptional. Nick, owned and ridden by Sherwood, topped all other head horses (voted on by the top ropers in the PRCA) for the award.
"I can't even put that into words how it makes me feel. To be selected by my peers is something special to me," Sherwood said. "That horse honestly wants to do what I want him to do. Obviously there are still little things I have to work on, but I feel like that horse tries to do what he thinks I'm asking him to do."
Nick wasn't perfect all season. In fact, in August during the Caldwell (Idaho) Night Rodeo, Sherwood felt that he wasn't pulling steers well enough and spent half a day working it out. Clearly, Sherwood deserves as much credit for his horse's success as the horse himself.
On the heeling side, Randon Adams's Baileys Cooper Doc, or Diesel, took top honors. A horse he bought from Dusty Drake, Diesel re-jump started Adams's career after losing his former top horse, O.J., to a broken leg in 2004.
"Everybody who has got on that horse has done good on him. He's easy to rope on and he works the same for everybody," Adams said. "I was dang sure excited. When I showed up at Pecos and Clay O'Brien Cooper asked to get on him it made me think I really do have a good horse. I'm just excited he got it done."
In the other events, two different horses from different ends of the arena each laid claim to their third top horse award.
On the timed-event end, Rodney and Jim Burks's super bulldogging horse FF Zans A Baron Jack, or "Zan," got his third Quarter Horse statuette. The general consensus among the steer wrestlers is that Zan's talents are unequalled. Nearly every steer wrestler who rides him consistently is among the top 10. In fact, Dean Gorsuch leads the standings.
The other three-time champ is Calgary Stampede's Grated Coconut. "The Stud" as the bareback riders call him, is another unequalled equine. Not only is he halter-broke and completely gentle, it is nearly unnecessary to use a flank on him. He'll buck without any provocation other than having a rider on his back and the chute gate open.
He carried Jess Davis and Andy Martinez to arena records in Ellensburg, Wash., and Hermiston, Ore., respectively with
89-point rides and J.D. Garrett Jr. to a tied arena-record in San Antonio with an 88-point mark.
Cody Ohl was able to accomplish a long-time goal of riding a PRCA/AQHA Horse of the Year when Express on Heir (Luke) took the top honors among tie-down horses. Darren Blanton owns the horse that has carried Ohl to a commanding lead in the regular-season world standings.
Saddle bronc horse Slippery, from the Korkow string is also a first-time winner. He bucked off Chet Johnson in Guymon, Okla., Cody Taton in Rapid City, S.D., bucked so hard with Cody DeMoss in Salinas that he fell on himself and DeMoss got a reride. Later in the season, Shaun Stroh barely got by him and scored 76 in Puyallup, Wash., and he bucked Jeb Knox off in Pendleton, Ore. The lesson is if the rider can get in time with this horse, the scores could be phenomenal.
PRCA stock contractors Southwick, Robertson and Wilson made a splash after their bull H03 Biloxi Blues was named top bull. According to www.probullstats.com, H03 bucks off 61 percent of the cowboys who ride him and judges' average mark is 22.48. The highest-marked score on the bull was a 94 by Matt Austin at an Xtreme Bulls event last year in Birmingham.
Okays Sunbeam (Dunny), owned by J.P. and Pat Wickett and ridden by J.P., was named the top steer roping horse while Mary Burger and Ronald Martin's Rare Fred took the top honors in the barrel racing.