When I retired my old horse Ike in April, I had another good one (Scout) ready to roll. The timing just felt right, because I had a horse I could count on and felt comfortable with and confident in. Then at Reno in June, during the BFI and Reno Rodeo, somehow or another Scout fractured his pelvis. I have no idea how it happened or exactly when-it could have happened in the practice pen or in the corral-but I noticed he acted funny getting in and out of the trailer. And when I saddled him one day to ride around he was a little off.
I guess everything happens in its own time, because I was going to come home anyway to get my arena built and my other place sold. I was just going to go to a few good ropings and rodeos. Now I’m trying to find something that I can feel confident on and win on, that’s sound and sturdy and ready to go. Rickey (Green) let me borrow his horse for the BFI and some USTRC ropings, and I took him to Cheyenne. He’s gray, he’s 9, his name’s Ringo and he hasn’t been hauled a whole lot so he’s a little on the green side. Hopefully he’ll get solid before too long and will work for me.
The bottom line is, I don’t really have a horse that’s solid to go on right at the moment. I just finished my new arena, my other place is in the process of being sold, and things are coming together at home. I’ve been roping with different people at different places, because I’ve been home so much. I roped with Mark Simon at Cheyenne, and with Jake (Barnes) and Speed (Williams) at the Spicer Gripp (Memorial Roping in Hereford, Texas). I’m roping at the Lone Star (USTRC) Regionals with Kevin Stewart and Justin Davis.
Part of my job in the next few months, before next year starts, is to haul this horse that Rickey’s letting me ride to season him, and at the same time keep an eye out for another good one. Having the right horse means everything. No matter how good any individual ropes, if you’re not mounted on a top-caliber horse that will allow you to do what you can do, it’s really limiting.
You see guys who rope really good at the top of the game year in and year out, then lose that top-quality horse. They drop down a ways until they can get something of similar caliber to replace him. It’s just part of the game, and a big part of the game. That’s the way the game is played. The guys out there in the top five right now have the best horses and also rope awesome. It goes hand-in-hand.
I want a horse that’s good to jackpot and rodeo on. That’s what was pretty unique about Ike; that I could crossover and do both pretty good on him. Things are more wide-open and turned up a notch at the rodeo, but when you get to the jackpot you need one that’s controllable and super solid.
I like a horse that scores good and has quick speed across the line. That’s especially important at the rodeos. I also want one that’s durable and solid, and can stay hooked at a jackpot. Lots of horses can work good one run at a time, but if you run 10 steers on them-at a go-twice five-steer average, for example-they come undone. It takes a special horse to gut it out and give you the same shot 10 runs in a row.
I’m pretty picky when it comes to my horses. I know what I like, and I’m kind of spoiled, too. I had a horse (Ike) for 10 or 12 years that was so tough that I expect them all to be that way. And they’re just not. It takes an incredibly tough, strong, good-minded horse to take the pounding they take at our level of roping. We’re pushing the pedal down to the max all the time.
Most horses that are really good and solid are 10 and older. They’re their best into their teens because they’re mature. They’ve been there, and you can really count on them the most. You generally won’t find a lot of young horses at the big-money events, because that’s when we tend to call in the veterans. I have several nice young horses at home, but they’re not ready to go anywhere yet.
Good horses are a big part of this game. You’re only as good as the horse you’re riding, no matter how good you rope. Staying mounted is part of the challenge of roping for a living, and none of us ropes good enough to get by on a subpar horse.
Throughout the years, if something happened to Ike it put me in a panic. There were times I didn’t have anything else to ride that I felt very comfortable on. Not going hard now, I’m taking this time to haul this horse and hopefully get him ready for next year. Or hopefully, with some rest and time off, Scout will be ready to go again in a few months. I’m hoping it’ll all work out-it always does.