Every once in a while, we all need to take a leap of faith. That’s exactly what Levi Lord did when he bought his bay horse Birdie from Jake Minor before ever running a steer on him.
“I took a pretty good gamble buying Birdie without riding him, but I watched Jake ride him at all 75 rodeos last year, and he never really got in a bad spot in any setup, from Cheyenne (Wyoming) to Nampa (Idaho),” said now two-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo heeler Lord, who roped with Nelson Wyatt at NFR 2020 and Jr Dees at the 2022 NFR last December. “He’s just such a versatile horse, and I never saw Birdie cost Jake.
“Jake had Birdie up in Idaho last fall, and was thinking of selling him. I’d just sold a couple horses, and thought with the NFR coming up and starting to rope with Dustin (Egusquiza) this year, it was a chance worth taking. I bought Birdie over the phone in October. It was pretty nerve-racking riding him the first time with all the money I had in him. But it was obviously a risk worth taking, and Birdie’s dang sure paid for himself a couple times over.”
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Lord says the transition time it took to get with now-13-year-old Birdie—whose registered name is Zoomin Diamond Prom—was minimal, and he’s the horse Levi was riding when he and Dustin had their big hit this winter in San Antonio.
“It turned out to be a pretty easy transition, because Birdie’s so similar to horses I’ve ridden in the past,” Lord said. “I like smaller horses that can move their feet fast, and that’s Birdie. Dustin makes fun of me all the time for riding small horses, but that’s what I seem to get along with and I’ve always been drawn to smaller horses.”
He figures Birdie’s only about 14 hands tall, and might tip the scales at 1,000 pounds.
“He’s not very tall, but he’s fat and stout,” Lord grinned. “A lot of people might think Birdie’s too small, but he fits me. He moves his feet fast and he can really run, so he gets to the spot fast. Birdie’s just really easy, and he’s very forgiving. He never tries to make you miss, and he always helps you. You can track steers, if you want, or throw fast. Birdie’s just pretty automatic, and it feels like the two of us as a team have gotten nothing but better all the time.”
Lord says Minor owned Birdie about a year before he took the wheel.
“Before Jake had him, Breck Ward rode Birdie a long time up in Idaho,” Levi said. “If I remember right, Breck won the high school finals on this horse.”
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Birdie is Levi’s #1 at the rodeos, but he has backup in another bay he calls Pauly, who’s 11.
“I really like Birdie to rodeo on,” Lord said. “I rode him at last year’s NFR, and at every rodeo since. But I don’t ride him at too many jackpots, because I think he’s pretty valuable to us, if we can help him last. Pauly’s a really good jackpot horse, so I’ve been riding him at most of the ropings.
“I rode Pauly all last year, and have won the Windy Ryon and US(TRC) Finals on him. He’s been about like Birdie the last two years—a horse I can depend on when I need to win something.”
Lord says there are no soundness or maintenance issues with Birdie. His only quirk is, “Being a little bit watchy. He’ll spook at stuff when you’re riding around at the rodeo—the crowd, or just something blowing around. But Birdie’s a really friendly, kind horse to be around. He’s just fun to have around the house and ride every day.”
We all know how fun it is to watch Egusquiza spin steers. How’s it look through Lord’s eyes?
“I have the best job in the world,” Levi said. “People might think it would be hard, but it’s actually easier in some aspects. Dustin gets it on so fast, so I can slow down, see the steer and heel him. That takes some pressure off of me. If we go somewhere and there’s a 3.5 in front of us, I know we have it in us to be 3.4. It’s pretty fun to have that feeling everywhere you go.
“Birdie looks for the play pretty fast behind Dustin. Even when he turns steers so fast, we don’t get left behind. If I’ve messed up this year, it’s been my fault. Birdie’s given me every chance—when every steer’s been turned, he’s been there.”
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The NFR and winter buildings are fast tracks. Lord’s looking forward to taking it outside this spring and summer.
“I watched Jake ride Birdie all last summer, and he might look even better at the big outdoor rodeos,” Levi said. “I’m pretty excited to ride him this summer. Horsepower is everything. You can have all the talent in the world, and if your horse isn’t on your team, it’s going to be pretty hard on you.
“I took a risk buying Birdie. But you can go catch on him anytime you need to win, and you can depend on him. And it’s pretty hard to put a price on that.”