As Fate Would Have It: Jaguar's Trip to the 2017 WNFR - The Team Roping Journal

As Fate Would Have It: Jaguar's Trip to the 2017 WNFR

Some horses have a way of making the rounds. And if the little palomino people might see Travis Graves on at the Finals looks familiar, there’s a simple explanation for that. Fiesty Golden Hiney, who’s answered to Jag for several years now, is still just 12 years old. But his is a classic circle-of-life story in the making—with a team roping twist.
Author:
Publish date:

The first and most pivotal turn in this horse’s timeline happened when his then-owner, Missouri’s Marc Fenton, brought him to four-time Champ of the World Allen Bach’s five-day, heelers-only roping school at Allen’s house in Boyd, Texas. “The horse was coming in a little close, so I asked Marc if he wanted me to run a few on him,” Allen remembers. “The horse respected my reins and left leg, and just felt awesome. He got a little close again a couple days later, so I got on him again. I asked Marc (who’s a 5 Elite header and 6 heeler) if he would want to sell him. I’d only run four steers on him, but it was kind of like meeting that person you really like right off the bat. 

Graves aboard Jag at the Greeley (Colorado) Stampede this summer. Hubbell Rodeo Photos

Graves aboard Jag at the Greeley (Colorado) Stampede this summer. Hubbell Rodeo Photos

“It’s kind of amazing where you actually find great horses. You’d never think that literally right there in my backyard someone would bring in a horse that would fit me so well and become a superstar. Sometimes the right one for you just falls in your lap, and it was just one of those no-brainer deals. Jag’s big and strong, and he’s the sweetest darn horse ever.” Allen bought the horse as an 8-year-old in 2013, and he’s who dubbed him Jaguar. “I got on this little deal of relating good horses to good cars,” Bach said. “Back when Paul Eaves lived at our house, I owned a really good gray horse. I called him Cadillac. I sold him, then when he was for sale again encouraged Paul to buy him. They made a great team, and that was Paul’s first big-time horse. I have a big, stout roan horse from California now, and I named him Freightliner. Cesar (de la Cruz) names his horses after gunfighters and outlaws. I name mine after cars.”

•••

When reigning World Champion All-Around Cowboy Junior Nogueira was a little boy—9 years old, to be exact—he made a lifelong connection with Allen at a roping school Bach taught with Charles Pogue in Brazil. “Ten years later, I went back to Brazil and Junior came to my school again,” Bach remembers well. 

“Then the next time I saw him was when (Allen and Peggy’s oldest son) Joel and I buddied with Jake (Barnes) and Junior in 2014.”

As that four-man, two-team buddy group criss-crossed this country coast to coast in search of rodeo’s holy land in Las Vegas, there were times Nogueira needed a ride. So he jumped on Jag.

“I only had one horse, so Allen let me ride him at a few rodeos,” Junior said. “When I didn’t have my horse, I rode that one. He was very, very easy. He scores good, and is very honest. He just turns in like you need one to. He was good every time for me. Jag is just the kind of horse that works good for everybody.”

Junior was just 5 when he lost his dad to a heart attack. Heeling for Jake, who with wife Toni housed, fed and helped the kid with his English, Junior made his first (Wrangler National) Finals (Rodeo) that first full year out on the rodeo trail. When the 2014 Resistol Rookie Heeler of the Year, who calls Jake Dad, needed something to ride in Vegas, Jag got the nod.

“My horse wasn’t good enough, and I knew that horse was good at the rodeos and very honest,” Junior explained of his decision. “I knew him, and I felt comfortable on him.”

Junior_Nogueira

Jake and Junior placed in six of 10 rounds in Cowboy Town, and finished second in the average behind only that year’s NFR and world champs, Clay Tryan and Jade Corkill. 

“I was happy I rode Jag,” Junior said. “It was my first time, and I needed a solid horse to give me a shot every time. I was glad to ride him, because he was very, very easy and wants to help you.”

•••

Enter Travis Graves, who next month will heel for Chad Masters at his ninth NFR. TG bought Jag from Allen after the 2014 NFR.

“I needed another horse to rodeo on, he scores really good and doesn’t get tight,” Graves said. “He’s super easy to catch on, and he’s strong to the horn once you do dally. Jag’s one of the easiest horses I’ve ever ridden.”

TG owned Jag about a year, then sold him to his friend Rene Cervantes of Jal, N.M., who’s a No. 5 Elite header and a 7 Elite heeler. After about a year, when Cervantes found himself without enough time to rope to justify owning him, Graves bought Jag back this winter, in early 2017. TG sold Jag to another friend, Chad Townson, at the end of August, with the understanding that TG could ride him when he needs him.

“Chad’s a good friend of mine, and he really, really wanted him and it was a deal where I can still use him, so it works out perfectly for both of us,” Graves said. “He gets to ride him at the ropings he goes to, and I can take him to the rodeos when I need him. I rode him a lot this summer.

“I hated to see him go, but he went to a great friend of mine and has a great home. Chad loves Jag, he takes great care of him, and I can use him anytime I want.”

Townson, 45, is a No. 6 header and 5 Elite heeler who lives in Stephenville, Texas, and mostly heels these days. 

“He’s by far the easiest, most honest, best heel horse I’ve ever ridden,” Townson said of Jag, who’s a descendent of Genuine Doc, who made his mark in the cutting pen. “He’s not a good horse. He’s a great horse. And he fits me perfectly. I tried him two different times, and didn’t miss a steer from start to finish.

“I bought another horse from Travis about a year ago, and he knew I was looking for a really, really good one. When he called me about Jag I was just beside myself that he would even sell him. The day Travis called to see if I was interested, I ran into Junior at Chili’s, and asked Junior about him. He said, ‘Yeah, he’s a great horse.’”

Graves is an Oklahoma native, and now has a place in Morgan Mill, Texas, which neighbors Stephenville. 

“I’ve seen this horse around since Junior rode him at the Finals the first time,” said Townson, who owns oilfield service companies. “And I’ve watched Travis ride him the last few years.

"Some horses get almost larger than life. They’re awesome and everybody knows them. Jag’s just a great horse that’s been there and done that. He’s got a lot of history, and he works as advertised. The fame and his history wouldn’t have meant anything to me had he not fit me. But he does. This is one of those special horses that fits just about everybody.”

•••

Townson says he’ll save Jag for “the bigger World Series and USTRC ropings, where the money’s at. 

"I won’t ride him at the little $40 jackpots. I handle a lot of my business over the phone and by computer now, so I get to rope every day. A horse like Jag just makes it so much fun. And he’s so laid back. My 6-year-old son, Ace, rides him. When we got him home and unloaded him the first time, I threw Ace on Jag bareback with a halter, and he trotted him around. He’s so gentle. When Ace is ready to start roping live cattle, this horse is going to be able to start him with his roping. I’ve gotten to where I won’t buy any horses unless they’re good for me now and I think they’ll work for him in the next few years. Jag has the most laid-back, easygoing personality.”

The horse didn’t change hands from Graves to Townson until summer’s end, but that was not per the original game plan. 

“Travis actually called to see if I was interested in the horse when he was about to leave for the summer,” Townson explained. “He had a third horse he was going to haul, so felt like he could sell Jag and still have enough horsepower. Then he sold that third horse. I had Jag loaded and my checkbook out to pay for him. TG asked if I minded if he kept him for the summer. So I unloaded him. As soon as he felt like he could get by without him we made the transfer. They had a good summer together, so that was pretty cool. And the offer stands that he can come get him when he needs him.”

Everybody wins in every good business deal, and the story of Jag is no exception. 

“In a person’s lifetime, you might have a bunch of good ones,” Townson said. “But Jag is exceptional. Jag has already improved my game five times over. He’s that good. He puts the feet in your lap for you. I told Travis the other day that I have so much confidence in Jag that I’m going to put a rope around his neck, video a run and send it to him. That’s how great this horse is and how much he loves it. And he’s the same every single time.”

“I wish I still had Jaguar at my house,” said Bach, who plans to heel for Colby Lovell this winter. “He’s big and strong, he takes a jerk and doesn’t dread it. He protects himself by being so balanced. You can hammer as many in a row as you want to and he’s still going to give you the same shot. It’s really pretty rare that ropers of all numbers can ride the same horse. For a horse to be really good for a guy who mostly ropes on weekends to being everything Junior Nogueira needs at the NFR—that’s special. Jag is that horse. He’s amazing. “When I owned Jag, everybody everywhere I went would say, ‘I love that yellow horse you’re riding.’ This horse has been so much fun for all of us along the way. When Junior rode him at the NFR, Marc and I were texting back and forth about our horse doing so good at the NFR. It was really fun.”

•••

Jag has an impressive highlights reel, and at 12 he’s likely just getting warmed up. One of the horse’s most memorable moments happened at the 2014 Justin Boots Championships and Wrangler Champions Challenge in Omaha, Neb., with Bach on his back. Going into those three late-September days at that year’s regular-season finish line, Arizona’s Tom Richards had nothing short of a Hail-Mary’s chance at qualifying for his first NFR. Richards and de la Cruz won the two-day Justin Boots Championships, and since the team with the fast time each night moved on to Saturday’s Champions Challenge, their 4.6-second run on Thursday advanced them and also meant $6,121 in much-needed money for Richards. Nick Sartain and Rich Skelton placed second at the Thursday-Friday Championships, but were already qualified for the Champions Challenge. Cesar was already in also, as he and Derrick Begay won Omaha in 2013, and back then the previous year’s rodeo winners qualified for the 2014 Champions Challenge events. So Allen rolled up on the heeling side from a three-way split for third in that first rodeo to rope with Richards at the second one, right there on the third-straight night in Omaha. The do-or-die stage was set riding into Saturday night’s Champions Challenge. Tom and Allen had to win it for Richards to have a shot at making his first Finals.

“Trevor (Brazile) and Patrick (Smith) were third or fourth out, and were 3.9,” Richards remembers well. “Allen and I had talked before the rodeo, and I told him I had to win first to have a chance. I got a half head, Allen heeled him really fast and we were 3.9 also. I really didn’t know right then if splitting it was going to be good enough, but as it turned out we won about $5,500 and it moved me into 15th.”

What horse was Bach riding at that magic moment? You guessed it—Jag. A scene out in that Omaha parking lot that speaks to the warrior’s heart that beats in Bach’s chest was Allen on Jag’s back, having his younger son, Tyler, pull rope away from him while he did some fundamental dallying drills. It’s a sight Tom Richards will never forget on a night for the record books on which he punched his first ticket to rodeo paradise. As a pretty cool side note, Bach roped at his first of a record 30 NFRs in 1978, which is the same year Tom’s dad, George Richards, won the world with Brad Smith in Oklahoma City.

“Jaguar always comes through,” Bach said. “We all feel that strong and special connection with the good ones. It’s like that guy who would never bail on you and would always have your back on the battlefield. I always felt like Daniel Green was that guy I’d want to go to war with, who’d have my back and do whatever it took to succeed. Jag’s like that on the horse side. Those great horses have that same kind of character, where they won’t cheat you, shortcut you or backstab you, because they sincerely want to help you. “Who knows how far that horse will take Chad’s little boy. He’ll give him every opportunity to be a great roper, if that’s what he decides to do. Destiny has its hands on everything we do. Getting to watch Junior from when he was 9 years old to winning the world all-around championship was pretty amazing to see. God is woven into every story, and He’s had a hand in all the people Jag has helped along the way. The story of Jag is not over. And there will be a lot of people cheering for him every step of the way, including me.”

Tags
terms:
Heeling

Related