Turtle Powell’s Otoe
Powell’s new sorrel made him a gold buckle contender from the get-go.

Credit: Hubbell Rodeo Photos

Otoe was bred by Louisiana’s Diamond W Ranch, which raises ranch and rodeo horses by a son of world champion Zan Parr Bar (their production sale is scheduled for April 30 in Kinder). His dam shares a grandsire, Otoe’s Wonder, with Sid Miller’s Horse of the Year, Pearl, ridden by Cody Ohl. And she’s double-bred Pudden Head, a line that goes back to Bert—the 1940s rope-horse sire that also gave rise to world champion cutter Bob Acre Doc and Hall-of-Fame bulldogger Baby Doll Combs.

It should have been hard for Turtle Powell to top the fabulous NFR that made him the world champion in 2011. Yet, somehow, he roped even better in Las Vegas in 2013. Powell, 41, was the only header at the Thomas and Mack Center to turn all 10 steers—and he did it on a horse that he bought immediately afterward.

“I left the house with only him and didn’t even take a backup horse,” Powell said of 12-year-old Dashin Otoe. “And it was the first I’d ever ridden him in competition. Just riding that horse, I had a feeling that what you see is what you get, and I was real confident in what I’d seen. He did a very, very good job for me.”

Powell, in his eighth NFR appearance, and partner Dugan Kelly placed in five rounds as reserve average champs and would have placed in four more sans penalties on the heel end. 

“Otoe” was raised by Brad and Barrie Smith, and mostly was ridden by Barrie and her daughter, Shelby, at jackpots and amateur rodeos. 

“A woman roper has a little more finesse than a man does,” Powell said. “When I get on him and back him in there, I want more than he’s ever been asked for and that can confuse a horse. We’re still trying to get used to each other, but he held together really well.”

Powell also still has the little brown horse he calls Rooster, on which he won Odessa with new partner Dakota Kirchenschlager in January. Then on Otoe, Powell earned $4,705 and made the finals at San Antonio.

“I’ve been very lucky with the horses I’ve had, but when you’re trying to do this and feed a family and there are so many guys that rope good, the difference-maker is the horse,” said Powell, who won the 2011 NFR aboard Richard Eiguren’s horse Doc’s New Boots (“Jim”). “The older you get, the more you stress if you know you don’t have that horse under you. Clay Tryan has out-roped everyone for several years, but he’s also done a great job managing horses. It’s almost getting to be like barrel racing—if you’re not on a great horse, you’re not winning.”

In fact, Powell—who’s raising Layne, 2, and Rayna Jo, 3 months, with wife Molly—credited confidence in his horse over any particular mental strategy in turning all 10 in Las Vegas for the first time in his career.

“With the way that horse worked, it was like the same run every night,” said the longtime Classic endorsee. “It’s hard to build momentum there even if you do well one night, because the next night your horse might get tighter or you might draw a better steer and then see it out too far. That leads to second-guessing. But this was the same thing every time; I knew exactly when I would leave and that horse always left at the same time. That keeps the mental game out of it. It’s when you get mental that it gets hard.”


With two good horses, Powell is careful to play up their respective strengths as he chooses which to ride at each rodeo. 

“The hardest part about our whole deal is that the horse has to go day in and day out trying to be 4 seconds—or as fast as the rodeo will allow—every time,” Powell said. 

Rooster was once a cutting horse, so he’s extremely quick and smart. He shines at rodeos like Odessa (where he helped Powell and Kirchenschlager go 9.4 on two steers to win the rodeo by a full second) and at places where Powell needs to pull up a wall and really face. That kind of athleticism, however, can also make a horse droppy in the corner.

“You have to rope ‘offense’ on him,” said Powell. “I don’t reach a lot, so when I get there, I need a horse that can make it happen fast, and he does. But what makes him great also hurts him. He’s so quick-footed that if you keep throwing after three or four strides, he can make it happen a little too fast.”

And in the box, Rooster might fidget when the chute bangs open. On a score where it’s hip or tail to the pin, that’s fine; but he’s a little tricky behind a very short score. That’s where Otoe shines. And in the corner, the Smith ladies have cultivated Otoe into a horse that’s extremely honest; a little more like Vegas-—Powell’s 2010 AQHA/PRCA Head Horse of the Year.

Knowing which horse to ride can make all the difference in the world—or even the world championship.

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