Eight-time World Champion Rich Skelton is using the time off from COVID-19 cancellations to rehab from spinal surgery, ride a new horse from Reliance Ranches’ iconic program and ramp up his schedule for his Heelers Only Tour schools.
"I’ve been home since my October 14 surgery, so I’m ready to go somewhere," Skelton said. "I was going to the gym, and since they canceled the gym he helps me at home. I had two disks put into my back at UC Health in Denver, Colorado, and I've been rehabbing ever since."
Skelton—who was ejected from his tractor in a multi-vehicle accident near his Llano, Texas home back in 2016—said the original neck injury could have come from that accident or years of wear and tear.
"I’ll know more after I really get back to roping full-time if I'm 100-percent," Skelton said. "If I’d have had another accident, the odds of me getting paralyzed were way up there. When they went in and fixed it, it took that risk away."
Skelton was supposed to rope this year with young-gun all-around hand Tanner Green, but Green is recovering from thumb reconstruction surgery after an accident the day before Odessa, Texas's Sand Hill Stock Show and Rodeo this January.
For now, Skelton's personal trainer has been working with him at home on strength and conditioning, and he's been riding again—spending most of his time aboard the 4-year-old Corona Cartel daughter Demi More, who is out of the Strawfly Special daughter A Tiny Bit More. (Below is the first live steer Skelton turned on the mare.)
"We’ll make a head horse out of her ultimately," Skelton said. "She ran on the track, and I’ve been roping the Heel-O-Matic on her. She’s doing good, and my daughter Rainey is taking her around the barrels."
And when he's not been busy roping and rehabbing, Skelton has been planning his Heelers Only Tour Schools, complete with a Finals in the Spring of 2021 that will award a truck to one lucky heeler.
"The things I think that’s really good about these schools: First, with our headers, you won’t go down the arena and not get a throw. Second, there might be a roper who might be timid who won’t ask a question, but someone else will ask that question and you can feed off one another. Third, it's amazing the progress a roper can make getting the same consistent throws and instruction for three straight days.
"And with all my sponsors stepping in with prizes—we give a saddle or Heel-O-Matic away at every school—where else can you rope against 12 people for a Coats Saddle or Heel-O-Matic? Plus, I handicap the competition, so you get a mulligan depending on your number. If you miss one, you’re not done for. It levels the playing field."
The Heelers Only Tour events will have a three-day, structured schedule to give ropers a solid sense of what they're in for, too, Skelton said. Ropers can contact Skelton for more information at 325-423-5290. TRJ