As Jake Orman gets set to nod his head in the Thomas & Mack Center for the first time, he’ll be doing it from the back of his signature steed, Frank. It’s been rather rare to see Orman on anything but the now-18-year-old gray the last several years, since before he even owned him. Orman’s quick to credit Frank for virtually all of his career success, and feels like this special horse has everything to do with him finally clearing the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo hurdle after two consecutive top-25 finishes.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today without this horse,” said Orman, 31, who’s from Prairie, Mississippi, now lives in Anderson, Texas, and will head for Brye Crites in Vegas. “I’ve had a lot of pretty good horses, but this one has made the difference, especially rodeo-wise. It doesn’t matter how hard the steer’s running, the set-up or the circumstance, when you ride Frank, he gives you a chance to win.”
Frank’s registered name is Bar D Mr Jaebarlite, and he was born in Oklahoma in May of 2004. The Texas-based Philipp Ranch, as in Johnny and roping sons John and Shane, bought Frank as a 3-year-old. Frank went through a couple other owners before 1999 Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association World Champion Bull Rider Mike White bought him. White then sold Frank to Jason Foreman.
“I actually rode Frank for three years before I bought him, when Jason owned him,” Orman said. “I was roping with Tyler Domingue at the time, and Jason was his boss. Jason bought Frank for me to ride to basically help us out. I started 2017 roping with Tyler, then when he went home after the Fourth (of July) is when I bought him. Frank was 13 at the time (and Jake then roped with Will Woodfin).”
Jake’s wife, Morgan, dubbed him Frank. She also named the 7-year-old sorrel he’s ridden at the two- and three-steer averages this year Nelson. Jake’s mother-in-law, Michelle Breaux, raised Nelson, and he used to be Morgan’s barrel horse. Jake started roping on him when Morgan was pregnant with their little girl Ellie, and now Nelson’s coming in handy as a head horse. A brown horse they call Ranger that Jake bought this spring has rounded out his 2022 remuda.
“I’m not afraid to ride Frank anywhere, but it’s sometimes hard when you need to take another swing and just go catch,” Jake said. “Nelson’s green enough that he will always go to the steer. But I’d say I ride Frank 80% of the time or more. He scores, runs and finishes, and when a lot of horses get tired in the fall, Frank’s gotten better at the end of the year every year. That’s pretty special.”
Frank is tough as nails, which likely explains his longevity. He’s also sound.
“If it’s cool in the morning, he might hump up,” Jake grinned. “But Frank never bucks. He might hump up when it’s 100 degrees when you first get on him, too, but that might be why he’s lasted so long. Frank’s a very easy keeper, and stays fat on the road. And maintenance is minimal—occasional injections is all.”
Can anybody ride him?
“Yes and no,” Orman said. “I’ve had a couple people mount out on Frank, and they’ve done good on him. But I wouldn’t put a #4 or 5 on him. I don’t know that a majority of people would like him, because he runs wide going to the steer, and he will duck. I’ve ridden him so long that I’m used to it.
“Frank has the personality of an old man. When you saddle him, he pins his ears back. He’s pretty grumpy. But he rides around really good. My wife rides him, and I ride our little girl Ellie around on him. I’m sure the baby (Emma) will ride him when she gets a little older, too.”
It’s unanimous that head horses are a key component in any successful team.
“The head horses are the most important part of team roping,” Orman said. “It means a lot to me knowing my horse is going to score and try every time, so I don’t have to second-guess myself. They have to score, run and face, and Frank does that every time. He does duck sometimes, but he scores every time, leaves the back of the box running hard every time and finishes every time. And that’s worth a lot. If a header can’t trust his horse to score, run to the steer and finish, he’s in trouble.”
Orman has the same partner and horse as last year. What made the NFR difference?
“When I got home last fall, I started going to rope with Colby Lovell at least a couple times a week,” he said. “I knew he would be completely honest with me, and he was. It wasn’t really anything specific, but Colby helped me a lot with my horses. If it wasn’t for Frank, I wouldn’t be here. I’ve ridden him all these years, and have won everything I’ve won on him. Frank deserves the credit for getting me here. I know he’s going to be tight in the Thomas & Mack, but he leaves the box hard and is catching up the first stride. As short as the barrier is and with the steers being right there, I think he’ll be good.”