It's been a dream year for Tee Woolman. And as I sit down in mid-October to share another round of his words with you, the best may well be yet to come. , where he plans to head for Cory Petska, and his 18th National Finals Steer Roping, not to mention the $500,000 Pace Picante ProRodeo Classic, which is presented by the Texas Stampede and will run November 12-14 in Dallas.
That's 42 National Finals qualifications, and to put that record into focus for you, the next two guys in line are retired cowboy greats Roy Cooper and Larry Mahan, who made 32 and 27 Finals appearances in their legendary careers, respectively.
Woolman, who'll turn 48 on December 4 just in time to rope his second-round steer at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas, won his first of three world team roping titles as the 1980 Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Team Roping Rookie of the Year. Roping at that time with Leo "The Lion" Camarillo, Woolman won the first of four NFR average buckles that same year.
Just before being enshrined at the ProRodeo Hall of Fame induction ceremonies in Colorado Springs this summer, Woolman became only the fifth professional rodeo cowboy ever to clear the $2 million mark in career earnings.
Woolman's always recognized the importance of a great horse, and he's worked daily for decades to make sure he's always riding one of the best. Woolman owns now-retired, four-time Steer Roping Horse of the Year, Dutch, but he's humbled to this year own his first-ever PRCA/AQHA Head Horse of the Year, Megazord. I visited at length with Tee about his main mount. Here's what he had to say.
KS:I know you call him Megazord, but what's this horse's registered name?
Woolman: We let (Tee and Jacque's son) Walker name him, and when he was born we were into the Power Rangers mode. When the Power Rangers all unite, Megazord is the reason they can't be beat.
KS:How old's Megazord now?
KS:We all know Megazord's a sorrel horse, but are there other distinguishing features about his looks?
Woolman: He has a diamond on his forehead, a snip on his nose and a big, white T- on his left hip.
KS:Is there anything special about his bloodlines?
Woolman: His mom is Have Your Cash. She's the only broodmare I have left. I bought her in 1994, right before Megazord was born. She's out of a Dash for Cash stud. Megazord's daddy was Jet Toro, who was an Easy Jet horse. But he's dead now.
KS:Who trained Megazord?
Woolman: My brother-in-law Darren Stoner started him, then I hauled him some. When he was 6 or 7, Paul Petska rode him for 45 days and put the finishing touches on him. Speedy (Williams) helped me with some stuff on him, too.
KS:I noticed Speed rode him at Reno. Who else rode Megazord this year, besides you and Speed?
Woolman: Trevor (Brazile), Charles (Pogue), Kevin (Stewart) and Steve Purcella.
KS:How long have you roped on him at the rodeos?
Woolman: I've hauled him off and on since he was 5. I'd ride him one or two places, then he'd go home. So he's been around awhile. I've ridden him all the time the last two years. I've never ridden him at the Finals. I think he'd be awesome there, but I didn't want to put him in those conditions. He'll last a lot longer without it. Those horses get quick after going there. He's just gotten seasoned, where he works the same every time. It's taken him that long to mature. I may ride him at the Finals someday, but not for now.
KS:So what are you going to ride at the Finals this year?
Woolman: The gray horse (Blue) I rode last year. He belongs to Larry Irvin from Boerne, Texas. He worked really good there last year. That setup fits him. He's real snappy, and things happen fast on him. He's a nice horse. I rode him at Dallas last year, and that was the first rodeo of his entire life.
KS:What's Megazord's greatest strength?
Woolman: Speed. Controllable speed. Some horses have speed, but when you don't have control it's no good. He scores really well, then he's strong and he faces good.
KS:Is he a good traveler?
Woolman: He hauls great, but it's taken him a couple years. Toward the end of last year is the first time he started holding his weight all year long on the road. He used to look drawn up all the time.
KS:Describe his personality.
Woolman: He's kind of mean to other horses. He likes to be around them, but he doesn't really care for them, either. He has a couple buddies he hangs out with at home, but I wouldn't keep him in a pen with other horses. He pins his ears at them, so I keep him by himself for safety precautions.
KS:Does he have any weaknesses or areas you wish he did better?
Woolman: I don't fault him anywhere. He could rate a little bit better, but for a rodeo horse he'll stay hooked longer because of all that run. Like I always say, if you've got the run, you've got everything you need. That's what it's all about.
KS:Is he better in certain setups?
Woolman: We won the short round at Salinas and Cheyenne this year, and those are the longest scores there are. He excels and stands out a little bit at those rodeos. But I won the first round at the tour finale (Pace Picante ProRodeo Chute-out in May) in Vegas in a little bitty building and we were 4.9. He gives you a lot of chances to win, because he scores exceptionally well and can run so hard. You always have a chance to win on him, even on a fast steer.
KS:Why do you think he deserved to win this award?
Woolman: I just feel he's by far the best horse. He gives me so many chances to win. He runs and he doesn't have a lot of drop, so I can handle steers and give my heelers fast shots. I'm one of the older guys out here, but I still feel competitive on this horse.
KS:How does Megazord rank among all the horses you've ridden in your career?
Woolman: He'd have to rank right up there with some of the greatest ones. I've had some great horses, but not one that's ever won the head horse of the year before. For the circumstances these days, he's right up there at the top of his game. I had a yellow horse, Doc, when I first got in (to the PRCA). He couldn't run as fast, but I won a lot on him. I had a little dun horse, Kojak, that would be outstanding on today's little steers. But I'd have to put Megazord at the top of the list, because he does it all good. I'd compare him to Charles' Scooter. He's that kind of horse. And horses with that much run just get better with age.
KS:How big a part are the horses to what you do?
Woolman: They're a big part. That's why some guys win so much. The guys who win have good horses. Speed Williams is a prime example. He ropes so great, but his main horses, Viper and Bob, got crippled and he struggled. He's got a nice horse now, and he's gone back to winning. The horse plays a big part, and you have to have confidence in him. When I'm on Megazord there's no doubt in my mind that I can win something every time.
KS:What does this award mean to a guy who has done it all and won it all?
Woolman: This is a big deal to me. This is almost like winning the world championship, for my peers to vote my horse the best. (The top 25 headers in the world got to vote on this one.) Megazord won by a pretty wide margin, so all the guys felt like he was good. That makes me feel good. It means a lot. It's a big accomplishment. This horse is almost like a son to me. He's been with me from the start. It's been a good year, and it's not over yet.
One of those peers, Seven-Time World Team Roping Titlist Jake Barnes, owns this year's reserve head horse king, Barney.
KS:So, Jake, what do you think of Megazord?
Barnes: He's a really nice horse. He deserves it. It's got to really make Tee proud that he raised him. That'd be like raising the All-American or the Kentucky Derby winner. Raising horses is time-consuming, and you never know if they're going to turn out. To raise one, train him and compete at this level on him says something. Not only that, but look at the money Tee's saved. This is the most unique story, just for the fact that this horse was home grown. And Tee made him just exactly the way he wanted him. Megazord works like you dream of one working.