Nelson Wyatt will rope at his second Wrangler National Finals Rodeo next month. He spun for Levi Lord at his first Finals in 2020. At press time in late September, his 2023 NFR partner was TBD, as the field of 15 headers and 15 heelers had not yet been set. The thing that was certain is that his four-legged friend Colt has been a boss this year, and a consummate teammate no matter the conditions or who was on the back side.
Wyatt, 30, who was the 2017 Resistol All-Around and Heading Rookie of the Year, has made a rather unexpected dream season out of 2023.
“I came home in August after Dodge City last year, so I didn’t get into San Antonio or Houston this year,” said the Clanton, Alabama cowboy. “This year has been kind of a whirlwind from the start. I entered the San Antonio qualifier, then they told me I got in. Then after the qualifier, they called and said it was a mistake and kicked me out of the rodeo. So I wasn’t entered at San Antonio or Houston to start the year.
“I was kind of in a bad spot, but had a little money won, because Tyler Worley and I did good at the circuit finals last fall. Then Justin Davis called, and asked if I’d go to San Antonio and Houston, because I was the next guy in line to roll up after someone else turned out.”
Wyatt wasn’t technically supposed to be there, but he and that gray horse—Colt’s registered name is LR Gatlin—kept showing up in a big way. And when the curtain closed on San Antonio and Houston, Wyatt and Davis had won second in both of those rodeo-winter wonderlands.
Wyatt and Colt have been a consistent theme. Nelson figured he’d won at least $120,000 of the $145,000 he had in the world standings as of press time the third week in September. But his laundry list of heelers has been longer than most people realize.
“I entered Bonifay (Florida) with Jace Davis last fall, then Bellville (Texas) with Cole Curry,” Nelson said. “I roped at the Texas Circuit Finals with Worley, then at the Stockyards (in Fort Worth) with Levi (they won that, but unofficialed it). My main partner this year was Chase Tryan. We started roping at Odessa.
“I roped with Cole again at Calgary, because Chase didn’t get in. I roped with Worley again at the NFR Open (in Colorado Springs). Then I roped with Trey Yates at Puyallup, because Chase and Chad (Masters) didn’t get in. I headed for Ross Ashford at Sioux Falls. It’s obviously been the best year I’ve had, especially after not roping good the last couple years. But it’s been a crazy year from start to finish.”
The common denominator on most of the money he’s won points back to the gray. Colt—the name stuck after Nelson bought him from his buddy Colt Fisher in Louisiana after the 2020 NFR—is 14. And at 15 hands and 1,100-1,200 pounds, he’s proven the perfect fit for his 6’, 205-pound cowboy.
“I knew he was a really good horse when I bought him,” Nelson said. “He was still a little green to rodeoing, and he was a lot different than the other gray I made the Finals on (WYO PAY N PLAY, aka “Teddy Bear”, also 14, has been resting up and rehabbing at Nelson’s parents’ place in Alabama this summer after straining a suspensory).
“This year I kind of changed my roping to help Colt and the way he works. He hadn’t been rodeoed on when I bought him, but he’s gotten more consistent and seasoned to rodeoing this year.”
Wyatt’s been working on his own consistency, too, with some straight-shooting guidance from a ProRodeo Hall of Famer friend.
“I’ve been called a bomber, but I’ve been trying to get out of that,” Nelson said. “I’ve been trying to slow down and catch more. If I’m in a bind, I’ll usually send Tee Woolman my runs. He’s the one that’s stayed on me about catching more steers the last few years, and he doesn’t cut me any slack. Tee tells me what I need to hear.”
Wyatt’s horse has that same versatility and range.
“It’s hard to say where Colt works best, because I’ve ridden him everywhere from San Antonio to Cheyenne, and he worked good,” Nelson said. “He scores really well, so it seems like I get good starts on him. And he’s really athletic. He faces good, and that gets the clock stopped.
“Colt’s just a horse I can take anywhere and have a chance on. And he fits me. He’s a quick-strided horse, and I feel like my swing’s on the tighter end and matches his strides really well. When you’re heading, it doesn’t have to be the best horse, but you definitely have to have the right chemistry with one.”
He might be easy to rope on. Dustin Egusquiza jumped on Colt and placed at Prescott (Arizona) this summer. But Colt has his quirks.
“He’s kind of weird,” Nelson says. “He’s kind of a scared-type horse, so you kind of have to baby him a little bit, and you can’t really get onto him a whole lot.
“Colt’s always on the edge. And he’s not an easy keeper. He wants to gaunt up a little out on the road. I have to keep him on Succeed (equine digestive tract) paste, and all the alfalfa and senior feed he’ll eat.”
Thankfully, Colt is sound and tough. Will Nelson ride him in this return trip to Cowboy Town?
“As of right now, yes,” he said. “I have another horse I bought this year (the palomino Nelson calls Leonard, who’s registered name is Uno Armallio Gato and is a son of Metallic Cat) that I’m going to try this fall to see how he takes it. But if I had to go to Vegas right now, it’d be hard not to ride Colt.” TRJ