By all accounts, Travis Tryan's 2003 PRCA/AQHA Heading Horse of the Year, Precious Speck-better known as Walt-was all but finished. The now 17-year-old bay developed ringbone and Tryan was only able to ride him at three or four rodeos in 2006.
He, along with his vet Dr. Gregg Veneklasen, worked to rehabilitate Walt, though there is really no cure for ringbone.
Ringbone causes a circumferential enlargement of the bone at the level of a joint. Luckily for Tryan and Walt, the horse's joint fused naturally-which is an extremely rare instance.
"Dr. Veneklasen got him sound again, and when the ringbone fused, I was able to ride him again," Tryan said. "I've not even heard of that very much. I rode him all year this year and he's been sound."
Tryan's biggest regular-season win on Walt was at Cheyenne, one of the longest scores in ProRodeo.
"I won Cheyenne on him this year and I'd feel comfortable taking him to the Finals or Guymon to rope muleys the next day. He's good in any set up," Tryan said. "But not only that, he just doesn't make mistakes. I can't think of one time this year that he cost me, any mistake I made was my fault. If your horse gives you an opportunity and a chance to win every time, that's a pretty special deal and that's what I like about him. He wants to help you. If you got that, you can really rope."
Tryan bought Walt from a rancher in Montana named Walt Vermedahl in 2000. For the first three years he owned him, Walt carried both Travis and his brother Clay to the Finals and in 2001 they both rode him in Vegas.
What's more, when Jake Barnes lost his thumb at the 2005 Finals and his partner Kory Koontz teamed up with Trevor Brazile as a last-minute fill-in, Tryan lent Brazile Walt.
Due to the ringbone, Tryan was the only cowboy to use Walt this season, which makes his winning the 2007 AQHA/PRCA Heading Horse of the Year all that more special, since often the voting revolves around who has mounted their good horse out to the most people.
On the heeling side, there's another repeat winner. Randon Adams' Diesel, or Baileys Cooper Doc, who won last year out right and this year shares the title with Patrick and Christi Smith's Sunday Night Bingo, better known as Amigo.
"He came from Conley Donnell and he had done a really good job with him, but he just hadn't been anywhere," Smith said. "He was a little too green to be somebody's number one rodeo horse."
However, after Smith's number one horse, Jaws, fell victim to nagging stifle problems, he was forced to use the inexperienced horse as his top mount, riding him at about 60 of the 68 rodeos he competed in.
"I'm really excited he won horse of the year, but if they had a prize for most improved he'd win that," Smith said. "He came a long way and matured really fast. He took to the schooling I gave him really fast. He's an exciting horse to have. He's a winner. He feels the way Jaws always felt. He's made my roping a lot better and I've been a lot more confident with him."