Clay Smith has spun six out of seven steers heading into Round 8 of the 2018 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, in serious contention for a gold buckle. And he's done it aboard his great, grey, grade gelding, Marty.
Smith, his dad, and his brothers ride a lot of horses, including outside horses, and are always looking for the next one. When a friend of his, Marty Caudle, showed up with a sorrel horse for Smith to try, he instead liked the grey tied to the trailer.
“We get to do what we love–ride horses and rope," Smith said. "We get to look at a bunch of them. But he caught my eye–he was really pretty and about the right size."
Although Marty didn’t want to sell the grey, he told Smith he could get on him. Caudle’s son Tanner had heeled on him a little, but he hadn’t been headed on. Smith roped some slow steers on him and liked him, but didn’t realize just how good he was going to be.
A couple months later, Caudle told Smith that he was thinking about selling the grey. He brought him back over on a rainy day, and as Smith was roping the first steer, the gelding bucked.
“I said, ‘Dang Marty, I didn’t know he bucked.'" Smith explained. "He said, ‘No, he’s not a bronc, he’s just fresh’."
They negotiated on a price, and got within $500 of the amount Caudle was willing to take and what Smith was willing to pay.
That night Smith was thinking about it and his dad offered him some advice, “My dad said, ‘If you like that horse, what’s $500 matter. You better buy him’.” Smith decided he would call Caudle the next morning and buy the horse.
“I’ve never been an early riser," Smith said with a laugh. "That morning my dad yells at me. Marty called my dad at 7 a.m. and said he’d take what I offered. It really was like it was meant to be.”
He appropriately named the gelding “Marty”, and after only having him a few months and going to five or six jackpots, he took the 4-year-old to the US Open where he and his brother placed. Smith started circuit rodeoing on him the next year.
“The fact is, that horse wanted to be good," Smith said. "I didn’t have to train him. I don’t ever remember having to get on him about anything. He’s a winner. He’s always put me in the spot to win. That horse has been a huge blessing and made my job really, really easy for the last two to three years. He’s been an amazing horse. Number one, that horse can really run–he’s fast. He’s really cowy–he watches a cow really good. He never gets in your way.”
Ironically, Marty isn’t registered. Smith found out who bred and raised him, and has since bred some mares to Marty’s sire, Royal Dept, who goes back to Hollywood Dun It and Smart Little Lena. Marty’s dam had already been sold and they were unsure if she has papers, but said that she’s by The Big Fix.
“He was traded around on, and I think he was an outlaw as a younger horse,” Smith said about Marty. “It’s kind of a shame he don’t have papers, but at the same time, it don’t really matter because I’m not going to ever sell him—he’ll die on my place."
At nearly 15.2 hands and around 1,200 pounds, Smith said Marty is ideal for a head horse, “He’s the perfect shape to hold up – he’s got enough bone. That horse has been really sound.”
And according to Smith, it’s a good thing in more ways than one that he doesn’t require any maintenance.
“He’s probably the meanest horse to be around on the ground," Smith said. "He’s super hard to shoe. His personality is that he doesn’t want anyone messing with him.”
But that doesn't really matter too much, because aboard the horse Smith has amassed $81,782.05 in NFR earnings alone, with $197,126.60 on the year. He and Paul Eaves lead the PRCA world standings and are fifth in the average with a time of 21.90 on five head. With three rounds left and two no-times on the board, Smith and Eaves will look to make fast, solid runs to give themselves a chance at a world title Saturday night. TRJ