happy appy

Might This Be ‘The Year of the Happy Appy’ for Nicky Northcott?
Young roping phenom Nicky Northcott is set to take on some major events in 2024 with the help of a leopard Appaloosa he calls Apache.
Nicky Northcott hammering one on Apache behind Clay Smith to secure a spot at The American, where they’ll rope for $1 million on March 9. | Click Thompson Photo Courtesy of Teton Ridge

Here comes 17-year-old roping phenom Nicky Northcott, and you can’t miss him on that spotted horse of his. We’re about to watch this kid take on the big dogs in opposite conditions, first at the February 29 through March 2 Cinch Timed Event Championship—where he’ll be heeling help for 2020 Timed Event Titlist Taylor Santos and Tyler Waters—on strong steers over a long scoreline at the massive Lazy E Arena in Guthrie, Oklahoma. A week later, we’ll get to see the son of 1996 World Champion Heeler Steve Northcott go fast behind two-time Champ of the World Clay Smith at The American, where as contenders they have a shot at $1 million at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas. Young gun Nicky will be riding a leopard Appaloosa he calls Apache at both.  

Clay Smith and Nicky Northcott were one of five teams to advance to The American out of The American Contender Finals on February 10 in Abilene. | Click Thompson Photo Courtesy of Teton Ridge

“Apache’s really easy to catch on,” Nicky noted. “He’s a horse you can win on in any set-up, whether you need to be 3 or 10. The spots don’t make him any better or worse in my eyes. If he was sorrel, I’d like him just the same.”

Hey, this horse’s last owner, 14-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo presented by Teton Ridge heeler Travis Graves, once said it wouldn’t have mattered to him if he was purple. TG, who bought the horse he called Appy from his second cousin Layne Bryson, put his money where his mouth was when he rode him at the 2019 NFR. 

Travis Graves rode a horse he called Appy—which is one and the same as Nicky Northcott’s Apache—at the 2019 NFR.

“I bought this horse from Travis in the spring of 2020,” Nicky said. “I was really young (13), and my dad saw him and liked how he worked. Dad’s pretty good buddies with Travis, and he thought I needed to try him. We drove over to Travis’s house one morning, and I liked Apache from the first steer. I took him to a couple jackpots, and won good on him. So I bought him.”

Now here’s Nicky—a 9+ heeler who’s not even old enough to get his Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association permit until he hits 18 next November—stepping out onto some of the cowboy sport’s biggest stages on a horse registered with the Appaloosa Horse Club as SBARL Navajo Hawk. Waters also plans to heel on the colorful 15-year-old at the Timed Event.

SBARL Navajo Hawk, Travis Graves' Appy; Nicky Northcott's Apache
SBARL Navajo Hawk

Nicky’s mom, Celeste, calls him Applesauce. Her son just can’t make himself do that.

“Applesauce is too overused,” he smiled. “Apache is more original.”

The Northcotts live in the current Cowboy Capital of the World in Stephenville, Texas. For now, young Nicky ropes at United Professional Rodeo Association and Cowboys Professional Rodeo Association events with Cody McCluskey. 

“I rope with Clay Smith and Tyler Tryan (eldest son of three-time World Champion Header Clay) quite a bit at the jackpots around Stephenville,” he said. “I practice with whoever I can get to come over. I call everyone on my phone list until I find someone to come rope.”

This kid can hardly wait to come of age to rodeo hard. 

“My main goal is to try and make the Finals my first year,” he said.

He’s meanwhile making great use of this time before he turns 18. 

“The Timed Event is about getting them all caught in that big arena, and The American is about going really fast,” he said. “At The American, it starts with 10 teams, then the final four is where we get to rope for the million. 

“All I’m thinking about for both events is that I want to win. Catching the steers as fast as I can is what it’s all about, and that doesn’t have anything to do with how old I am. The whole point of roping is to win at any age. This is an exciting time for me.”

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