Cory Petska’s Beloved Best-Ever, Annie
Cory Petska's No. 1, Annie
Cory Petska heeling on MP Driftinorphanannie at the Wrangler NFR
Cory Petska on MP Driftinorphanannie by Lone Drifter and out of Miss Generators July: “I’ve ridden a lot of horses in my life, but Annie’s the best one.” Andersen/CBARC photography
Cory Petska on MP Driftinorphanannie by Lone Drifter and out of Miss Generators July: “I’ve ridden a lot of horses in my life, but Annie’s the best one.” Andersen/CBARC photography

Cory Petska has ridden some great horses in his career, which includes a gold buckle won with Erich Rogers in 2017, a Wrangler National Finals Rodeo average crown won with Tee Woolman in 2005, and 15 NFR back numbers between 2003 and 2018. Petska won his world championship on his signature sorrel, Chumley. But it’s the bay mare who’s been Cory’s No.1 since retiring Chumley after the 2018 NFR—MP Driftinorphanannie—who’s earned billing in his heart as his best-ever heel horse. 

“Annie”—who’s by Lone Drifter and out of a mare owned by late ProRodeo Hall of Famer Dale Smith—is 19 now. 

“Lone Drifter is an own son of Driftwood Ike, who sired Colter Todd’s buckskin head horse Frisco (Clay Cooper’s iconic buckskin, Ike, was out of an own daughter of Driftwood Ike),” said Petska, who with his fellow world champion wife, Sherry Cervi, stands a son of Lone Drifter they call A Lone Drifter. 

“The grey mare Annie’s out of, Miss Generators July (who was by Poker Chicker), belonged to Dale Smith. His son, Dale Ward Smith, roped on her, and she was really fast and a good head horse. Annie was her first baby, and she died having her.”

Annie is a proud product of the Driftwood-based Mel Potter breeding program—thus the MP at the start of her registered name. Mel is Sherry’s ProRodeo Hall of Fame, timed-event-hand dad. 

“Our goal is to raise horses with athletic ability, good minds, good feet and bone,” Cory said. “We want horses with speed that are also cowy, and horses that are built to hold up on the rodeo road.”

Cory and Sherry are hands-on horse people, and most all of their horses have been both run around the barrels and roped on.

“Sherry took Annie to the (barrel) futurities as a 5-year-old,” Cory said. “I didn’t start roping on her until she was 6 and done with the futurities, but we rope on all of them. And we go whichever route they’re the best. Annie just so happened to turn out to be a special heel horse.

“Annie was good to heel on from the get-go. She was so fast that she used to be a little bit free to rodeo on at first. Annie scores like a head horse—flat-footed, and doesn’t move—and can outrun head horses. She has both lightning-fast speed and long-distance speed. I would match race Annie against any barrel horse, much less any head horse.” 

Cory jackpotted on Annie all along, and has won a boatload on her. He’s averaged $150,000-$200,000 a year on her at the jackpots alone in recent years. 

“I started rodeoing on Annie after I retired Chumley after the 2018 NFR,” he said. “I’m sorry I waited so long. As it turned out, Annie’s even better than Chumley was. 

“Chumley was an amazing horse, and he got me a gold buckle. But Annie’s even better. She scores better than Chumley, and can outrun him. Annie’s great indoors and out, and very rarely do you find a horse that runs that fast, and cows enough to where you can actually heel on them. She’s just unreal.”
She has a big motor, and a body to back it up.

“Annie’s 15.1 (hands), and weighs about 1,300 pounds,” Cory said. “She’s not a little horse. People say she’s a big heel horse. That’s true, but she’s amazing.

“Annie’s also a little ornery. If I’m leaving to go to a jackpot early in the morning, I have to put her in the barn the night before. She loves people and to be petted on, but she won’t let you catch her before the sun comes up. She isn’t wild, and she doesn’t buck or anything. She’s just funny like that.”

Some cowboys swear off mares. Others swear by them.

“I love mares,” Cory said. “And I’ve ridden a lot of them, including three of them—my roan mare, Fancy, and a couple of red-dun mares, Lori and Beth—at the NFR. I think mares are smarter than geldings, easier to train and you can train them earlier, because you can ride mares younger.”

Another beautiful thing about mares is they can become mommas.

“When the geldings I’ve rodeoed on—like Chumley and Cruiser—retire, they’re pasture ornaments and pets,” Cory said. “But the mares’ legacies live on in their colts long after their careers are over.

“We’re starting to get colts out of Annie now. I didn’t want to do it until a little later in her career, but we’ve gotten colts out of her the last couple years. And I’m excited about getting to ride them.”

Annie is sound, and literally showing no signs of slowing down.

“She’s 19, but Annie’s as sound as any 4- or 5-year-old we have on the place,” Petska said. “I don’t see any reason why I can’t ride her another 4 or 5 years. A lot of older horses lose their speed. Not Annie. She acts like a 5-year-old, and I do nothing special to keep her sound. She gets alfalfa, Renew Gold and a trip to the vet once a year for routine maintenance. That’s it.”

Petska’s been rodeoing on a limited basis in recent times, but is not ruling out another run at the NFR if he and Sherry are both feeling it. 

“I’ve been going to the winter buildings the last few years,” he said. “We go where we want to go, and have fun. We’re not trying to make the NFR at this time. We might try to make it again one of these days. But we’re just easing around for now.”

He does have an up-and-coming heel horse in MP Dineros Woodpatch. “Potter” is Cory and Sherry’s 7-year-old blue-roan stud.

“Mel raised Potter, then sold him as a yearling,” Cory explained. “The people who bought him were into working cow horses. Sherry and I bought him back two days before Christmas in 2021, and have been running barrels and roping on him. I won second on Potter in the Open at the World Series Finale in Vegas with James Arviso last December. Potter is what I have coming up behind Annie. I’m not saying he’s going to fill Annie’s shoes, but he’s pretty cool. I think he’s going to be great in his own way. 

“Annie’s done amazing for me, and it’s really awesome to get to win on a horse we raised. Me and Clint (Summers) were 3.8 on our third steer at San Antonio the other day with me on Annie, and she gave me an easy go every run at the BFI (in the wide-open spaces of the Lazy E Arena). I’ve ridden a lot of horses in my life, but Annie’s the best one.”
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