PRCA/AQHA Horses of the Year: Team Roping 1989-2004

A good, solid mount can establish a roper in the world of rodeo. A great horse can be the difference between making the Finals and watching it on TV. Moreover, that extra-special horse can be the difference between a world title and second place.

While not all of the top horses throughout the years carried their owners to world championships, many of them did. Of the ones that didn’t, they did carry their riders to considerable renown. Whether it was an NFR average title or a first-place finish in the regular season world standings, each of these horses carried their riders to success. Since 1989, the PRCA and the AQHA have been naming heading and heeling horses of the year. In sum, 20 horses have received the award.

Most of these horses earned special places in their owners’ hearts. Some have died, some have been turned out to greener pastures and some are still going strong. The passing of Charles Pogue’s legendary Scooter has been well documented, but recently another legendary head horse passed, Steve Purcella’s Butterbean. He shared the story.

“The last time I rode him was at Houston in 2002 and he tore his suspensory a little bit. He’d been having trouble with that knee for the last four or five years and after that, it kind of blew up. After a year and half he had to start packing that leg and we knew it was time to put him down. My good friend and vet, Chris Ray, pretty much took care of him the whole time I was riding him and he wanted to be the one to do it. So he came up there last December, my father-in-law and I dug a hole and we buried him at sunset. We toasted him and sent him on to greener pastures. Then we did just like Captain Call said in “Lonesome Dove,” “The best thing you can do with death is ride away from it.” And we turned around and headed out. It must have been something to see three grown men with tears in their eyes. It was a pretty good ending.”

The following is everything we could dig up on these exceptional equines. We began in 1989-the first year the two associations partnered on this award. Part two will showcase the heel horses from the same era.

Cannon Ball (Mr. Ruby Clerk)
Owned and ridden by Matt Tyler in title year. Deceased.
Sire: Mr. Ruby Bar
Dam: Sale Clerk
Born: 1974
Color: Sorrel
Height: 15.1 hands
Weight: 1,275 pounds
Sex: Gelding
Conformation: He was actually the perfect size. Real stout and could break and leave and run right across the line, low to the ground.
Personality: He was a nice horse to be around, good-natured.
What made him special: In all the different setups and situations I put him, he worked pretty much everywhere. He scored good, was stout, and could run and faced real well. Small arenas or big arenas, it didn’t matter, he worked good everywhere I took him. I think that’s why he won it that year.

Yellow Bar Smug
Owned and ridden by Bobby Hurley in title year.
Sire: Mug Reed
Dam: Mighty Bar Queen
Born: 1975
Color: Palomino
Height: 15.2 hands
Weight: 1,365 pounds
Sex: Gelding
Conformation: He was a bigger horse and when the steers were bigger at the Finals, it was almost like cheating. He could do more with those big cattle on that left wall that most horses could. He was just massive. For a big horse he could really run and you had better have your butt in the seat when he left that box.
Personality: He turned 30 years old this year. He’s out on green pastures and not worried about a whole lot. I bet if you got him up right now you could still make some runs on him.
What made him special: He just didn’t have a whole lot of flaws. There was hardly anything you could knock on him. He was fun and tough as nails. He was really suited for the big steers they used back then.

1991-1993 and 1997-1999
Scooter (Oklahoma Top Hat)
Owned and ridden by Charles Pogue in title years. Deceased.
Sire: Oklahoma Fuel (by Jet Fuel)
Dam: Winners Doll
Born: 1984
Died: 2001
Color: Gray
Height: 15.1 hands
Weight: 1,200 pounds
Sex: Gelding
Conformation: He was put together real smooth. He wasn’t overly bulky. I’ve definitely had bigger, bulkier horses. He wasn’t blocky, but he wasn’t a string bean. Everything tied in real nicely together. He was a nice-looking horse.
Personality: He kind of stayed away from other horses. He took care of himself real well and was a good traveler. He knew he was special.
What made him special: He just did everything so good, but it’s hard for a horse to be that dominant without having a lot of speed. But it was controlled speed. There are a lot of horses that can run, but one that can do it with control is really hard to find.

Spiff (Tres Spiffy Dude)
Owned and ridden by Bobby Hurley in title year, currently owned by Sherry Cervi
Sire: Tres Snipe (by Skip Tres Bar)
Dam: Dudes Socks Doll
Born: 1983
Color: Sorrel
Height: 15.2 hands
Weight: 1,300 pounds
Sex: Gelding
Conformation: He was just a heck of a horse. He was a thick-made horse and a real pretty horse to look at. He was just an exceptional horse, not anything to knock on him.
Personality: Anybody could ride him. He’d get bored and kick the trailer. When I first started hauling him, we’d have to do all kinds of things to keep him from getting bored. Sometimes you’d have to tie his back legs, and later we put special shoes on him to keep him from kicking-mainly to try to keep him from hurting himself. The only thing he ever did wrong is when I was rodeoing with Charles Pogue and we had Spiff and Scooter in the trailer together Spiff kicked the mess out of old Scooter. He crippled him and I felt real bad about that, so Spiff carried Charles and I double time there for a while.
What made him special: He was a horse that did things extremely well. He wasn’t just good on some things, he was good everywhere. He was good inside and good outside. He was good with the big cattle as well as the small cattle. You could do anything you wanted on him.

Rooster (Ayes Have It)
Owned by Eddie Wilkerson and ridden by Jake Barnes in title year.
Sire: Pajaro Chico (by Easy Jet)
Dam: Ima Lady Pilot
Born: 1985
Color: Sorrel
Height: 15 hands
Weight: 1,200 pounds
Sex: Gelding
Jake on Rooster:
Conformation: He was off the track. He had a tremendous amount of speed and faced really well.
Personality: He didn’t have a whole lot of personality, but he was never a problem horse. He didn’t have any bad habits and was an easy keeper.
What made him special: I rode him mainly in 1994 and part of the 1995 season. I sold him to Eddie Wilkerson out of El Paso and he went on to win horse of the year.
Eddie on Rooster: He scored good and had a lot of speed. He was very consistent. His pattern of attacking the steer was always the same. He’s just a great horse. I was lucky to have him. You have to give Jake a lot of credit because he’s the one who rode him. He was real gentle, an easy keeper and he made the same run every time I went out of the gate and I knew what he was going to do. He was a push-button horse. We got to go to walk across the stage at the awards banquet in Las Vegas when that horse won it. I got to pick up the trophy and the saddle blanket, but my wife, Glenna, kept the check.

Butterbean (Mark My Dream)
Owned and ridden by Steve Purcella in title year. Deceased
Sire: Two Eyed Mark
Dam: Dumplins Dream
Born: 1986
Died: 2004
Color: Sorrel
Height: 15.1 hands
Weight: 1,330 pounds
Sex: Gelding
Conformation: To me, you couldn’t picture one any better as a head horse. He was pretty thick, not real tall, but a big horse. He was real catty and moved around like a little horse.
Personality: He was kind of an outlaw, but he got better with time. He never was bad to buck, but kind of snorty on the ground and always watching you, but real smart. He was kind of hard to catch. Really, he wanted to act like a bad cat, but he was just a big pet. He held his own around other horses, he didn’t fight, but he held his ground.
What made him special: He was just the kind of horse that was good wherever you ran him. He could run, probably not as hard as Scooter, but Butterbean was probably bigger and stronger up the left fence. You could win on him anywhere: at Salinas or at the NFR. Long score, short score, he just wanted to win. He gave 100 percent every time.

Viper (Keep on Flushing)
Owned and ridden by Speed Williams in title year.
Sire: Smoocheys Red Man
Dam: Lovely Night
Born: 1987
Color: Sorrel
Height: 15.1 hands
Weight: 1,250 pounds
Sex: Gelding
Conformation: He’s a very good-looking horse. He’s got a big hind-end and he’s built the way I would like one to be built. His girth’s really big. It’s almost like a barrel. But it makes him really strong in the middle and he can come back up the wall. He’s really, really smooth-that’s probably his best quality.
Personality: He’s like a kid. He unties himself, lets other horses out of the stalls. A barrel racer had him before me and he got spoiled. He loves people and is very friendly. When he gets out he doesn’t just stay out by himself, he wants company so he lets all the other horses out.
What makes him special: I have to give him most of the credit for these world titles, he always pulls through at the Finals. In the buildings, he’s one of the best horses ever. He adapts well to whether the steer leaves the chute running or leaves the chute slow. He really handles the steers good. He just makes my and Rich’s job so easy at the Finals. There has been a big difference in our level of success without him. He’s not going to win a horse race, but you can be running wide-open one way and just side pass and go the other way. He’s very broke.

Calhoon (Smoothly Anchored)
Owned and ridden by Richard Eiguren in title years, currently owned by Trevor Brazile.
Sire: Smooth Roula
Dam: Anchor This Jet (by a son of Easy Jet)
Born: 1991
Color: Palomino
Height: 16 hands
Weight: 1,300 pounds
Sex: Gelding
Richard on Calhoon:
Conformation: He’s real tall-part thoroughbred. He wasn’t a big thick horse, but he wasn’t thin, either.
What made him special: He just stood there and scored and gave you a chance to win every time. He’d put you right there. I miss him, I sure wouldn’t mind having him back.
Trevor on Calhoon:
Conformation: He’s kind of a freak. I wouldn’t say that he was the horse I would draw. But he’s got a good hind end, a good gaskin and a good hip. For his size, he’s got an uncharacteristically short neck. It comes out of his shoulders a little lower which makes it a lot easier to see-especially since he’s so big.
Personality: He’s not mean, but if you’re leading him or have him tied next to another horse he’s a pest, always sniffing flanks or nibbling on them or biting their halter. He’s
always into something.
What makes him special: His ability to score, he scores real flat footed and he gives you a chance to win every time. A lot of horses if you reach a few rodeos in a row, they start getting smart to it and duck or quit running, but he’s not like that. He’s the same every trip. He’s got a pattern and he’s going to do it the same every time regardless of what you do on him. He keeps you from messing up. He’s got good speed and
he scores great, but his main trait is that he’s so honest. He’s real free and doesn’t try to cheat you in anyway.

Walt (Precious Speck)
Owned and ridden by Travis Tryan in title year.
Sire: Skid Frost (by a son of Doc Bar)
Dam: Precious Rhythm
Born: 1990
Color: Bay
Height: 15.1 hands
Weight: 1,200 pounds
Sex: Gelding
Conformation: He’s put together really nicely, I think he’s the ideal head horse. He’s not overly wide. He’s skinnier than most, but he’s got plenty of muscle.
Personality: He’s ornery and ignorant. He picks on everything. He likes his friends and he likes to pick on them, but when they’re not around he misses them.
What makes him special: He doesn’t make any mistakes. He runs hard, scores excellent. No wasted motion, and real free. He doesn’t ever take a throw away from you; he’s pretty much automatic. For three years, he got both me and my brother Clay to the Finals.

Owned and ridden by Tee Woolman in title year.
Sire: Jet Toro (by Easy Jet)
Dam: Have Your Cash (by a son of Dash For Cash)
Born: 1994
Color: Sorrel
Height: 15.1 hands
Weight: 1,240 pounds
Sex: Gelding
Conformation: He’s kind of long. He looks pretty racy. You wouldn’t think he was that heavy looking at him and he’s not all that thick.
Personality: He’s pretty dominant. He’s easy to get along with and a sweetheart, easy to catch, but he’s always got his head up and looking around. He’s no dead head by any means, pretty active.
What makes him special: He scores really good and then he can run so fast, yet it’s all still so controlled. Some horses can run real fast but aren’t in control. Other horses won’t score. He’s just one of those horses that enjoys his job and kind of knows what his job is. I don’t practice on him a whole lot. We just kind of let him be himself.

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