Three-time National Finals Rodeo header Tyler Wade was practically afoot this spring. His great bay horse Espuela Bro went out with a suspensory strain the first week of March, and the Terrell, Texas roper was left with a string of less-than-rodeo-ready practice horses.
"I didn’t know what I was going to do, and I didn’t have a plan," Wade, who is roping with NFR average champ Trey Yates in 2021, said. "Head horses you need to win on out here don’t grow on trees, and you can’t just go order one on Amazon when you need one. Trey called and said to holler at his dad, that he might let me ride one."
Lucky for Wade, Trey's dad is none other than J.D. Yates, the sport's most prolific and winningest horse trainers, who's made countless AQHA/PRCA Horses of the Year, AQHA World Champions and American Rope Horse Futurity Association champs.
[Read More: Wade and Yates Master the Muleys at Clovis]
[Read More: Mid-Roping Horsemanship Fix with Tyler Wade]
Wade hopped on a flight to Colorado, and Yates had six head horses lined up for him to try.
"I got on Buckskin YY first, and I told him I was ready to head back to the airport after those first five steers," Wade said. "I was supposed to stay for two days, but I was sure that horse fit me right away. J.D. wanted me to ride the rest of them, and they were all good, but that buckskin was a perfect fit from the start. I was there for four hours total I think, and I rescheduled my flight for that night because I was so confident in that horse."
On 15-year-old Buckskin YY, Wade and Yates won the Clovis (California) Rodeo on muleys, and they've placed along so well all summer that in early August Wade was comfortably fifth in the PRCA world standings with $54,088.46 won, while Yates is ninth with $48,960.72.
"I guess I’m not in the business to mount my son’s partner, but if they need to borrow a horse at a rodeo I have no problem with it," the elder Yates said, who also allowed Jojo LeMond to ride Buckskin YY from time to time. "They’re my horses, but I don’t go enough. They’re standing around. All the work was done on him, and he was my go-to when I really wanted to go somewhere. But 90% of the time I didn’t have him in shape to go anywhere. I rode him a lot as a young horse, but once he got made he hasn’t been to 10 rodeos in the last two years before this. He was getting fat and going to waste. It’s nice to see somebody as talented as Tyler Wade ride the horse and win what he can win on him. From an owner’s point of view, it’s pretty neat you can put a top guy on that horse and win what he’s been winning. It’s one of those deals; they match pretty well."
Buckskin YY is not to be confused with the rest of the Yates' horse herd—Sorrel YY (the gelding Trey won the College National Finals Rodeo on), Grey YY or Roan YY. All of the horses came from Deming, New Mexico's late Bill Craddock, with whom the Yates family long did horse business.
"Bill would send them to me and ask me what he had," J.D. said. "We’d go through the horses, and I’d ride them for usually 60 days. Him and his wife would come up, and we’d evaluate them and see what we thought. Of the seven that I rode from him, I bought all seven of them when he put a price on them. When he’d come and look at them and evaluate them, he’d tell me what he thought they were worth, and I’d never doubt his word because he knew what good horses he had. The ones he knew wouldn’t fit, he never sent me to ride."
Buckskin YY was the last of the string of horses the Yates family got from the Craddocks.
"Bill was telling me about him, and he said next time I was down that way he was going to send this one to me, but that he was behind all the rest of them. Bill got real sick, and he passed away. I was leaving for the funeral, and his wife called me when I was headed that way and said 'Don’t forget to bring your trailer, Bill wanted you to have this horse.' I rode him a week, and I called her to see how she was doing, and she told me what Bill thought the horse was worth. I just sent her a check for him, no questions asked. Every other horse deal I’d ever done with Bill Craddock was straight-up and good, so I just bought the horse. One of the most special things out of that horse, it wasn’t three months later, I was meeting his wife and some people for dinner, and she said, 'You know Bill always thought these spurs would look good on that buckskin horse,' and she gave me the spurs with his brand on them that he wore every day. That was a special gift."
Registered as Kartells Bluedrift, Buckskin YY is by Blue Drift Hank and out of the Kartell daughter Missy Kartell, reflecting hardy Blue Valentine blood on the topside and speedy Dash For Cash on the bottom.
"He told me a lot of them that came out of that mare were good," J.D. said. "I honestly didn’t know crap about the breeding on any one of the horses I’d ever bought from Bill. That horse was bred nothing like the others that I got. I think Bill had a good eye for a horse, and when he saw something he liked, whether it had his breeding or not he bought it."
Wade's got his bay back in the rig starting in August, so Buckskin YY will go back to the Yates' place in Pueblo as the season comes to a close. But watching him excel under the bright lights of the rodeo trail has J.D. thinking it might be time to part with the great horse on whom he's counted for so long.
[Read More: At Home with Dick Yates]
[Read More: Finding Power in Position with Trey Yates]
"I don’t need the horse for me, so at the end of the season, I’ll probably sell the horse," J.D. said. "I don’t know who I’ll sell him to, but when I get a good one like that I have hell parting with them. I wouldn’t sell him with Tyler still needing him, and I want him to make sure he and his horse are on the same page together. But after watching him all year, I want to see him go on and keep winning with someone." TRJ