That Other Buddy on Team Begay and Todd
Who's the bay Colter Todd's been riding? Meet Buddy.
Colter Todd heeling on his bay horse Buddy, winning Guymon.
Colter Todd is best known as an NFR header. But he and a little bay horse by the name of Buddy have been making heeling headlines behind Derrick Begay. Here they are winning Guymon in May. | Dale Hirschman photo

Derrick Begay and Colter Todd are an unlikely team for obvious reasons. Their entire collective collection of 12 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo back numbers was earned over on the heading side. The magic on this team is in the connection between two best friends, Arizona natives and quiet, humble ranch cowboys of few words, but thoughts that run deeper than the Grand Canyon. There’s a third Buddy on this team that you probably don’t know much about just yet. 

His name is SS Buddy Holly and—classic Colter—it should surprise no one by now that Todd bought a 6-year-old to take into the heat of rodeo battle.

Upgrading the herd

“I got him right after Cheyenne last year,” said Colter, 39, who at 24 rode away from rodeo and straight home to the ranch after heading for Cesar de la Cruz at three-straight NFRs from 2006-08. “I bought Buddy from Nick Nichols, who’s from Big Piney, Wyoming, and winters in Wickenburg (Arizona). I saw Nick ride him at Cheyenne, and called him from the road. Begay had called to go to a handful of rodeos. 

“Madilyn (Colter and Carly’s now 18-year-old daughter) had made the high school finals (in Gillette, Wyoming), and Begay and I went to Casper and Sheridan on the way, then to Cheyenne, Spanish Fork, Ogden and Vernal (Utah). Derrick kind of just kept putting us down, and when I got those confirmation texts, I kept showing up.”

[WATCH: Warbonnet Ranch: A Family Legacy]

Madilyn and her little brothers, Colter Lee, who’s 15, and Traven, 13, have everything to do with Colter’s heart being home on the Warbonnet Ranch and neighboring Winchester Ranch, where generations of the Todd family continue to work together.

Madilyn kindly let her dear dad know that if he was going to set sail as a world-class heeler, he needed to upgrade his horse herd. 

“You almost have to have a heel horse that can outrun a head rope anymore,” Colter’s noticed. “Cheyenne was a good spot to watch a lot of horses go, and I saw Buddy go twice. The steers he drew weren’t easy steers. They were on the tougher side, and that horse caught my eye because he really looked like he was trying to help.”

“Dont let this horse get away.”

Colter texted Nichols, and asked about the bay. 

“Nick texted back, ‘No, he’s not for sale,’” Todd remembers. “So I left it alone. There went that idea. This was all during the high school finals. I texted him back, and asked if he knew of anything else. A day or two later, Nick texted me back and said he’d sell him to me.

“Begay and I ran another steer at Cheyenne, and when we were done there, we got in the truck with my boys and went out of our road to go try him. That’s the kind of stuff that’s fun about Derrick. He was game to go see some new country. Nick lives on a big, beautiful ranch that’s a different kind of dry, desert country, and we got to go see that when we went to try this horse.”

Begay turned Todd about 10 steers when the four-man-test team tried Buddy. Derrick headed, Colter heeled, Colter Lee worked the chutes and Traven videoed each run—which all four took a turn breaking down with the others while the horses took a breather between steers. 

“Derrick did a good job the first few runs, and it was easy,” Colter said. “We were making practice runs. So I said, ‘Now you have to try and hide them from me, and try to make me miss. Make it harder.’ Colter Lee and Traven finally just said, ‘Don’t let this horse get away. If you don’t like him, we can use him.’ It was a lot of fun having them there to encourage it.”

Buddy’s still just 7.

Everybody’s Buddy

“I like him, but he’s still on trial,” Colter says a year later. “That’s just me. I don’t ever want to say my horses are good. When you do that, all of a sudden they aren’t. That’s just my mindset. And this horse is young. So when he’s tired, he works better than when he’s fresh. You don’t know that until you haul one.

“In the winter, a lot of people like that they get to go home between rodeos and keep their horses in a comfortable environment. I never feel like this horse needs a rest. He has no buck in him, which is fun. But he’s better when he’s working. He’s grown on me. I like him. And he has an aggravating personality, which is nice.”

Colter uses “aggravating” in the most endearing way here. And he thought about changing Buddy’s name before realizing that it was just too good a fit to fiddle with. 

“They were calling him Buddy Holly,” Todd said. “I thought I might call him something other than Buddy, but it didn’t take long to realize it suits him perfectly. Some horses are just horses. Not Buddy. If you’re standing by him, he’s nibbling on you. I’m a cowboy, so that’s unacceptable behavior. But no matter how much I tell him to knock it off, he’s going to continue to do it. 

“That’s just this horse’s personality. He’s kind. If you put him with other horses, he’s the one that’s going to get kicked or bit. He just wants to be everybody’s buddy—horses and humans.”

“Just trust that horse.”

He’s sound, and an easy keeper. When they’re home, Carly and Madilyn baby Buddy with grain. But when he’s riding the Begay-Todd Train, it’s alfalfa hay and see you at the next one. 

“This horse has been simple so far,” said the heeling half of the team with 2023 highlights that already include wins in Logandale, Nevada and Guymon, Oklahoma. “I like his speed. He’s going to get to where you need to get quick enough. He wants to the inside, and it’s hard for him to go by. I darn sure get to the inside before I go by one. 

“I’ve always trained horses, and have made some decent head horses. With Buddy, you’re best off just kicking. Begay always tells me, ‘Just trust that horse.’ That’s kind of hard for me. But when I do, it feels good. And when I miss, it’s my fault most of the time for just not throwing a good enough loop. Buddy reads all the different plays. He lets me react, and throw when I want to throw.”

And for a guy who’s spent his life trying to be where God wants him to be, that’s good enough for Colter. TRJ

pedigree chart for SS Buddy Holly
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