When you take away habits or tendencies, at the end of the day, these five horses, on the big stage, you could count on them. They were all different outside the arena, but they were all the same when the lights shone the brightest. When I backed in the box, they were all business. When the big money was up, they always worked as good—or better—than they might have in slack or at home. That’s just so hard to find.
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At the time, in 1997, I was heading and heeling. I’d seen the horse the first time at the George Strait and then saw Cody Cowden riding him again in Pendleton. I decided if I ever tried heeling, I would try to buy that horse. When J.P. Wickett and I decided we’d go and I’d heel in 1998, that’s what I did. He was 14 hands even, but was thick and could run. My first run on him after trying him was San Antone, and we won it that year, then we made the Finals. He was a real natural athlete and had real natural timing. That next year, I was still heeling on him, but I decided I’d head the following year. I always had half a cross tie or a tire in my rig when I was rodeoing, and at the rodeos I would teach him to get back. By the end of the summer, he knew how to work a rope and all that was left was teaching him to break to the pin. So then I roped calves on him and made the Finals on him calf roping in 1999. We had him for a long time, but he colicked and died sometime around 2007.
I bought that horse from Jerold Camarillo. I always would go rope with him and Leo. We were going to heel that day, so he said, “Ride this one, he’s good. We rope calves on him too.” I liked the way the horse did stuff, and was real honest, so I asked if he’d sell him. I thought he was a little small, but would be good in certain places. When I got him home, he beefed up quite a bit. He was the one that one PRCA/AQHA Tie-Down Horse of the Year in 2002. He was 18 or 19 when I bought him, but he hadn’t been used. I don’t think they broke him until he was seven or eight. He only lasted a couple of years due to age. He went on to take another person to another level, got retired and I think he just passed away a couple years ago.
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Texaco was the opposite of the other two. He wasn’t 14 hands. To this day, he caught up to cattle faster than anything I’ve ever been on. I don’t know that he was the fastest horse I’ve ever been on, necessarily, or if he was taking a different route to the calf than other horses, but I could get from point A to B faster on him than anything else. Tucson, Houston…any of those big arenas he just got there faster. Explain it how you want, but nobody caught up to cattle faster than me when I was riding him. He was a project to say the least. I knew how talented he was and thought I could be rodeoing on him in a year, but it was probably five before I took him anywhere. There were some things that I thought I could get him over that I never did—I probably could have started riding him sooner. The stuff that he didn’t want to change never changed, I just learned to work around it.
I was heeling and, in 2001, Allen Bach had asked me to rope. I had never roped with him, he just took Wayne Folmer’s word for it that I could head. I didn’t have a head horse or anything, but we started that year. I borrowed one of his horses, but knew I needed to find one. I didn’t make the Finals in the team roping that year, but was there in the tie-down roping, so I watched. I knew Calhoun was the best head horse there and I was able to buy him. I headed in college, but it was a whole new level out there professionally. I knew a horse and I couldn’t have a learning curve together. He turned a three- to five-year process into making the Finals my first full year heading, 2003. I rode him a couple years. I was out of town and he got turned out in the pasture, where he got kicked in the shoulder and damaged some nerves. I wasn’t able to use him again.
I bought him as a cutter reject that was obviously too big. A lot of young horses go through a time when they’re nervous and sweat in the box, and he hasn’t yet. Six months from the day I started him, I was entered in the ProRodeo at Kansas City and never looked back. Some of my friends had already tried him before I got to him. He only cost $4,500 because he had a reputation of being an outlaw and bucking people off. He never bucked one day with me. I put my 6-year-old son Treston on him and he rides him around at the rodeos when we travel. He won the top head horse award in 2012.