From the rope-pulled 30-foot barrier at the Cheyenne (Wyo.) Frontier Days to the short score of Nampa, Idaho’s Snake River Stampede, the summer run is where horsepower makes or breaks a cowboy’s season. With guys mounting-out when they can’t have their horses in two places at once, the candidates for PRCA/AQHA Horse of the Year begin to shine as the ones who get the bronze have usually carried multiple cowboys to big paydays throughout the year.

Back in 2004, Spin To Win Rodeo caught up with the cowboys who won BIG aboard the past Horses of the Year since the first award in 1989 to find out what set each one apart from the pack. You can still check that story out at spintowinrodeo.com. After 13 years, it’s time for a catch up to see what makes horses in the modern team roping era legendary. What sets the great ones apart? The cowboys who know them best break down their bloodlines, conformation, personality and “X Factor”.

2005

Head horse: Thumper, black gelding

Owned by: Pauline Robertson

Ridden by: Clay Tryan

Registered name: Docalickin

Sire: Woodland Doc

Dam: Old Lady Cash

Further back: Dash For Cash, Rocket Bar, Doc Bar

Born: 1992

Height: 15.2 hands

Weight: 1,225 pounds

Thumper

Thumper

Conformation: His ears were frostbitten off, so he only had half ears. He had no heels. He was stout and the toughest horse I ever rode. He was sore a lot because of his feet, but you never could not ride him. I never had to miss anything of any value because he was sore.

Personality: The best personality out of any horse I ever had. He was almost human. My brother-in-law Matt won a truck on him when the horse was 3. He never tied up, never acted sick. He spoiled me because he was just so on the money no matter what.

X Factor: He was the most unique, special horse. My wife could ride him.
A kid could get on him. I won Salinas on him, and I was 3.5 on him at the NFR. He’d still be good at any setup. That’s rare. Nowadays it doesn’t work like that.

After that: His deep flexor tendons got where he couldn’t go. I made a run on him in Round 10 at the NFR in 2009. He’s in Lipan. The kids could probably ride him, but we stay off of him so he can just enjoy his retirement.

Heel horse: Chili Dog, sorrel gelding

Owned and ridden by: Rich Skelton

Registered name: Pets Ten

Sire: Ten O Sea

Dam: One O Three Chick

Further back: Doc Bar, Doc O’Lena

Born: 1995

Height: 15 hands

Weight: 1,150 pounds

Conformation: He was just a little longer but pretty heavy-made.

Chili Dog

Chili Dog

Personality: He was good. He’d been used so much, nothing bothered him. I won $17,000 the first weekend I had him at the Tour Finale. He took to it right off because he took everything in stride.

X Factor: He was just used and a nice horse. The thing about him was that he didn’t have any bad problems. He scored good, he could run, he could stop, he didn’t shoulder in. Everything you wanted, he did. There was nothing wrong with him. He did everything right. He just kept his distance and did everything you wanted.

After that: I sold him to Dean Tuftin, and he rode him at the Finals the year he made it. He’s still alive with Dean.

2006

Head horse: Nickolas, sorrel gelding

Owned and ridden by: Matt Sherwood

Registered name: Nicks Rockets Rojo

Sire: Shamrocks Nick

Dam: Rockets Breezy Lady

Further back: Rocket Bar

Born: 1994

Height: 15.2 hands

Weight: 1,220 pounds

Conformation: He’s medium built. He was a late bloomer, I just heeled on him when he was young. He just kept getting taller and turned into a pretty big horse. He drags his toes every step he takes, so his toes are squared off. He wears the front of his shoes off, and he leaves a trail.

Personality: He’s the most aggravating pet. He will rub his halter off and get loose. He’s been loose 50 times at the rodeos. I was heeling for a guy in Los Angeles, and he rubbed his halter off and got loose in town, and the police were called. He’s a pet, gentle and the most annoying animal. He can open gates. I was at Al Bach’s one time and he flipped the chain and got out and then walked along and flipped the chain on every stall and let everything out.

X Factor: The way he scored. He would stand in the box perfectly. He was so flat and easy to rope on. He was the easiest horse ever to come across the line and rope on.

After that: The last steer I ran on him was the 2015 NFR. He’s still completely sound. People ride him all the time, and my kids ride him. Part of me wants to take him to Canada this year, but my wife is afraid he’ll die there and then we’d have to leave him there.

Heel horse: Diesel, sorrel gelding

Owned and ridden by: Randon Adams

Registered name: Baileys Copper Doc

Sire: Docs Goldpiece

Dam: Triangle F Copper

Born: 1998

Further back: Doc Bar and Sugar Bars

Height: 15 hands

Weight: 1,100 pounds

Diesel

Diesel

Conformation: His tail is set down, and his withers are even with his hips. Head up, butt down. He’s built like a big bull dog.

Personality: He’s cocky. He knows he’s good. He’s good to be around. My 3-year-old and 6-year-old ride him. Anybody can ride him. He’s very low maintenance.

X Factor: He never took anything away from you. He never put you in a bad position.

After that: My brother has him right now. Junior (Nogueira), Dakota (Kirchenschlager), Cesar (de la Cruz) and Buck Campbell have all ridden him at the Finals. Dakota takes him in the summer sometimes. He’s still sound and as good as ever.

2007

Head horse: Walt, bay gelding

Owned and ridden by: Travis Tryan

Registered name: Precious Speck

Sire: Skid Frost

Dam: Precious Rhythm

Born: 1990

Further back: Doc Bar, Three Bars, Driftwood Ike

Died: 2010

Height: 15.1 hands

Weight: 1,150 pounds

Walt

Walt

Conformation: He had the perfect head horse build. He wasn’t too thick—he was just right. He wasn’t narrow, right there, medium-sized everything. He had a big backyard, but nothing you’d stand back and think he was extra muscular or anything like that. You’d get on him or stand next to him and you never thought he was overly big.

Personality: He was as close to human as you could be. He loved doing what he was doing. He knew he was good. He carried himself confidently everywhere. He wouldn’t slow down for a kid or any shorter header. He would go full-speed regardless.

X Factor: On top of his athletic ability and his stride—he always stayed framed up when he ran, and when he left the hole he always had his feet underneath him. Some horses run and their knees come way up. He stayed on top of the ground. On top of that, you couldn’t just chase a steer out when you were scoring or lope to a steer. He would run as hard as he could and once he got there he stayed where he needed to be. I’ve had other athletic horses but they didn’t have the want-to to do it.

After that: Walt died of an aortic aneurysm while we were warming up at the Clovis (Calif.) Rodeo in 2010. Exactly five years later, I got the call that Walt would be the first team roping horse ever inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame.

Heel horse: Amigo, sorrel gelding (tied with Diesel)

Owned and ridden by: Patrick Smith

Registered name: Sunday Night Bingo

Sire: Bingo Hickory

Dam: Patricia Bar King

Further back: Gay Bar King, Docs Hickory, Doc Quixote

Born: 1999

Height: 15 hands

Weight: 1,100 pounds

Amigo

Amigo

Conformation: He’s a little longer build, with a longer neck and longer stride than I’d ever thought I’d have wanted. He can stride out down the arena and shorten his stride when he wants to around the corner.

Personality: There’s no flaw in him other than victory laps. He runs smooth off in a victory lap. You’ve got to two-hand hold onto him. My kids ride him and have always ridden him. He’s just super gentle outside of being in the box, and when he gets in there he’s all business.

X Factor: I think he is just really good at his job. His timing is so sharp and he can physically do some things. I’ve never ridden anything close to him. He was never in my way—he finds a way to help me win and never hinders me.

After that: He’s rodeoing part-time with age. He’s had some surgeries, and I plan to use him on and off in certain situations.

2008 & 2009

Walt and Diesel Repeat

2010

Head horse: Vegas, grey gelding

Owned and ridden by: Turtle Powell

Registered name: Ra Sonoita Silver

Sire: JD Playin Gin

Dam: Double D MS Sadie

Further back: Playgun, Jackie Bee, Doc Quixote, Sugar Bars

Born: 2002

Died: 2014

Height: 15.2 hands

Weight: 1,275 pounds

Vegas

Vegas

Conformation: He didn’t look too big until you got up to him because he was so well balanced. He was deeper bodied, and had a shorter neck. He was really wide across his shoulders and rear end.

Personality: He wasn’t the type to want to be loved on or petted on. He’d stand back in his stall, and he didn’t really want to be petted on the head. He remembered it for a long time if you ever got after him.

X Factor: He was such a good athlete. He never had to give 100 percent because 80 percent was fast enough. He worked so well and scored so well because he never had to get too hyped up to get the job done. The ones who get nervous are giving you 110 percent. At 80 percent, he was better than the rest of them. And he wasn’t the type of horse who just had a lot of impressive stuff about him as far as his moves or his face. He did the same thing every time and never got in my way. He scored so well, and he could run, so everything else was just easy. You could ride him anywhere, at the NFR or Cheyenne.

After that: Vegas battled laminitis for years, and died in 2014.

Heel horse: Caveman, bay gelding

Owned and ridden by: Jade Corkill

Registered name: Fine Snip of Doc

Sire: Snip of Colonel

Dam: Fine Crystal Doc

Further back: Colonel Freckles, Doc O’Lena, Doc O Dynamite

Born: 2001

Height: 15 hands

Weight: 1,100 pounds

Conformation: He’s taller than some heel horses. He kind of looks more like a head horse than a heel horse. But he’s got good feet and big bones. His back isn’t too long for as big as he is. He’s put together pretty well. He looks like he should run.

Personality: He’s probably the smartest horse I’ve ever had. He’s pretty independent, and he doesn’t really like to be petted. But if my 2-year-old boy were in the middle of the Puyallup (Wash.) Fair, I’d put him on him. He’s not a baby. He’s tough.

X Factor: It doesn’t matter what the situation or setup is, he can make it feel good and easy. In situations where it is hard to feel good, he can make it feel like you should just go catch. He knows exactly what position to put me in. He wants to do well. He doesn’t ever try to get out of something. He’s always looking for the best way to do the right thing. His speed is extremely easy for him, and he never feels like he’s having to try.

After that: Caveman will be on the road with me all summer. He’s still my first-string horse.

2011

Head horse: Classic, chestnut gelding

Owned by: Zac Small

Ridden by: Keven Daniel

Registered name: Sycamore Gold Finger

Sire: Pies Silverfinger

Dam: Pobres Zero Four

Further back: Impressive, Two Eyed Jack, Dash For Cash, Gay Bar King

Born: 1995

Height: 15.1 hands

Weight: 1,250 pounds

Conformation: He was under himself in the back end and he was really athletic.

Personality: He was pleasant. You could call him in the pasture. He was always the one who followed everything else around.

X Factor: You could ride him at all kinds of different places. I thought he was really, really good. He was a winner. It seemed like he drew good. You could reach on him if you drew a runner, but if you needed to score good he could just catch up and let you catch.

After that: Casey Mahoney bought that horse in 2012. He still owns him. He won third on him at the George Strait the first time he took him. He’s semi-retired. He gets turned out every day and pulled back into the barn at night. He still acts like a 2-year-old and is living the good life.

Heel horse: Dugout, sorrel gelding

Owned and ridden by: Brady Minor

Registered name: CDS Quixote

Sire: CD Olena

Dam: Dox Maiden Quixote

Further back: Doc O’Lena, Peppy San Badger, Doc Quixote

Born: 1997

Height: 14 hands (barely)

Weight: 1,050 pounds

Conformation: He’s got really little feet. He was a cutter, but he’s got good bone and he’s real stout. His feet are terrible so it’s surprising that he lasted as long as he did. He’s short backed and round backed.

Personality: He’s a grumpy horse. He pins his ears all the time.

X Factor: He was just a really cowy horse. He never ran by the corner. His head was always out of your way because he was low headed. He was never bad in the box. That horse came together really fast at a young age. I got him when he was 5 and he got seasoned really quick. They claim Michael Jones and Kinney Harrell had ridden him at some amateur rodeos when he was coming 4.

After that: I still have him. The other horses I have I can get down the arena better. Riley rode him at a local jackpot and won the roping on him the other day. We still use him a little bit, but he’s out of shape.

2012

Head horse: Sic Em, brown gelding

Owned and ridden by: Trevor Brazile

Registered name: Lite My Dynamite

Sire: Lectric Playboy

Dam: Miss Dynamite Doc

Born: 1999

Further back: Freckles Playboy, Doc O Dynamite

Height: 15.1 hands

Weight: 1,275 pounds

Conformation: He was nothing to really describe. He was so level. He wasn’t bred to run really, but I always felt the horns coming to me so fast.

Personality: He is a real sweet horse to be around. The kids would fight over riding him. For a horse to have that much talent and still let kids ride him is pretty impressive.

X Factor: I started rodeoing on him when he was 5. That was six moths after I started him. All young horses have an episode in the box where they have to go through, and he never did. He scored every time all the time. He ran hard, made a soft corner faced unbelievable. There was nothing. He didn’t crib, nothing funky. That’s hard to come by. I’m the first to say all the good ones have something you have to overlook, but that horse didn’t.

After that: I still ride him, some. He had some suspensory branch issues and developed tendonitis. I rode him at the Spicer Gripp this past year. He’s still going. I put him on the walker. He doesn’t take the hauling as good as he used to.

Caveman Repeats

2013

Head horse: Jewel, bay mare

Owned and ridden by: Brandon Beers

Registered name: Lucys Fast Jewel

Sire: Dox King Gilligan

Dam: Lucys Lil Hickory

Born: 2004

Further back: Doc Bar, Docs Hickory

Height: 14.3 hands

Weight: 1,250 pounds

Conformation: She’s pretty short and stocky. She’s short backed.

Personality: She’s a peach all right. She’s definitely got her quirks.

X Factor: She had more try than any horse I’d ever rode, and she was fast. She did everything great. She scored great and could just fly. She was cowy, and I could let a ton of guys use her and she tried every time.

After that: I rode her in 2014 some, and I heeled on her when I took time off from rodeoing. Nick Sartain bought her this winter and he’s riding her some.

Heel horse: Starbucks, sorrel gelding

Owned and ridden by: Ryan Motes

Registered name: CD Starbucks

Sire: CD Olena

Dam: Cari Me Starlight

Further Back: Doc O’Lena, Peppy San Badger, Grays Starlight

Born: 1998

Height: 15 hands

Weight: 1,200 pounds

Starbucks

Starbucks

Conformation: He’s reasonably tall and pretty stout. He’s not terribly long-legged but he’s not short legged. He’s longer-legged for a cutting-bred horse. He’s low-hocked, and he’s dang sure not built downhill like a lot of cutters. He’s not built uphill either. He’s got really round withers and a really round back. He’s very well proportioned for a heel horse.

Personality: He’s great to be around. He loves being home, loves being turned out in the pasture. He’s laid back with kids, but when you get somewhere, especially a performance, he gets real amped up real quick. He’s all business during the run. He might prance out of the arena. We laugh about some of the stupid things he spooks at, and we realize he’s never going to get over it.

X Factor: Honestly, he does everything well. What makes him good for me is that I can ride him anywhere, whether it’s Salinas or Cheyenne or the NFR. He scores amazing, you can put him anywhere you want to. He can run and stop, and his timing and his own read of what’s going on in the run and what the steers are doing is exceptional. I tell anyone who gets on him to ride him however their horse works. He’s so adaptable to everyone’s style.

After that: He’s still my number-one horse and will be on the road with me this year.

2014

Head horse: Tevo, brown gelding

Owned and ridden by: Brandon Beers

Registered name: El Tevo Cash

Sire: Whiskey Ike HK

Dam: Have Your Cash

Further back: Driftwood Ike, Dash For Cash, Azure Te

Born: 2001

Height: 15.1 hands

Weight: 1,250–1,300 pounds

Conformation: He’s really long. He’s racey looking.

Tevo

Tevo

Personality: He’s kind of cranky and moody. He’s easy to love on, but he’s hard to explain. You can put a kid on him if you wanted. He’s always getting into stuff. He thinks he’s a stud. He likes to be the boss wherever he is.

X Factor: That is the most honest horse I’ve ever rode. He might only give you 70 percent sometimes, but you don’t notice it because he’s so fast. He scored every time. I ran three practice steers from Reno to the end of the year that year. I think we went to Cheyenne, roped our two there, won the first round at Deadwood with a 4.7, and the next day we were high call at Cheyenne and I never thought about freeing him up. He’s as honest as can be.

After that: I still have him. He’s as sound as he’s ever been. I’ll ride him at the BFI and over the Fourth of July. He’ll die at my house.

Heel horse: Rey, chestnut gelding

Owned and ridden by: Brady Minor

Registered name: Reyshines On Top

Sire: Shiners Lena Rey

Dam: Kings Sly Sugar

Further back: Shining Spark, Doc O’Lena, Topsail Whiz

Born: 2004

Height: 15 hands

Weight: 1,200 pounds

Rey

Rey

Conformation: He’s got good bone and good foot on him. He’s longer-backed and higher withers. He’s more built like you’d want a rope horse. His legs come up underneath him so he really stops naturally.

Personality: He’s mean to other horses. He chews the lead rope terribly. He’s really lazy, so I can put Maverick on him and walk him around. He gets really dead at home, but when you get to the rodeo and he hears the music and the crowd, he steps it up.

X Factor: He can really run and really stop hard. He’s a bigger horse that takes a good jerk. He’s really easy to dally on with a nice straight stop to him. He’s longer-strided so he’s easier to time the steers up. He and Dugout are opposite.

After that: I’ve had him at the swimmer’s for a month, and I’m going to get him next week and bring him back. I’m hoping to crack him out at the BFI. If I don’t, I’ll play it by ear. Otherwise I’ll leave him in the Northwest for those rodeos.

2015

Head horse: Dew, bay gelding

Owned and ridden by: Clay Tryan

Registered name: Dew The Cash

Sire: Mia Cash Too

Dam: Cea Carolina Dew

Further back: Dash For Cash, Easy Jet

Born: 1999

Height: 14.3 hands

Weight: 1,200 pounds

Conformation: He’s not very tall, and he’s stout. He’s never really been sore, but maybe he had ulcers when I first got him. He’s excitable. He’s just a specimen

Personality: At home, he likes people. He’s easy to catch in the pasture and real chilled out. If you take him off the place, he’s an idiot and off the charts. He’s a workout. He hasn’t changed in the eight years that I’ve had him.

X Factor: One thing I’ve found with all the great horses I’ve owned: they’re just better than the rest. They aren’t duds in life. They want to be great. Dew would bother you if he wasn’t as good as he is. You respect a horse that wants to be that good for that long.

After that: He splits time with Johnson now, but he’s still just as good as ever.

Rey Repeats

2016

Head horse: Badger, black gelding

Owned and ridden by: Kolton Schmidt

Registered name: Tuffys Badger Chex

Sire: Tuf Country Chex

Dam: Chili Jody Page

Further back: Bueno Chex, Peppy San Badger

Born: 2004

Height: 15.1 hands

Weight: 1,250 pounds

Conformation: He’s huge. He’s short-bodied and compact. He’s got really good feet, and he’s really put together well.

Personality: He’s not a people horse. He likes to work but other than that he wants you to stay the heck away from him. Once he trusts you he’s gentle, but before that not at all.

X Factor: His try and his speed set him apart. I don’t know that he’s any faster than any horses out there, but his acceleration is like no other. From Point A to Point B, it’s incredible how fast he is.

Heel horse: Colonel, sorrel gelding

Owned and ridden by: Jake Long

Registered name: Zans Colonel Shine

Sire: Zans Diamond Shine

Dam: Foxy Angelo

Further back: Shining Spark, Colonel Freckles

Born: 2004

Height: 15 hands

Weight: 1,150 pounds

Conformation: He’s got big bones and really good feet under him.

Personality: He’s like a kid. He likes to piddle with everything. He’ll untie himself and untie other horses around him. My little girls can ride him around, but he’s gotten a little more alert the last few years. He doesn’t get too worked up about a lot.

X Factor: He just does everything well. There’s no glaring weakness in the way he works or does anything. He’s got plenty of speed and has always had a big stop and has always been strong to the horn. He does everything right.

After that: Colonel isn’t that old, so thankfully I’ve still got him and will ride him again this year. SWR

2017 Horse of the Year Contenders

“I think the best head horse I see going is Clay Smith’s grey. He’s built for today’s roping. He lets him reach if he wants to reach and run close if he wants to run close. He doesn’t mess him up ever.” –Clay Tryan

“I think it will be a lot of the same old suspects. Brady Minor’s Rey, Ryan Motes’ Starbucks.” –Jake Long

“Riley Minor’s Bob. He’s just been an amazing horse, and he’s won so much. This year he’ll be that much better. Clay Tryan and Trevor Brazile are back, and their horses are amazing.” –Kolton Schmidt

“Jake Long’s horse is still really good. I would personally throw my new horse Sug in the mix. If Jade rides Caveman all year, that’s a good horse. Blueberry, Walt Woodard’s horse, is really, really good. My cousin Jake Minor’s got a good horse, too.” —Brady MinorFrom the rope-pulled 30-foot barrier at the Cheyenne (Wyo.) Frontier Days to the short score of Nampa, Idaho’s Snake River Stampede, the summer run is where horsepower makes or breaks a cowboy’s season. With guys mounting-out when they can’t have their horses in two places at once, the candidates for PRCA/AQHA Horse of the Year begin to shine as the ones who get the bronze have usually carried multiple cowboys to big paydays throughout the year.

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