World Champion Colby Lovell and three-time National Finals Rodeo heeler Dakota Kirchenschlager both stepped away from ProRodeo to focus on their horse training—and for the first time in team roping history, that choice paid them a massive $90,320 at the inaugural Riata Buckle Futurity at the Lazy E Arena in Guthrie, Oklahoma, Nov. 4, 2022.
Cutter TJ Good owned the 5-year-old head horse gelding Seven S Whiskeysour Lovell won the roping aboard in 39.55 seconds on five, while NFR heeler and futurity advocate Dean Tuftin owned 5-year-old mare DT Hickorys Mistycat that Kirchenschlager piloted.
The win also paid stallion owners $12,905 each, as both sires—Wimpyneedsacocktail, owned by Silver Spurs Equine, and Hickory Holly Time, owned by DT Horses—are Riata Buckle enrolled. Breeder Terry Stuart Forst will earn $6,450 for her part in breeding Seven S Whiskeysour, while Tuftin and DT Horses will earn the same amount for their part in raising DT Hickorys Mistycat.
The event’s longer start, even cattle from Mathews Land & Cattle and time-only format gave Lovell, 35, and Kirchenschlager, 31, a chance to let their hair down and go at five head full steam—a mode in which they don’t often find themselves at a traditional futurity.
“It comes down to where we are in the roping, where we are in the arena, the pressure on the saddle horn, whether I’m hanging on or I’m in control,” Lovell said. “When I let him have control, that’s when I’m trying to be fast. That’s when I throw it to him, and say, ‘Put it in four-wheel drive and let’s get this steer out of the way and let Dakota slap his hocks together.’
Lovell and Kirchenschlager were 7.96 on their first steer, 7.41 on the second, 7.01 on the third and 11.58 on the fourth after Kirchenschlager slipped a leg.
“I roped that leg, but it’s not in us to give up, and it’s not in us to quit, and when you’re around people like Colby, who are good people, you thrive off of stuff like that,” Kirchenschlager, who calls Whitesboro, Texas, home said. “We were eighth high call and I knew we needed to make a good run. I knew if we get this steer I the left lead and he could come a little to him, you could run him a long ways and be five. I just wanted to make sure to do my part.”
Lovell and Kirchenschlager put the heat on the top seven with their fastest run of the day—a 5.55-second run a third of the way down the long red dirt arena of the Lazy E. And then they watched as the rest of the pack failed to get by them.
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Terry Stuart Forst of Oklahoma’s Stuart Ranch raised Seven S Whiskeysour, and they raised her dam and her sire’s dam, too.
“We raised his mother on the ranch,” Forst said. “She’s by a stallion we used to own—Real Gun—who was the AQHA Superhorse at one time. We bred her to Wimyneedsacocktail, out a Seven S Mimosa, another mare we raised. So this is a double-dipper. We sold that mare quite a while ago, as an old daughter of Hollywood Dunit. We’d sold Seven S Mimosa a long time ago, and I think Garth Gartner ended up with her, and bred her to Wimpys Little Step to get Wimpyneedsacocktail. I was curious on the cross—I had a friend of mine talking us into breeding a few to Wimpys Little Step, which we did. But the mare line was really strong, and I’m all about mare lines.”
Forst’s son Robert Forst started the colt, and he sold as a 2-year-old. Million-dollar cutter TJ Good ended up with him, and he did much of the work on his horse from there. The 5.5 header won fourth for $1,500 in the limited at the American Rope Horse Futurity Association World Championships in 2021 as a 4-year-old.
“”You see how much time TJ puts into it,” Lovell said. “You see him ride his horses around. I’ve never seen him get after one. I’ve never seen him have to do anything—they trust him and he gets on them and they say, ‘OK I’m going to go to work today, what do you need me to do?'”
Lovell had originally entered the heading at the Riata on his stud—Reys Of Pep—that he won the reserve world heeling title in Fort Worth aboard two weeks earlier. But the stud had an abscess this week, and, luckily, Lovell had still been riding Seven S Whiskeysour.
“Thank God I had the black of TJ’s and I’d been pushing,” Lovell said. “He told me to keep him and ride him, that he saw some things I could help him with. He’s fixing to ride him in the #12.5. I worked cows on him this week—heck, Monday I roped two cows and a bull off that horse on the river. But a good horse—he knows that I put him in a spot with a Charolais bull that he had to trust me. I have him in in between my legs and in between the bridle and there’s more weight on the end of the rope than he’s ever felt, and I got him. It’s about half-ass bad on the end of the rope, and he feels the pressure release and I can get off him and loosen him up after we get the bull in the lot and he feels he can trust me. That’s where the growth system is.”
Tuftin’s DT Hickorys Mistycat came by design. Tuftin has bred his stud Hickory Holly Time to Oswood Stallion Station’s near-million-dollar producer Cat Mist three or four times, and this mare is the first product of the cross. Tuftin and his crew started her at DT Horses in Scottsdale, and Kirchenschlager picked her out as a 3-year-old.
“She’s been a really good-minded mare,” Tuftin said. “She’s probably not the best athlete in the world, and she’s always been trainable. She’s strong on the rope, and I’ve got two more behind her. I have a full brother that we’ll rope on, and we have a real good one that will be a cow horse, because he’s stingier. He’s got more characteristics fo a true cutter. She’s easy going.”
Kirchenschlager picked her out in November of her 3-year-old year, but Tuftin told him the mare was too green.
“I went back in February, and I saw her again, and I told him I want that horse,” Kirchenschlager said. “And he said, OK, you can have her.”
Kirchenschlager went to work on the mare from then on.
“Dakota has done a phenomenal job campaigning that mare and taking his time with her,” Tuftin said. “Emily and Dakota are fabulous and deserve all the credit.”
Before the Riata Buckle, the mare had earned $11,393 according to QData—winning third at the ARHFA’s Oil Can Classic and fifth at the Royal Crown in Rock Springs.
“Most people come to a futurity trying to sneak by ’em,” Kirchenschlager said. “At the end of the day, we have to keep winning on this horse or we have to sell it for a profit. So the only way to do that is to keep it doing good and being successful and taking your time. We have so much invested in these things, you can’t mash on the gas all the time. You have to slow them down, and let them think. It’s just like a human, if you’re not breathing, you’re not getting oxygen to your brain. You’re not thinking. If you can control their breathing, you can do a lot of things. Kelby Phillips and Brad Lund were the first to show me: those horses that breathe real hard, how to hold them until they relax. I never seen them before—I thought they had a flapper problem. But no, it’s because people don’t know what they’re doing.”
Lovell and Kirchenschlager teamed up with their futurity programs this spring, after having been friends for years.
“It’s been big deal for me this year,” Lovell said. “The futurities have helped a lot for me this year. Dakota called me this spring, and thank God he called me. I had the horses at the house that I ride and enjoy. But my little girl rides non-stop. I’m so fortunate he called me. I want to be a part of it.”
“When you go somewhere, you don’t want to be the best person in the arena,” Kirchenschlager said. “And that’s what being around Colby, TJ and Brad Lund has been for me. You want to be around people better than you. This is great for us—we all have trials and tribulations in our lives, but when you become friends with people, I know everyone says blood is thicker than water, but not in my book… When you know the effort the other person is going to put into it, it pushes you.”
The chemistry Lovell and Kirchenschlager have helps in and out of the arena—and it absolutely has bolstered both man’s training philosophies. Those shared philosophies came into play as their horses wound tighter throughout the high-pressure roping.
“These horses are 5,” Kirchenschlager said. “That mare has been to a couple of ropings and futurities and stuff, but that ain’t nothing like full-contact like it is here. It’s not as far as the BFI, but you’re letting those steers out. You have to keep your horse together. We take longer than everybody in the box. We do things like prepare them a certain way—we don’t have a pattern, we do whatever each horse needs. My horse, if you walk in her in circles, she gets real amped up. If you just ride her in there, sit her, walk her forward and back, she breathes and relaxes. Colby’s horse, if you walk him in a circle, he starts breathing better.”
“”I said, ‘Dakota, I’m going to let him catch his breath,’ and Dakota said, ‘that be good for me,'” Lovell interjected. “It’s just a spot where we’ve put so much time into the horse. TJ has put so much time into him, and I’ve got to be a part of it.”
Lovell and Kirchenschlager jive so well, in fact, that they’re toying with the idea of hitting a few rodeos in 2023.
The Riata Buckle Pro Futurity paid out $400,000—with only a $500 entry fee and $200 nomination fee. It was the second richest open roping of the year in just its first year.
“I think this is fabulous,” said Tuftin, whose sire Hickory Holly Time had the most offspring entered in the Pro Futurity. “This thing has gotten better, better and better. The opportunity Denny has created with the Riata Buckle for people like me who have a whole program and raise horses and hope to get them into the hands of guys like Dakota, and who people who come and buy them: This is opening up an avenue for people to come and play the futurity game. Thank gosh for Jay’s futurity, and what Denny’s done has taken another step toward showcasing the best futurity horses.”
For Lovell and Kirchenschlager, winning the first-ever Riata Buckle reminds them that they’re doing things right in this horse deal.
“My yellow, he’s only 5 and Tanner Tomlinson asked me to come head for him at the AMC roping on the way home,” Lovell started. “He’s a gamer, and he’s gritty.My stud I’ve won good on this year. Joe Beaver’s horse, all the horses I’ve spent time on this summer, other people think you’re doing a good job, saying they like your horse and they like what you’re doing. And it’s not just one horse. What you’re doing is working. That’s the rewarding part, the money is the extra part. Having my wife and my little girl, that’s what matters.”
“You have to be a willing participant to get up at 3 in the morning and ride with the greatest riders in the world,” Kirchenschlager added. “And we do it because we love it. If you got paid by the hour for what we do, it’s not successful. It has its highs, its lows. We just kept grinding it out.”
Full stallion and breeder results coming soon.