Q: Tell us about your journey to Tolar.
A: I’m originally from Fort Pierce, Florida, east of Okeechobee. My family moved to Stephenville in 1998, and my parents bought a Western store there when I was in sixth grade. Jordon and I moved to Chilton, Texas, when we got married in 2010, then to Tolar in 2021.
Q: Have you roped all your life?
A: I got my start with horses from my grandma. She trained hunter jumpers and dressage horses, so horsemanship has always been a part of my life. My mom got into cutting horses, so I rode a few of those. I started roping in fifth grade, so I roped about a year in Florida before we moved to Texas.
Q: Ever work any other events in rodeo?
A: I roped calves, headed and heeled at the junior rodeos. Once I got into high school, I just team roped. I heeled a couple times at the College [National] Finals [Rodeo] in 2007 and 2009. (Briggs was a 9 heeler in college). When Jordon and I got together, and I started riding more of the barrel horses. That’s when I switched over to mostly heading.
Q: You’re now a 6.5 header and a 7.5 heeler. Do you still head and heel all the time?
A: I’d say I’m more of a header than a heeler now, but every horse we have runs barrels, heads and heels at some level. The barrel horses are better suited conformation-wise for heading. They’re big-framed, head-horse-looking horses, and they’re not big stoppers. We rope on all of them, but our main business is barrel horses.
Q: I understand Briggs Performance Horses is a two-person show.
A: Yes, we raise two or three a year of our own, and buy some long yearlings. I start all of our colts. I put about 120 days on them, then when they’re safe and ride pretty well, Jordon starts putting a barrel pattern on them and I start roping a sled or lead steer on them. Jordon trains everything on the poles, too. I was a farrier for the public for 15 years. Now I just shoe our own horses. Jordon and I run our business top to bottom. We clean pens and do all the feeding and riding ourselves. We’re not an assembly line. We have two, three, maybe four horses a year to sell, and we only sell horses after their futurity year, when we think they’re ready for somebody.
Q: Horse sales typically fund horse businesses. But the 2021 Barrel Horse of the Year, Famous Lil Jet, who’s best known as “Rollo,” put a hitch in that, huh?
A: Yes, up until 2021 when Jordon decided to go again, her main thing was the barrel futurities. If horses are good enough and have strong arena presence, I also like taking them to the American Rope Horse Futurity Association events. I roped on Rollo at the finals in Fort Worth in 2018, 2019 and 2020. I placed on him in the heading at the futurity in Tulsa over the Fourth of July last year, when Jordon was seasoning him at a few rodeos. We joke about the rule where horses used at the NFR can’t be used anywhere else that week. If not for that, Rollo might have had to do double duty at the [Ariat World Series of Team Roping Finale at the] South Point.
Q: Every horse is a year older Jan. 1, and Rollo’s still just 8 years old. Tell us a little about young Rollo.
A: We bought Rollo as a yearling, and I broke him to ride. He was definitely tough, and very strong-willed. For the first 60 days, he dang sure had his own idea on how it was going to go. I’d be riding him in the pasture, and he’d try to run me under a tree. He tried to run me under the top rail in the round pen. Since we got past all that, he’s been point-and-shoot. He’ll lope circles, slide and stop like a reiner now.
Q: How good a rope horse is Rollo?
A: Rollo could go to the NFR in the heading, too. He’s that good. He’s the real deal. He’s just a pretty special horse. He does not flinch in the box. But as soon as I move my hand, he’s gone. I placed on Rollo at the World Series roping in Hamilton last year. I’m not roping on him now, because Jordon’s rodeoing on him, and I don’t want to risk hurting him. We sell horses for a living, and we’ve had offers to buy Rollo. But we decided as a family to keep him. Jordon’s trained a lot of nice horses. She deserves to keep this one. And the good news is, he’s still young enough that I can maybe rope on him when Jordon’s done rodeoing on him.
Q: Barrel horses first, but do you sell a few rope horses, too?
A: A few. One of the rope horses I trained that’s out there right now is Garrett Tonozzi’s roan mare, Disco. When I got her, she was 5 or 6, and had been through some barrel-horse training. I ranched on her, and roped on her for a year. I took her to some amateur rodeos, and headed on her for JD Yates in the #15 at the World Series Finale in December 2015, when Jordon was pregnant with Bexley. We won the consolation roping, and about $10,000. Garrett bought her in January 2016. Jake Cooper has a horse I trained. Most of our horses make barrel horses, but we have a few rope horses out there also.
Q: Do horses that make good barrel horses and rope horses have a lot of similar traits, or no?
A: To be good, they have to have the same foundation. The pocket a horse uses to approach a barrel isn’t much different than the one used running to a steer heading or heeling. They’re different events, but they need the same tools and also to want to do it on their own in both. The good ones frame up on their own, whether they’re running to a barrel or to a steer.
Q: Are there benefits to roping on a barrel horse?
A: Because barrels don’t move, a horse has to gather up and turn at a very precise spot. When you’re heading, you can get one fluid again in that process. Because a steer’s moving, you can play with it a little more. The pattern’s not set in stone, like it is in the barrels. When you rope on horses, their minds are just more ready to go back to barrels.