Kaleb Driggers has found success through the first three rounds of the 2018 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo aboard perhaps one of the most prolific head horses of the last five years.
Yahtzee—registered as Bar Z Nickel Olena, a 14-year-old grandson of Doc Olena out of a Colonels Hotrodder-bred mare—has been through a string of top headers, who all found winning was easy on his back.
Trevor Brazile bought Yahtzee from Leon Labrier, of Canyon, Texas. Doug Clark, the NFR calf roper from Wayne, Oklahoma, was selling him, and billed him as both a head and heel horse.
"He was a heel horse mainly, but I went to heading on him," Brazile said. "He always wanted to score good. Any head horse, the reason they’re in my barn, is that’s what I liked about them first."
Brazile seasoned him for a year, and then sold him to Brandon Webb, who at the time was building his string of head horses that now includes Rudy, the great bay that came from Arky Rogers.
Driggers and Webb were close friends, though, so he bought the horse and cracked him out at the first RFD-TV's The American to win $100,000. Early on, he excelled in the short setups.
"He’s pretty forgiving," Driggers said. "I mean, you can get him tight if you want him tight. But when you get him loaded up and in your hand and you release him, he wants to go. He goes straight to the cow. He’s always running to the cow."
But Driggers planned to swap to the heel side in 2015 to rope with Webb, and he could afford to part with Yahtzee when his friend Dustin Bird was needing a horse to help bat clean up for his legendary mare Dolly in 2015, the year he roped with Chase Tryan.
"I had another head horse I didn’t get along with, so he took him in on trade," Bird remembered. "I did it over the phone and never rode him before I traded for him. It took me a while to get used to him."
Bird starting riding Yahtzee at the Canadian rodeos in 2016, and in those small buildings, Yahtzee stood out. He helped Bird and partner Russell Cardoza win the Canadian team roping title that year.
"You could duck him however many times in a row, and he’d go right back to the cow every time," Bird said.
But Bird had his second son on the way, and the Montana-native was thinking about cutting back on his rodeo schedule in 2018. At the same time, Driggers was seeing a hole in his string—a hole that he needed to fill to help him finish at the NFR the great regular seasons he was starting.
Driggers knew Yahtzee would fit the bill, so he called his friend Bird, even though he knows that once a horse falls into Bird's hands, it rarely leaves.
"I hardly ever sell horses," Bird said. "They usually just stay around my place. I didn't want to sell him, but I didn't want to see him going to waste, either, because he has so much left."
Driggers rode Yahtzee much of the year, sending him home for their stint in the Northwest this fall to rest up for the NFR. At the time of this writing, Driggers leads the average with a 13.40 on three head, the world standings with $159,079.87 and the NFR earnings race with $44,128.20. They won Round 1 with a 4.2-second run, fished it on because of Yahtzee's forgiving nature to place with a 4.9 in Round 2 and split last hole in Round 3 with a 4.3.
"He was always the front-runner for Vegas," Driggers said. "He can move his feet a lot and not go anywhere. He keeps momentum on everything. The first three runs I haven’t even come close to the wall. Even when I had more rope out than I wanted, I could pick them up. He’s still moving his feet and keeping pressure on the rope and facing into it good."
Yahtzee's no-muss, no-fuss style is what has drawn the most attention so far this NFR.
"He’s just so solid, stays flat and lets Driggers do his deal," Brazile said of his old mount. "It’s really hard to find a head horse that’s great but not remarkable in any certain thing. That’s a trait that you look for, because a lot of horses that have this big wow factor also come along with a challenge in certain areas, like their harder to ride or deal with. He’s good about being a great horse and not being noticed. He makes the roper look better than any one trait that he has."
Driggers sold Yahtzee to friend and young-gun header Cory Clark this fall, with one critical condition: That he be allowed to ride the horse at the next three NFRs.