Buddy Hawkins’ grade, sorrel gelding, X, hasn’t got much acclaim in the last few years. He’s plain, he’s pony-sized and he just flat does his job—again, and again, and again.
On X, Hawkins has qualified for two of his three Wrangler National Finals Rodeos and, in 2021, he leads the NFR average with brother-in-law Andrew Ward with a time of 33.6 on six head, having won $42,222.19 through six rounds.
“I’m heeling for the biggest horse at the rodeo on the smallest horse at the rodeo,” Hawkins laughed. “I try to slow the run down before I stop it. He uses all fours. I don’t think a little horse can get by without using their front end a little.”
The tiny red gelding came from Hawkins’ cousin, Cody Bracken, just by chance, when Bracken wasn’t using him.
“One of my buddies, David Rowley, told me like the summer of 2015 that my cousin Cody had a horse I needed to buy,” Hawkins remembered. “I had never heard about the horse. My buddy said he was too small, but he was good. My buddy knew my roping and had an idea. I called my cousin the fall I was roping with Cale Markham that spring, and I called him around the holidays and he brought him down for me to try.”
When Bracken unloaded the horse at NFR header Zac Small’s house, Hawkin’s heart sank. The horse was little and fat.
“I thought, ‘Son of a gun, I wasted his time.’ But I didn’t want to not ride him because he’d hauled him down there. I was at Zac Small’s. The first three I couldn’t care less about the horse. He wasn’t real broke and wasn’t real patterned. About the fourth run, he made a good, sharp run. I couldn’t ride him that much because he wasn’t broke enough. I thought he might have something special.”
So buy him he did. Hawkins didn’t think the horse was very broke, but he made a good practice horse and he tried hard.
“That spring, the old George Strait laid over top of our set at Houston. I roped with Tyler Waters at Houston, so I had to ride him over there and left Rue over there at the Strait. On X, we won our set at Houston. I still didn’t rodeo on him much that first year. But I got him broke on the road at the rodeos regardless.”
By the next year, Hawkins was riding X as he phased his good old NFR horse, Rue, into retirement. Hawkins loves to rope, so X’s gritty style has fit him just fine.
“I’ve always leaned toward a real gritty type horse. I rope a lot and I practice a lot. The horses I get along with the best for the longest are the horses that like that and need it. That’s the real difference in him and the horses I haven’t gotten along as good with,” Hawkins said.
Perhaps that gritty style comes from X’s humble beginnings. The horse was a happy accident for Bracken back in his home state of Kansas.
“We just had a little stud horse and little filly together, thinking they were so young nothing would happen,” Bracken remembered. “We never saw anything happen, but somehow it must have happened in the dark. We didn’t think much about it, until that little filly was pregnant. The mare was like 13.2, and the stud horse was about 15 hands. They were Skipper W and Poco Bueno bred, old stuff, so I guess that’s what X is.” TRJ