Dustin Bird, of Cut Bank, Mont., was at his first Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in 2012, getting on the elevator to head to the arena for the night, when a couple from Billings stepped on. Dustin, quite shy, had his head down. The couple looked hard at him for a minute before asking, “You’re the guy who owns Dolly, aren’t you?”
“They didn’t know my name,” Bird said. “But they knew my horse.”
It’s never a bad thing in rodeo when your horse is more famous than you. That fan perception of Dolly and Dustin is why the 15-year-old mare was named Spin To Win Rodeo’s Head Horse of the Year, as voted by the magazine’s Facebook fans.
“That’s actually really cool for me,” Bird said. “It means a lot to me because I think she’s special. So for others to think she’s special too is an honor.”
He bought her in 2007 from Dennis and Teri Dahle to take to the California rodeos.
“They told me I needed a fast horse, and so I talked to Dennis about the horse and he said, ‘Just take her if you want her,’” Dustin remembered. “I told him, ‘No, I’m not going to take her until I own her.’ I talked to my banker and I never even tried her or roped one steer on her before I bought her. I bought her over the phone and got her home and missed the first four steers I ran on her.”
Needless to say, the two didn’t mesh immediately. He took her to the big ProRodeos that spring, summer and fall and asked a lot of her. By his own admission, it didn’t go great, but it kept getting better.
“She was good from the start. She had so much potential, but it happened slow,” Bird said. “She started off a little bouncy and high up front. She just got better and better and more and more calm. She still gets wound up and gets to going fast, but it’s a little more controllable now.”
By 2012, the rest of the rodeo world took notice as Dolly carried Bird to his first Wrangler NFR qualification. She split second and third in the PRCA/AQHA Head Horse of the Year voting—a peer-selected award. In 2013, Bird neglected to nominate her.
“Her personality is crazy,” he said. “She knows she’s the best. What sets her apart is she’s so flat, yet she runs so hard. A lot of horses that run hard, when it goes on it takes them a few strides to collect up, but she’s really quick-footed and is already getting out of the hole.”
Dolly, registered as My Frosty Cocoa, is actually a half-sister to Travis Tryan’s famous head horse, Walt. Both horses are by Skid Frost, a grandson of Doc Bar.
Bird rarely practices on her, only scoring some or running one or two.
“If you run more than a couple, it’ll be like she’s at a rodeo and she’ll get wound up and get going too fast. It defeats the purpose,” he said.
But above all the remarkable things about the mare, the most might be her incredible health.
“She’s never been to the vet and never been injected,” Bird said. He knows, however, that someday she’ll need to make that trip to the clinic…to flush embryos.