Casey Hicks and the 4-year-old gelding Leos Cowboy Gun won the American Rope Horse Futurity Association’s Cornhusker Classic Open Heading with a score of 919.57, worth $4,837.50, for owner Dustin Murphy, in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Hicks won second as well with the 5-year-old mare CFR Decada 052 for owner Jared Crain, worth another $3,870, for a 916.2.
“A couple of years ago, my yellow mare aged out and I had to start all over with some colts,” AQHA World Champion Hicks, of Talala, Oklahoma, said. “It’s been slow coming, but I’ve finally got things going back my way.”
How did Leos Cowboy Gun and Casey Hicks win the ARHFA Cornhusker Classic Open Heading?
Hicks and helper Steve Orth drew a loper on the ffirst one with Leos Cowboy Gun to win the first round with a massive 232.27, worth $1,000.
“We started out ahead of the curve,” Hicks said. “We made a good run on our second steer. And our third one was stronger, and we ran him farther down.”
Hicks entered the short round second callback, and he was already winning the roping on CFR Decada 052 when he ran his last steer.
“I wasn’t sure of the steer I had in the short round,” Hicks said. “I thought the steer would be stronger. But when I left I thought I got the barrier. But JD (Yates) was high call and two points ahead of me. I felt like I was needing to push. I was winning first and trying to put pressure on him.”
Hicks was a 232.69 and moved ahead of himself in the roping. Then Yates scored a 222.12 with a leg, falling to fourth.
The Rope Horse Futurity Pressure Cooker
“These have gotten so much tougher,” Hicks said. “The futurities have just evolved like the rodeoing and roping. People are breeding, buying and training better horses. And truthfully, I wish Trevor would just go back to rodeoing. With Trevor, Tate (Kirchenschlager), Dakota (Kirchenschlager), Miles (Baker) and JD all making such great horses, it’s evolved. So I was really tickled to win first and second. We drew good and made the best runs we could make.”
The win came after plenty of work on Hicks’ part to adjust his horsemanship and his roping to meet the moment in the sport’s evolution.
“Honestly, I started trying to haul my horses more and get them more exposure,” Hicks said. “I used to keep them pieced together for the futurities. But those guys have stepped up their games and brought in a different style of showing. They’ve been beating on me for the last year and a half. I’m just trying to adapt. I’d go back after the futurities and watch their runs and study it a lot. I’d figure out why they’re winning, why their horses are scoring better, why they’re working better. And then I went to work.”
Leos Cowboy Gun’s Training
With Leos Cowboy Gun, Hicks got the horse already started on both ends from Murphy in April. And he liked him better on the head side.
“He fits my style better in the heading,” Hicks said. “He really wants to run, and he’s got a good move. He’s a big-time facer. It took me a couple days to really get him facing.”
Hicks used a tire to help the horse learn to face, something he does with all of his head horses to up the intensity in the maneuver.
“In my program, I try to teach my horses to face like a show horse and a jackpotter,” Hicks explained. “We drag a tire around, and they’re looking at it and scared of it. They’re paying attention and really aware. I teach them to get off my legs, and that’s when they face. I try to keep them from listening to the heel rope.”
What’s Next for Casey Hicks?
Hicks’ year will involve riding lots of outside horses for his owners to get ready for the major futurities left on the books—like the Royal Crown in Rock Springs in August and the ARHFA World Championships in October. He’ll be pulling double-duty, too, working the Prairie Circuit ProRodeos and the International Professional Rodeo Association events across the Plains with his sight set on an IPRA World Title.