Two weeks earlier, he’d won the 5-6-year-old Heeling Futurity at the Royal Crown. But in Rock Springs, Yates was riding Mike VanEgdom’s buckskin stallion Probably A Shiner. This time, he showed two of the 12 entered horses with the heading help of Mike Kunzler, who works for Yates.
“Trey told me recently to get off my butt and get to heeling like I heel,” Yates said.
A five-point penalty for a heading barrier cost him splitting third on Crackerjacks San Lena, but then on 6-year-old Peppys Stylin Lena, Yates was high callback despite another barrier penalty. While times don’t factor into scores at the Badlands, penalties do result in a five-point loss for a barrier and three points for a leg.
Aboard his own Peppys Stylin Lena, Yates panty-hosed the last steer for the fastest run of the short round and a whopping 303 score. He handily won the average on four, worth $5,750. John Philipp placed horses second and third for $6,650 total.
“I bought him from Keely Bonnett of Alberta just a few months ago,” said Yates. “He was good on all four steers. He let me measure all of them; he’s further along than some. Keely did a good job starting him.”
The sorrel gelding, also a tie-down roping horse, is quiet and gentle which, Yates jokes, he needs now that he’s getting older. But seriously, at 62 the man was catching them in the switch and making it look fun.
“It’s not often I get to spend the day with a heel rope anymore,” Yates said. “It’s always fun to heel. When you do what I did and spend 19 years going to the Finals heeling, it’s just fun. But we have a heeler in the family and it’s not me.”
Yates is referring to his NFR-average-winning son, Trey Yates, who will probably get the last word about whether or not they sell Peppys Stylin Lena. After all, J.D. doesn’t need a heel horse. He still likes to head at rodeos, though. Yates, like the Philipps brothers, entered the Range Days Rodeo in Rapid City the same week as the Badlands futurity, but missed the horns for Marcus Bannister.
“I still enjoy the people and the competition enough to go,” Yates said. “I’m roping against guys less than half my age. But they’re the ones inspiring me to go.”
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