Mare Power: Greatest Mares in the Team Roping Industry
The team roping industry is one of the few in the equine world that relies so heavily on geldings. But over the years, a few exceptional mares have stood out from the pack to win world titles, major jackpots and millions upon millions in cash. We searched the records and mined the memories of ropings’ legends to come up with 13 iconic horses who happen to have the XX chromosome.
Kari DeCastro Photo



Ridden and owned by Dustin Bird


PEDIGREE: By Skid Frost out of Sissy Truck by Texas Truck

ACCOMPLISHMENTS: Carried Erich Rogers to 2017 PRCA heading world title; Bird rode her at three NFRs and won three go-rounds, while Rogers rode her at three NFRs, as well. On Dolly, Bird won the Spicer Gripp, placed third at the BFI and third at the George Strait. Estimated $750,000 in earnings.

HER STORY: Bird bought Dolly in 2007 from Dennis and Teri Dahle after seeing her at some Indian rodeos. The young Montana header really needed a fast horse to crack out to the ProRodeos, and fast Dolly was.

“She was good from the start,” Bird said. “She had so much potential, but it happened slow. 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. She can get to grinding her teeth on the bit because she just wants to go 110 percent all the time.”

Bird, who has $953,269 in PRCA earnings, credits Dolly with the majority of his winnings. Dolly injured her right hind digital deep flexor tendon at the Finals in both 2015 and 2017, but she was cleared for competition in the summer of 2018. Bird’s first rodeo back on the mare was the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo in Denver, Colorado, in January 2019, where they placed in the first round with a 4.7-second run.



Ridden and owned by Mike Bacon, Colby Lovell and now Kory Koontz

YEAR BORN: Unknown


ACCOMPLISHMENTS: Multiple-time CPRA/UPRA Horse of the Year for Bacon; took Koontz to the 2015 NFR, while Lovell rode her as a back-up horse most of that year, too. On her, Koontz won the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo, the Wildfire Open to the World, various other rodeos throughout the year and a go-round at the Cheyenne Frontier Days.

HER STORY: In 2015, Colby Lovell had bought the mare before the rodeo season as a backup head horse from Mike Bacon in Oklahoma. Lovell and Koontz were getting ready to rope at Reno, and Koontz couldn’t catch on his dun horse, Remix. Away from home and any of his backup horses, Koontz hopped on Abby to try to change his luck.

“She kicked the crap out of Colby’s trailer all the way out to Reno,” Koontz said. “I heeled a few on her and decided I was going to ride her in the rodeo, he said good just keep her. I had shoes shaped so you could put them on between the hock and the ankle, and it fixed her. That’s all I did. She’s never kicked my trailer.”

From there, Lovell and Koontz went on a heater over the Fourth of July and would go on to qualify for the NFR with a legitimate shot at a world title. At around 22 years old, Koontz still owns Abby and will likely save her to ride in smaller setups.



Ridden by J.D. Yates, owned by Fulton Quien Sabe Ranch’s Dr. Kurt and Merle Fulton Harris


PEDIGREE: By Grays Starlight out of Play Zana Express by Zan Parr Express

ACCOMPLISHMENTS: 2006 AQHA Superhorse; AQHA World Champion Senior Heading.

HER STORY: Dr. Kurt Harris raised Lilly and owned her dam and grand dam, too. Throughout her legendary career, Lilly was under the direction of AQHA Professional Horseman and NFR cowboy J.D. Yates.

“She’s just a once-in-a-lifetime kind of mare,” Harris said. “First, she was a show mare, and we showed her in the reining and working cow horse. And then, J.D. showed her in the heading, heeling and calf roping and halter. She had a really good show career and has been producing one after the other.”

Harris has only bred Lilly to the same stud twice in her producing career (“Only because I got a filly and I wanted a stud colt on that cross,” he explained.) And still, she has continued to produce winners no matter the sire.

Lilly’s colts have performed at every level across disciplines. One of Lilly’s offspring is Lil Joe Cash, a 2011 NRHA Futurity Champion with legendary trainer Andrea Fappani. Trey Yates rode a son of Lilly, Romancing the Chics, to the 2018 NFR average title.

Lil Kim


Ridden and owned by Justin Davis, Patrick Smith and now Clint Summers


PEDIGREE: By As Smart As The Fox by Smart Little Lena, out of Playboys Pet by Freckles Playboy

ACCOMPLISHMENTS: HorkDog Champion (with Davis); RNCFR winner (with Brady Minor); NFR go-round wins with Smith.

HER STORY: Lil Kim came to Davis’ string through famed cutter Ted Robinson. Davis’ mom was trying to run barrels on the mare, but she told him he needed to be heeling on the pint-sized pony.

“She is naturally good at it,” Davis said. “I didn’t have to teach her anything—guys are always teaching heel horses to bend and keep their nose tipped to the inside and keep their spacing. She was the fastest-made heel horse in my entire life. It took me three weeks to make her. She did it all on her own.”

Davis needed money and was stepping away from rodeo, so he sold her to Chase Tryan, who sold her to Smith. Smith rode her for years as a backup to his PRCA/AQHA Horse of the Year, Amigo, and sold her to Summers when the up-and-coming heeler was needing a backup.

“I looked at so many horses,” Summers said. “But from the first steer, I knew she fit. She just does everything so right and makes it so easy to be fast.”

Now based in Texas, Summers hauls her regularly and had her at the 2018 NFR.



Ridden and owned by Kollin VonAhn, now Junior Nogueira


PEDIGREE: By Apache Blue Boy by Blue Boy Doc, out of RA Soft Smoken by JD Playin Gin

ACCOMPLISHMENTS: Wildfire Open to the World champion; five NFR qualifications; USTRC NFTR #15 Champion.

HER STORY: When Hali was just 6, VonAhn called on her over the Fourth of July after his good horse got hurt. Not only had Hali never been to a rodeo, but she’d only been to one jackpot—Kaleb Driggers heeled on her in a #15 roping in Fernley, Nevada, a few days before she was thrown into the July-Fourth fray.

VonAhn rode Hali to multiple NFR qualifications and as part of his world-title-winning team in 2015 before selling her in 2016 to Nogueira, who was in dire need of another good one.

“She’s so forgiving, and so strong,” Nogueira said. “She lets me win everywhere. She was great at the US Finals, and she was great at the Wildfire, and everywhere else I rode her. I love her. If you need to get on a horse and go catch, you get on her.”

All told, VonAhn and Nogueira collected more than $500,000 in winnings on the mare, whose career is far from over.



Ridden and owned by Allen Bach

YEAR BORN: Unknown


ACCOMPLISHMENTS: BFI champion; Salinas champion; carried Bach to 1979 PRCA team roping world title.

HER STORY: Bach bought Papoose in early 1979 from Angel Crosthwaite, who was known for being a great horseman. She was a short-necked, high-energy mare, and she clashed with Bach’s also-on-the-muscle personality back then.

“She was hard to warm up,” Bach remembered. “I’d get so aggravated that my wife would get on her and warm her up. I was just so high energy and quick tempered myself that she’d make me so mad. But she was so short necked and could really, really run. You could ride her too wide or too high, and she’d end up right in her spot. My first partner, Reg Camarillo, told me if I didn’t learn to rope faster, then we wouldn’t make the NFR. So I immediately tried to learn to rope fast, and she made that so easy. I never lost vision of the feet.”

Bach rode the mare for years until she was diagnosed with navicular—which back then, Bach said, was much less manageable than it is today.

“Had I just known what I know now,” Bach said. “Later on I met a friend, Cody Snow’s father Van, he’d have helped me get five or six more years out of her. She was so tough anyway. She lasted and lasted.”



Ridden and owned by Clay Tryan


PEDIGREE: By Hard Cash Dash out of Bears Signature by The Signature

ACCOMPLISHMENTSEllensburg Rodeo; first and second at the Wildfire; carried Tryan (along with his other great horse, Dew) to multiple NFRs.

HER STORY: M.G. Olson gave “Syndicate” to Rose Hansen and Shirley Meyer as a filly, and Rose’s husband Bob broke and trained the mare. Their daughter Tess hauled her to rodeos for Dickinson State University and ran barrels and heeled on the mare.

Tryan unexpectedly had to jump on her the first time at the 2010 Wildfire Open to the World—where he won first and second. That fall, she helped him set the record for most money ever won at the Justin Boots Championships—$35,000—in Omaha. The next year, he won $28,000 at the same rodeo aboard the mare.

“Like any good horse, she could run hard, she scored good, she faced good, and she was a really good rodeo horse,” Tryan said. “She was better at the rodeos than jackpots. I had Dew the same time, and I was fortunate to have them both. She never did anything to mess you up.”

Cate shattered a bone in her foot late in 2015 at a jackpot, and finally succumbed to the injury in 2018. But not before she had a colt, via recip mare, to Repete Offender (by Firewater Flit and out of a Dash Ta Fame mare who ran barrels at the NFR).



Ridden and owned by Matt Sherwood


PEDIGREE: By Its Murphys Law out of Rockets Breezy Lady by Suleo’s Rocket

ACCOMPLISHMENTSRodeo Houston title, including Rodeo Houston arena record, and arena records at Bozeman, Montana, and Pecos, Texas.

HER STORY: After Sherwood bought his great horse, Nick, he sought out the horse’s dam. When he found the mare, the owner also had an 18-month-old filly out of her, a three-quarter-sister to Nick, in a pen nearby. So Sherwood bought both the broodmare and the filly and brought them home.

Sherwood made the mare while he was winning on Nick, and then rode her from 2011 to 2013 before selling her to Riley Minor because Sherwood was slowing down his rodeo schedule and needed the cash. But as soon as he could, he bought her back.

“She scores good and runs hard,” Sherwood said. “A lot of horses that run so hard, they’re hot blooded and don’t score good, but not her. My run at Houston when we broke the arena record, and I took one more swing than both of the other guys that were 4.1. She gets the steer legal fast.”

Annie Oakley


Ridden and owned by Cesar de la Cruz


PEDIGREE: By Tuffs Little Lena out of Cataract Forty Six by Hanks Chargin Bar

ACCOMPLISHMENTSCheyenne Frontier Days, with over $500,000 in earnings between jackpots and rodeos.

HER STORY: A young Annie Oakley had made it onto a trailer-load of sale-bound horses accidentally, and the man who owned her didn’t want to sell her. But it was too late, and she was in the sale pen. de la Cruz’s Uncle George Aros and friend Rick Dojaquez found Annie Oakley at a sale and partnered on the tiny yearling filly for $2,500.

“My Uncle George and Rick started her and made her, and turned her over to me when she was just 3,” de la Cruz remembered. “I won three USTRC jackpots on her in a row, when they were really big in Arizona, when she was just 3 coming 4. Her speed and her ability to get down on her hind end; the way she’s built… she’s naturally a butt dragger and naturally on her hind end. She could be scary running off down the arena and as soon as the head loop would go on, she’d start to slide around the corner. The way she is built, the saddle horn was always there.”

Annie Oakley retired to the Myers Ranch in Spearfish, South Dakota, where she is in the business of making babies. She has one A Smooth Guy colt on the ground, and one due via surrogate this spring. The Myers family and de la Cruz are also expecting a This Guyz A Keeper colt via recip mare this spring.

Big Bertha


Ridden and owned by Tee Woolman and George Strait


PEDIGREE: By Sugs Navy Bars out of Cee Chick Six by Six Chick

ACCOMPLISHMENTSCarried Woolman to 1991 PRCA team roping world title.

HER STORY: Woolman already had two world titles when he saw Big Bertha at some amateur rodeos under his friend Ricky Mellman, and he really thought he could win on her.

“I don’t know if she was a super star, but she dang sure gave you a chance to win every time,” Woolman remembered. “That’s what I look for in one. She gives you a chance no matter what. She was just a big old, raw-boned bay mare. Nothing fancy about her, really. She scored pretty dang good and ran as fast as she could run. She wasn’t a race horse by no means. She’d give you all she had and she could really face. Back then she was good.”

The mare wouldn’t catch your eye, Woolman said, but she looked and acted like a big ranch gelding going up and down the road, making her easy to haul. Woolman raised and sold a few of her babies before selling her to George Strait, who also bred her and raised a few babies out of the world champion mare.



Ridden and owned by Russell Cardoza


PEDIGREE: By Zans Play out of Spratts Six Six by Lowry Star

ACCOMPLISHMENTSCarried Cardoza to four Wrangler NFRs; won World’s Greatest Roper aboard the mare in both the heading and heeling; major rodeo wins including the Fiesta de los Vaqueros in Tucson.

HER STORY: Mo was raised by Wyoming’s Bill Spratt and his wife Pat. She found her way to Cardoza to sell through Matt Dugo, and Cardoza liked the young mare so much he decided to buy her himself.

“She was a little, solid bay with warts on her nose and a scrawny, little thing,” Cardoza said. “The next time I saw her, she was so pretty. They cowboyed on her and ran barrels on her before I got her. They made her really broke from the start. I’ve bulldogged on her, headed and heeled and roped calves on her. She’s so good to haze on, too.”

Cardoza rode the mare at four NFRs, and now he rides a stud she produced by leading barrel racing sire Frenchmans Fabulous.

“Her colts are so good,” Cardoza said. “I don’t want to cripple her, so I might as well get some good horses out of her and let her be a broodmare.”



Ridden and owned by Brian Burrows

YEAR BORN: circa 1963

PEDIGREE: By Parker Reed (owned by rodeo legend Andy Jauregui) out of an unregistered mare named Blossom

ACCOMPLISHMENTSTwo-time Salinas champion; carried Burrows to two NFR qualifications; BFI Champion (with Allen Bach and his mare, Papoose, on the back side).

HER STORY: A 15-year-old Burrows began his career in California, working the stripping chute for Gene O’Brien—Clay O’Brien Cooper’s step-father—as the rest of his family worked in the stunt and movie business. Burrows got to run four steers each Saturday, and he did so on a 4-year-old mare his dad raised out of a mare in his string of stunt horses.

“At 17, I went to Arizona to rope with JB Getzwiller,” Burrows said. “We dove in. She could score and just pound out of the box. When I got to see somebody else ride her, it would feel like the ground was trembling, how hard she ran. She would break low, break hard, give you her heart, and she could face fast. In those days, we roped big steers, and you had to have one with some grit and who could move one. I would never ride her unless it paid $500 a man. She was one in a million. She was about 25 the last year I rode her at the good rodeos.”

Burrows credits his then-wife, Tootie Bland, with Myrtle’s care, treating her like a super-star. She never did have a colt and died at the ripe old age of 32.



Ridden and owned by Brandon Beers and now Nick Sartain


PEDIGREE: By Dox King Gilligan out of Lucys Lil Hickory by Brinks Leo Hickory

ACCOMPLISHMENTS2013 PRCA/AQHA Head Horse of the Year, the first and only mare to win the award; Head Horse of the BFI; won the second round of Cheyenne for two ropers when Beers and Riley Minor both rode her and tied; earning more than $100,000 in just three months.

HER STORY: Jewel’s abilities were hard to overstate—the mare turned heads when she cracked out at the BFI in 2013, helping Beers and Jim Ross Cooper to third place that year.

“She rates so hard sometimes you can’t get to your horn, and she leaves the box so fast I almost fell off her once at Oakdale,” Beers said. “What’s different is that the harder a steer tries, the harder she tries. You’d think she’d blast past one, but she’s always going the right speed.”

Beers and Jewel battled soundness issues after that one, awe-inspiring year, though, and World Champ Nick Sartain picked her up in 2017. Sartain, who lost his thumb the same year, has been rehabbing her and has heeled on her as part of his own recovery. So come summer 2019, he hopes to have Jewel rodeo ready.


• SHAKIRA: Justin Davis

• ALICE: Quinn Kesler

• BOWKAY & SPICE: Derrick Begay

• TARA, Russell Cardoza

• CINDY, Keven Daniel

• LULA, Joseph Harrison

• ANNIE, Cody Snow

• LEGEND, Billie Jack Saebens

• BAR J JACKIE, J.D. Yates (for Ed Gaylord)

• LIL FRECKLES A GLO, J.D. Yates & Jay Wadhams (for Chaparrosa Enterprises)

• DIAMONDS SPARKLE, Floyd E. “Sunny Jim” Smith (for then-owner Richard Steward)

• GENA, Dakota Kirchenschlager

Did we miss one? Let us know! Message us on Facebook or Instagram or email

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