Heading is all about the start, from the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo to the Cheyenne Frontier Days and everywhere in between. For PRCA header Luke Brown his mount lives up to his name—Rockstar—any time he’s behind a barrier.
“He’s so flat and so easy to score,” Brown said about the 17-year-old palomino gelding he often refers to as ‘Yella’, but who is registered as Super Gold Baron. “It’s been super easy for me to catch on him. He leaves the box headed toward the cow, and that’s always been my biggest thing--I want my horse headed straight to the cow when he leaves the box. He’s real easy about letting me pull on him in the box and when I nod, turn him loose and he drops and heads right to the cow.”
Brown has ridden Rockstar at the Thomas & Mack the past two years, replacing his aging gelding Slim Shady who excelled in that setup as well. In 2015, Brown and Kollin VonAhn won a round and placed in five others on their way to becoming the WNFR Average Champions. By less than $3,000, Brown finished second in the PRCA World Standings that year while VonAhn went on to win his second world title. In 2016, Brown and Jake Long won two rounds and placed in four others, helping Brown to a third place finish in the PRCA World Standings.
But Rockstar’s road to WNFR fame with Brown was a long one, to say the least, for the 17-year-old palomino. Minnesota’s Travis Holck bought him in 2001 as a yearling, and he started him and eventually jackpotted and amateur rodeoed on him. Holck kept him for seven or eight years and then sold him at the Pitzer Ranch Sale to AQHA trainer Zane Bruce, and lost track of him after that.
“I was watching the second round of the NFR this year,” Holck said. “And I thought, that horse looks really familiar. I recognized the look in his eye in the box, and then I checked and he had the dark birthmark on his right hock and I figured out that it was him.”
Emilio Cantu bought the horse from Zane Bruce, and Cantu jackpotted on him before selling him to Stratton Lopez.
Funny, then, that when the horse known for his scoring came to Lopez with one hole: he didn’t stand in the box. Lopez, who eventually sold the horse to Brandon Webb through Kaleb Driggers, saw the horse go at some jackpots and realized he had to have him. But when Cantu brought him for Lopez to try, his feet pitter-pattered in the corner pretty badly.
“The guy would tell me to yell at him and he would stop,” Lopez remembered with a chuckle. “That didn’t work for me. So when he left and I bought him, when he started to patter his feet, I’d move him into the middle of the box or make him work in other places and bring him back into the corner to let him sit. That corner needed to be his release spot. It really only took about three weeks, and he was standing flat footed. He always left flat, but then he was standing flat.”
Lopez paid the horse off in the first few weeks of owning him, winning everywhere he went. After a few years, he sold him to Brandon Webb, and Webb then sold him to Brown.
“Luke’s taken a horse that was an average, run-of-the-mill horse for most guys, and he let that horse excel,” Bruce said. “He fits Luke’s deal, just the way he ropes. He’s strong. With the amount of rope he can have out there, he’s strong enough to make the steers hit and come out of it and let Jake heel them.”
And it hasn’t just been Brown who’s had success on him in the last few years. Dustin Bird jump-rode him in Kissimmee, Fla., at the Champions Challenge last year.
“He scored good so good,” Bird said. “He’s really easy to catch on and really easy to be fast on. Any time I get the chance to get on him, I’ll take it because he just lets you win money.”
Kaleb Driggers and Brandon Webb have also gotten back on him since selling him.
“They’ve all won money on him every time they’ve rode him,” Brown said. “You can pull on him all you want, and he ain’t leaving until you cue him to go. I’ve never had a horse that scored that good and that’s that easy to score on.”
Rockstar has an easy going and kind personality, so much so that Brown’s 3-year-old daughter, Libby, rides Rockstar every chance she gets.
“His nature is so laid back,” Brown said. “He eats good. He drinks good. He’s good on the road. Right before I rope on him, I kind of have to get after him a little bit like ‘Hey, wake up now. This is the for real deal--we’ve got to go.’”
To keep him ready to go, Brown exercises him, but rarely practices or runs any steers on him.
“His mentality is that he wants to do good,” Brown said. “He never wants to fight. I’ve practiced on him before and it almost gets him tired of it. I think if I just exercise him quite a bit and keep him in shape then when I go somewhere, I really feel like he likes doing it, like he wants to do good. There’s no training on him, he is what he is.”
With all the wins they’ve had, the run they made at the 2015 Days of ’47 PRCA rodeo in Salt Lake City, Utah stands out.
“Me and Kollin were needing to do good, and we were last team out of the whole rodeo. We either tied or broke the arena record to win the rodeo. The rodeo paid close to $10,000 and four-wheelers. That’s probably my most memorable on him,” Brown said remembering their 3.4 second run and the prize package that came with it.
There are sure to be many more memorable wins for Brown and his pretty, talented and mellow “Yella”.