Wesley Thorp has two horses with him that could get the call in Las Vegas at the 2023 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo: one his battle-tested mount Little Hickory Boon (RayJay), and the other, a massive, relatively unproven 10-year-old gelding named SB Smart CD that he just bought from Kaleb Driggers and Kollin VonAhn.
Thorp plans to start on RayJay when he starts Round 1 on Dec. 7 behind Tyler Wade, but if for any reason the black 14-year-old doesn’t feel at the top of his game, he’s got Mable, the 1,350-lb. gelding he’s been riding the last month.
Thorp leads the PRCA world standings heading into the first round with $172,152.96 on the year, just north of $12,000 ahead of second-place Junior Nogueira as the Finals are set to begin.
“I haven’t had Mable as long,” Thorp said. “I’ve just jackpotted on him in the last month and taken him to two rodeos. So I’m most comfortable on RayJay, but I feel comfortable on Mable in that setup too. If RayJay doesn’t feel himself, or I need more forgiveness along the way, I’ll get on Mable. He’s smooth when you dally but so big and strong that the steers don’t move.”
Mable, for his part, may be unproven in the Thomas & Mack, but he’s been thrown into the fire plenty during the last few years.
“Driggers and I saw him on Facebook,” two-time World Champ VonAhn laughed. “They wanted $7,500 for him, but Gabriel Salgado bought him first. We had to give Gabriel Salgado profit, and we bought him from him after he’d had him only a couple hours probably. We just liked how he looked on Facebook. He was just a young horse, and we were buying anything with a pulse at the time, and that is honestly that is how we got him.”
VonAhn and Driggers split time on Marble, who hadn’t hardly been started in the roping at all. The horse made his debut in Fort Worth at the American Rope Horse Futurity Association’s World Championship in 2019 under VonAhn, placing 11th and winning $1,500. From there, Driggers would jump-ride him any time he needed a heel horse.
“He’s always been an easy horse,” VonAhn said. “We were really worried because we didn’t know how big he’d get, but he’s as big as a barn now. He trained really easy, and he wanted to be easy. We probably did stuff that was unfair to him. I’d say, ‘He’s doing good,’ and then Driggers would enter 12 times and heel on him the whole time at the US Finals. He’d be doing good and get the short end of the stick, then I’d put him on the back burner and give him a month or two off. But he’s always been good. He’s needed someone like Thorp to make him a No. 1 for people will figure out how good he really is.”
“What’s crazy is he has worked the same exact way since he was 5 years old and maybe even a little more showy than when he was younger because he wasn’t as big,” Driggers added. “Just last year, I won first and third at the American Military Celebration on him.”
But wait—is this a gelding named Mable?
“In a John Wayne movie, they called one of them donkeys Mable, and that is honest to God how he got his name,” VonAhn said. “Andrew and Reagan Ward and I were riding around there, and I’m bad to not name nothing for a long time. I had him a good while, and Reagan said one of the donkeys in a John Wayne movie was called Mable, so I said, ‘Well that’s his name.'”
Thorp’s wife, Susanna, has tried to change the horse’s name to Romeo… but so far, it hasn’t quite stuck.
So Mable it is. TRJ
Round 1 of the 2023 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo begins Thursday, Dec. 7, 2023. The entire rodeo will air on The Cowboy Channel.