The Purina Horse of the Year Award, presented by the American Quarter Horse Association, is rodeo’s top honor for timed event horses, with the nomination period currently open and voting running from September 23 to October 4, 2019.
The Horse of the Year Award is meant to honor the horses that have stood out over the course of an entire season, and it’s voted on by the top 25 cowboys in ProRodeo as of September 20, 2019. Horses must be registered with the American Quarter Horse Association to qualify.
The winning horse’s owner receives $5,000 and a bronze, with second place paying $3,000 and third $2,000.
With just a week left in the nomination period for the awards (due by Sept. 13), the best in the business know which horses have gone above and beyond the call of duty to give their jockeys the best shot at big money. Here’s what those in-the-know think:
Garrett Tonozzi (NFR header, George Strait champ, WCRA two-time event winner)
- Cody Snow’s buckskin mare Annie (Ima Fresnos Dee) seems to be the whole package. She scores, runs and finishes strong. I really like that mare. She doesn’t get talked about as much because he rides his other horse too. But he can ride her anywhere—from the NFR to the long scores. She seems like she can fit any setup.
- In my opinion, Clay Smith’s Marty would be the three-time head horse of the year if he had papers. It’s a combination of the best header in the world and the best horse in the world. It’s an amazing combination. That horse is awesome.
- Riley Minor’s Bob (RK Tuff Trinket)—if you don’t call him the fastest head horse, he’s got to be one of them. He doesn’t score as great, but Riley scores him so great that they’re a great pair. He’s won Head Horse of the Year and of the BFI because of his run. Riley rides that horse everywhere. Any time there’s good money up he’s on Bob. Riley jackpots and rodeos on Bob and that’s part of Head Horse of the Year even if it’s not official. It takes a special horse to take all those runs.
- Clay Tryan’s little sorrel Johnson (Cee How Nifty). Clay’s been in beast mode—well at this point you might as well call it Clay Tryan mode. He’s headed so good but that horse looks super easy. He can reach on him or run and catch on him. There’s nothing special about that horse, but he does everything really good. He looks like an easy horse, but it helps that he has Clay Tryan on his back.
- Matt Sherwood has headed phenomenal and his mare Murphy (Murphys Susie Q) has looked really good this year, too. Talk about longevity, she’s been rodeoed on forever. It’s hard to think of a head horse lasting as long as she has, and she doesn’t get talked about enough. She looks really good.
[RELATED: The Definitive List of 2018 NFR Horses and Their Pedigrees]
Chris Francis (BFI Champion)
- I’d say Riley Minor’s Bob. He wins on him everywhere. The fast setups, the long setups. He’s always good.
Colby Lovell (NFR header)
- I thought Tate Kirchenschlager’s bald face horse Smoke (Jewels Smoke Screen) has been good all year and he’s rode him dang near all year. He scores good and he runs. He’s an up-and-coming good one.
- Kaleb Driggers’ bay scores and runs, and he’s rode him a lot this year. He rode him most of the winter, too. To me, you’ve got to have ridden one most of the year to count for this.
- You can’t leave Riley Minor’s horse out, and he takes a lot of pressure and a lot of runs, and he rides him absolutely everywhere.
- Cody Snow’s buckskin mare is a good mare, too. She’s worth a consideration.
- I don’t see how you can’t put Chad Masters’ Clint (Madison Oak) in there. Now that I’m thinking about it—that horse is the pick. I respect that horse a lot, and he looks good no matter where he is, no matter who is riding him. He deserves another Horse of the Year title.
Brandon Beers (NFR header, two-time Horse of the Year owner)
- Riley Minor’s Bob is still a standout. I haven’t been out there a ton this year, but I have seen Bob forever and seen him around here, and he’s great. He’s so fast.
Cesar de la Cruz (NFR heeler, two-time Cheyenne Frontier Days Champion)
- Ryan Motes has the best horses in the game. Rocky (CD Rockstar) is the man. Ryan’s bay mare is really good too. But Rocky’s my pick.
Walt Woodard (Two-time PRCA World Champion, Cheyenne and Salinas Champion)
- I’m partial to Brady Minor’s Sug (Leos Highbrow) because Travis (Woodard) owned him and won San Antone on him. That’s a great horse. Brady wins like a machine on that horse.
- Ryan Motes’ Rocky is a nice horse and he can run. That’s really a good horse, too.
Lane Siggins (BFI Champion)
- I really like Patrick Smith’s dun horse Rooster (WSR Hesa Dunofa Lena). That horse is phenomenal.
- Sug of Brady Minor’s is a really great horse. He seems really honest and he’s been good for a long time. They go to Arizona so I’ve seen him a lot. He’s honest and he’ll be around until they retire him.
- That sorrel horse Huey (JLC Royal American) Jade Corkill rides is awesome. I watched him and Travis Graves both ride him at San Juan, and that horse is great. He’s the same style as my horses—up in the front end.
- Mainstreet Boon is probably my pick when it comes down to it. That horse is big, stout and strong, and Joseph makes him so good. They’re really impressive to watch. Joseph gets so many good goes heeling for Chad Masters, that all of his horses really get the chance to look outstanding.
Buddy Hawkins II (BFI and Ellensburg Champion)
- Jade Corkill’s Huey is an almost perfect fit for him. He won first and placed for Travis Graves at San Juan, too. That horse has looked really good. I always liked him. I was there when TG tried him the first day. He’s done really good.
- Patrick’s stud Rooster has worked nearly perfect the entire season. Different partners, different spins, different setups. He’s just been super good.
- Brady Minor’s Sug has been really good and you can’t not have him on the list.
Jhett Johnson (World Champion)
- That horse of Paul Eaves, and of course he came from me, but he’s a really good one. Jade rode him, Paul has made the Finals on him twice, and he’s outstanding.
- Brady Minor’s Sug is an awful, awful good horse.
- Joseph Harrison’s Mainstreet is a really, really good horse.
- Jade Corkill’s horse doesn’t make very many mistakes, and he’s sure worth mentioning.