"I have this sorrel..."

Begay Set to Ride ‘The Sorrel’ at 10th NFR
"He draws good. That’s his best trait."
Begay rode The Sorrel just about everywhere and in all conditions this year. “He’s not a great horse, but he fits me fine,” the 10-time NFR header says. | TRJ File photo

Derrick Begay has won about $1.5 million in his professional rodeo career, and is about to rope at his 10th Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. These feats are extra cool if you consider that they’ve been accomplished with one of the smallest horse budgets ever. I can say without asking that Begay has never beat up a banker over borrowing money to buy a horse. And still he wins.

The pride of Seba Dalkai, Arizona—where he makes his home with his wife, Justine, and daughter, Brindle Mae, who’s 4 now—has had a dream season heading for his best buddy, Colter Todd. Team Begay-Todd had a top-five regular-season finish, and heads into Vegas bringing the heat. There’s typically a top-flight head horse at the helm of such successful teams, so let’s talk about the one 40-year-old Begay’s been riding in 2023.

The registered name of Begay’s 2023 campaigner is Caseys Glory. He’s a 13-year-old sorrel, and his previous owner called him Bugs. 

“He’s the only head horse I have, so I just call him ‘The Sorrel,’” Begay said.

Begay bought The Sorrel from New Mexico’s Lee Kiehne in June of 2022. 

“I was on my way to Guymon in May, and called Lee just to visit,” Begay said. “I said, ‘Hey, I need a head horse.’ He said, ‘I have this sorrel.’ So I picked him up, and tried him at a jackpot. It was a little indoor barn, and not a very good place to try him. He was just OK, so I dropped him back off after Guymon. I only had him a couple days.”

A few weeks went by. Still no horse. So Begay called Kiehne back. 

“I said, ‘Hey, let’s try that horse again,’” Begay said. “I didn’t have anything, and I needed something. So he sent him to a World Series roping in Show Low (Arizona). I took him to my trailer and saddled him up, and when I pulled the cinch, he acted like he wanted to buck. Colter was parked near me, so I told him to come to my trailer. He did it again. He didn’t buck that bad. It was funny, and we were laughing about it. 

“I called Lee, and said, ‘You horse-trading sucker, this horse wants to buck.’ Lee wouldn’t believe me, but Colter never lies, no matter what, so Lee had to believe him. I didn’t think I would buy him. I rode him at that second roping, and he didn’t feel very good—again. But I had him for about a week, so I practiced on him at home, where I could do things at my own speed when I wasn’t trying to win something. I got to working with him and playing around with him, and started liking him a little more.”

The way Begay figured, The Sorrel was good enough to take to the amateur rodeos around home. And that was the plan for the summer of 2022. 

“After I made the Finals on Swagger in 2021, he got hurt and I was afoot,” Begay remembers. “I had nothing to ride, and a guy always has to have a horse.” 

By now, you can see how unexpected this year’s Cinderella story really was. And Begay has ridden The Sorrel almost everywhere. 

“I went to 60 rodeos this year, and only ran a few steers on other horses,” he said. “I didn’t ride The Sorrel in the first round at Houston, because he was trying to colic. I borrowed Coy Rahlmann’s roan (Blue) that first round, then The Sorrel was good the rest of the week. 

I rode The Sorrel in the first two rounds at Greeley, then borrowed Coy’s horse again for the short round, because I sent The Sorrel to St. Paul. I borrowed Cody Snow’s horse at Salinas, because I left The Sorrel in Utah for Salt Lake City. I borrowed my nephew James Arviso’s buckskin mare, Keta (same horse Begay rode at NFR 2021 after Swagger got hurt) at Pueblo.  

“I rode The Sorrel in the short round at Pendleton (like Greeley, they won it all there) and we had to fly to slack at Albuquerque the next morning, so I borrowed Pedro Egurrola’s bay there. So I borrowed horses at five rodeos—just one steer at some of them—and other than that, rode The Sorrel.”

You’ll never catch Begay bragging about himself or his horse, and now is no exception. 

“I bought The Sorrel because he scored good enough and he ran just enough,” he said. “That’s all I needed at the time. You can’t be afoot. If you want to go practice at the neighbor’s place or go rope at a local jackpot, you have to have something to ride. The Sorrel felt like he was good enough for that.”

But who knew The Sorrel had a fairytale in him? 

“He’s not a great horse, but he fits me fine,” Begay said. “He’s smaller in size, and I like his timing. He’s easy to rope on. The Sorrel’s not a high-powered, fast, cool-finishing horse. He’s just a fun little horse to have around.

“Scoring and finishing are not his greatest strengths. He doesn’t have any great strengths, but he’s rounded out good enough on every little thing. If I had to give him a compliment, I’d say he draws good. That’s his best trait.”

Begay realizes that $1.5 million he’s won might have been more if he’d had more horsepower. But hey, it could always have been less, too. And he does plan to ride The Sorrel at Rodeo’s Super Bowl. 

“I didn’t buy The Sorrel because I thought I could make the NFR on him,” he said. “I’m old enough now that I bought this horse just so I could go somewhere and rope. And you can’t do that afoot. We rope because we love it.

“I wish this horse would score and finish a little better. I wish he didn’t run so wide, and would stay a little closer to the steer. But even if I had a good one, I’m sure I would complain about something.”

Begay’s all-time favorite horse will surprise no one. 

“Swagger’s my brother and my best friend,” he said. “I can’t ever say he’s the best horse, but he’s the one that means the most to me. He’s the most precious, and if I could only pick one animal on my place, I’d take him.” TRJ

Swagger | TRJ File Photo
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