Arkansas’ Whitney DeSalvo has been on fire as of late—getting her first Wildfire Ladies Open win this February and following it up with a win at the Patriot’s All-Girl just a week later. In early April, DeSalvo picked up yet another win at the Charlie 1 Horse Cowgirls Only in Salado, Texas. DeSalvo is undoubtedly joining the ranks of the top heelers in the game, but what’s also sure is that a little 5-year-old mare, Becky, is stepping up and doing her part to help put DeSalvo on the fast track to success.
This article originally ran in Spin To Win Rodeo in 2017.
The sorrel 5-year-old, registered as Rebecca Roan, came from DeSalvo’s friend, Jordan Sullivan, from Mt. Vernon, Ark. DeSalvo was needing a mount and called Sullivan to see what he had.
“I asked him about her, and he told me I didn’t need her,” DeSalvo said. “He kept riding her, and I guess she got good. He called me and said I needed her after a few months.”
Sullivan had bought the mare as a 2-year-old and turned her out to let her grow before starting her. He’d ridden her sire, Smart River Dancer, who had some earnings in the cutting.
“The foundation I was able to put on her, and Whitney helping keep it all together and put some miles on her—that’s made the difference,” Sullivan said. “Whitney knows how it works. It helps keep the horse good.”
DeSalvo credits the foundation Sullivan put on the mare for allowing her to go win from the start.
“He did everything,” DeSalvo said. “All I did was just go. She got better every single time because she was ready to go. Honestly, if I had a question I’d call him or go rope with him if we’d have a green patch. She’d been five places, little jackpots by the house, when I bought her.”
DeSalvo first competed on the mare at the Windy Ryon All-Girl, where she won third with Makayla Boisjoli, winning $1,940 each. She also secured five qualifications to the World Series of Team Roping Finale in Las Vegas in 2016, and four of them were aboard Becky.
“She’s a lot more forgiving than anything else I’ve ever had,” DeSalvo said. “She runs hard—like hard—and she’s very athletic and very broke, so that’s why she’s so forgiving. She’s easy, and really strong to the horn. She stops hard, but it’s one of those deals where you run one and feel like it was the easiest things ever, just a normal run, and you watch it on video and it was JAM UP.”
DeSalvo split $25,000 with Abilene, Texas’ Hope Thompson at the Wildfire, and the pair followed it up with another $12,500 each at the Patriot in Fort Worth, Texas, and Becky was sharp on every steer. But before the Wildfire, Becky was, well, a little bit broncy. But DeSalvo has learned that a few hops here and there before a jackpot is a good thing.
“She’s honest about getting fresh,” DeSalvo laughed. “If that horse is going to buck, I promise you, as soon as you hit the middle of her, you’ll know. The day before the Wildfire, I’d been trying not to ride her very much, and I get on her at Lari Dee (Guy)’s and she broncs around. She doesn’t really buck. She bucks in place—rears and kicks out in place. You’re not going to move. Honestly, I feel like she works so much better after she does it. I don’t want to make a habit of it, but then again, I guess it just feels good. She freaking fires and works afterward! When it’s time to go, we go. I hadn’t swung a leg over her since the Patriot but I’d been keeping her exercised. I went to a jackpot the other day, and she bucked warming up, but then we went and won first and second on her.”
Sullivan, for his part, takes a bit of the responsibility for Becky’s less-than-desirable-trait.
“We thought it was funny, and she was always just playing,” Sullivan remembered. “It was always in the first 30 seconds you were on her, and she just hopped in place. It wasn’t ever dangerous. She got to where she was good to rope on, and I thought I should probably fix it. She’d been doing it a while, because me and my little brother would get bored and go saddle her and buck around in the mud.”
Buck or no buck, DeSalvo is glad she has Becky on the trailer. But DeSalvo’s friends say that even though Becky is nice, this cowgirl could fire on the corner on a stick horse.
“The mare is good, and Whitney makes her really good,” Guy said. “She’s so talented with her rope that she makes horses do well. She ropes so well and so correct, she makes horses look great.”
“That horse is nice, don’t get me wrong,” Thompson added. “But Whitney is just outstanding. I couldn’t ask for a better run. She works so hard at it, day in and day out. You never see her without a rope in her hand.” SWR