In the world of professional rodeo, a team roper is only as good as his latest horse. And even if he has a great one, he’d better be on the lookout for another.
That’s where Clay Logan comes in.
For just over a decade, the lifelong horseman from Granbury, Texas, has dedicated his living to making professional heel horses. He’s quietly become known as the source of some of the best in the world, and for good reason.
Logan, 42, trained CD Quixote ("Dugout"), the horse that Brady Minor earned more than six figures on last year and that packed him to $63,852 at the recent George Strait Team Roping Classic. Following Logan’s program, the 13-year-old gelding was hauled by Michael Jones and sold to B.J. Campbell, who sold him to Minor.
Eight-time world champion Rich Skelton has also been the recipient of a Logan project in Bet Ya Wood, an 11-year-old red roan gelding by Zack T Wood. And Texas Circuit toughs York Gill and Colby Lovell have both owned Logan products in Hagans Play and Ten Stylish Oaks. Jimmie Cooper has one, as does former Bob Feist Invitational champion Chad Harper.
Logan trained 10-year-old Rail A Smoken for Harper. The red roan gelding has been shown off for judges by Jory Levy and will be again by Logan at the AQHA World Show this fall.
Another professional rodeo horse that will be campaigned for a world championship is Jud Little’s bay mare Uno Cheetah ("Kitty"), on whom Charles Pogue is currently heading at the rodeos. The versatile 8-year-old Dual Pep granddaughter is no stranger to high-stake events – she was heeled on at the 2007 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo by Britt Bockius.
And arguably one of Logan’s best rodeo horses ever is 8-year-old Replay Blue Boon, who was used at RodeoHouston last year by Michael Jones and has also been ridden to money over the years by Bockius and others. The stout bay roan, under Logan, was the 2007 AQHA world champion in heeling for horses 5 and under.
At the BFI in Reno this month, Logan will rope on "Replay" with former BFI champion Brandon Thone, and Clay’s wife, Colleen, will heel on him in the Reno Rodeo Invitational Ladies Only roping.
That’s part of the reason it would take "crazy money" to buy Replay, although Logan sells virtually everything else he finishes.
"There aren’t many horses out there that you can put a No. 4 on, but that could also go to the NFR and win a world championship," he says. "In my opinion, that’s the best horse out there that nobody’s rodeoing on."
A quick glance at the breeding of Replay and Logan’s other trainees reveals his preference for former cutting horses. He got the inside track on the skills of 3-year-old cutting horses when he moved from his native Arizona to Texas to work for cutting trainers.
Then, when Logan launched his rope horse training business in 1999, he realized the advantages of turning cutting prospects into heel horses.
"They already have a huge stop and they can read a cow," Logan says. "And they’re so broke and well-trained. I do try to make sure they’re not too cowy, though. Since they’re taught to run to the head to stop a cow, those real cowy horses have a tendency to step off to the inside too much on the corner. They just need a little repositioning. The entrance to the corner is the hardest part in converting a cutting horse."
Although he’ll market head horses if he has any, Logan’s pool of former cutting horses generally doesn’t turn up horses with enough size for the head end. Plus, most people agree, head horses take about three times longer to finish correctly.
On the other end, the cutting training expedites Logan’s heeling program because the horses already know the shortest route to the steer, so they don’t tend to make mistakes running down the pen and turning in to the corner.
"These horses were on the verge of being great cutting horses, which is good because I need a horse with a lot of talent, too, and all of the tools that come with it," he says.
Logan’s wife, Colleen, is also well-versed in skilled cow horses. The Wisconsin native ventured to Texas on an internship to work with Matlock and Carol Rose for a few years, then spent 15 years working with other well-known cutting trainers before launching an equine therapy program that expedites the healing of injuries and cuts downtime in performance horses.
It was a natural stretch to cow horses from Logan’s old-school roping and ranching background. In fact, he returns to the hills outside Phoenix regularly to visit his family and attend ropings held by the Arizona Cowpunchers Reunion Association.
"Ranching is my true foundation and is where I got my work ethic and learned how to go about things every day," he says.
Logan works long days, with roughly 35 head of horses at his place near Granbury, Texas, including some in training, some on consignment and a few that he owns. He has Clint Johnson there, too, every day, roping the other end, so the two of them can ride some 20 horses each day.
"He came from the same ranching background I did in west Texas," Logan says. "And he’s worked with cutting horses in the past. It really helps my business that he rides good and ropes good. I get a lot more accomplished, and I’m able to finish so many more horses.
Logan prefers a new prospect to be very broke and have no roping experience. He starts each horse on a Hot Heels machine, then goes to live steers when he thinks the horse is patterned, only returning to the dummy occasionally if a horse needs things slowed down.
"After six months a horse is probably patterned but not finished, but after a year you can usually take one to a lot of places," he says.
Logan can be found entering a handful of rodeos and major jackpots each season as long as they don’t affect his training schedule. But the big difference with his program as opposed to other rodeo horse trainers is that he typically seasons the youngsters at Quarter Horse shows, where they get a consistent amount of limited pressure.
"Instead of roping on the first or second jump, these horses know you’ll probably throw on the second or third jump very consistently," Logan says. "After a year of competition, you can put them in virtually any circumstance and in any arena because they’ve been everywhere without being asked for their life that first year."
As his horses progress to upper levels and respond to more pressure, Logan continues to gauge their skills and adjust accordingly.
"Michael (Jones) or Britt (Bockius) will stop by from time to time and I put them on these horses and watch," he says. "Then I can say, ‘I don’t have that horse doing this or that well enough.’ These guys rope for themselves, while I rope for the horses too much. I can ask, ‘Do I have this horse at the level that these guys need?’ It helps show me if there are any holes."
Logan never quits trying to learn. Several months ago, he was having issues with a few things when veteran rope horse trainer J.D. Yates showed up at his place.
"He helped me get these horses to a different level," Logan says. "I did what he told me and understood it, and now my program’s even better than what I’d done before. He’s the best there ever was."
Logan has never advertised his business, but stays booked and still has virtually all his original customers who are still involved in team roping. He’s currently scouting prospective horses for four different clients.
"I might not see anything for four or five months, and then I’ll see three," he says.
Logan will locate a great prospect, keep it in his barn for a couple of years, and then present his client with a great horse in the end. This system works really well for weekend ropers who want a phenomenal horse but don’t have $50,000 to spend.
"They can buy a great prospect for $5,000 to $7,500, and after three months I can tell them what caliber horse it is," says Logan, who has clients all over the country and Canada. "Then we can finish that great horse or they can cut their losses and we can find something better."
The recent recession, in Logan’s mind, hasn’t hurt the value of a good horse, although the lower-caliber and average horse values have suffered.
"I’ve sold a lot more horses in the last six months than I have in a long time, which is a great sign," he says. "They were priced in the $8,500 to $15,000 range."
As always, the cutting industry’s downturn in breeding business and horse values have only helped Logan’s cause and contributed to the stock of good rope horses.
"A cutter can wind up with so much money in a horse," he says. "If the horse doesn’t go on in that discipline, they want me to help them recover some of their investment."
Not only does his program help give life to horses that may be done in other fields, but Logan simply loves to see guys going on with his horses.
"That’s what we work for; that’s who I’m rooting for to win," he says.
Logan, who is sponsored by Classic Ropes, Justin Boots, Wrangler and J&S Saddles, will show around 10 horses at this fall’s world championships. In addition to Replay and Kitty, he’ll compete on 6-year-old Red Core Bet and 6-year-old Little Black Pepto, along with Rail A Smoken and even a world champion halter stallion named Execute.
But what’s most exciting to the rodeo crowd is that he’s turning out another crop of great youngsters. Logan thinks his best hope for another junior world championship this season is a 5-year-old bay gelding named Captains Commander that he’s training for Billy Pipes, producer of the annual Wildfire Open to the World roping in Salado, Texas.
He’ll also campaign 5-year-old Pepto Wizzard, 4-year-old PB Ichi, and two other youngsters. But even if he turns out another Dugout or Replay, you’d be hard-pressed to hear him tell it. Logan refuses much credit, and wouldn’t change a thing about his career.
"You can only train so many at a time," he says. "It’s simple; I just enjoy riding really nice horses because it makes roping so much easier."