Thanks for the Ride, Badger.

Kolton Schmidt Loses 2016 Horse of the Year Tuffys Badger Chex
Schmidt's Tuffys Badger Chex died unexpectedly August 7, 2023, at home in Texas.
Kolton Schmidt Tuffys Badger Chex
Kolton Schmidt and Tuffys Badger Chex making a 3.6-second run to win Round 9 of the 2016 NFR. | TRJ File Photo by Kirt Stienke

Kolton Schmidt’s prolific Tuffys Badger Chex died unexpectedly Monday, August 7, at home in his Texas pasture of unknown causes at 19.

The 2004 black gelding by Tuf Country Chex out of the Oregon San Badger mare Chili Jody Page carried Schmidt to his 2013 Canadian ProRodeo title, and they followed it up with the duo’s first National Finals Rodeo qualification in 2016 for Shay Carroll, winning the Top Horse Award at the Spicer Gripp the same year. Also in 2016, the top headers in the world voted “Badger” AQHA/PRCA Horse of the Year, and the Canadian ProRodeo headers voted him Horse of the Year there, too. In 2018, Schmidt and Badger won the Reserve Horse of the Year title. Schmidt rode Badger to another NFR qualification in 2020, heading for Hunter Koch.

Kolton Schmidt and Tuffys Badger Chex
Schmidt and Tuffys Badger Chex accept the Top Horse Award at the 2016 Spicer Gripp Memorial. | Courtesy Kolton Schmidt

“Badger was everything,” Schmidt, 26, from Barrhead, Alberta, said. “He’s the reason I got to start having a career. The one I’ve had so far was all because of him. We grew up together. We learned everything together… Having my peers vote him as Horse of the Year in 2016 was something I’m most proud of—it really meant a lot to me.”

Kolton Schmidt Roger Schmidt Tuffys Badger Chex Horse of the Year
Kolton Schmidt and his father Ronald with Tuffys Badger Chex’s 2016 AQHA/PRCA Horse of the Year bronze. | Schmidt Family Photo

Schmidt was about to rope in Strathmore, Alberta, Canada, when he got a call from his neighbor letting him know he found Badger, already gone, in the pasture.

“He was walking around eating grass in the morning,” Schmidt said. “But he was gone by lunch time. My neighbors buried him underneath an oak tree by the pond. He was sound enough to be retired happy after last fall.”

Badger came from Doug Wilkinson as a baby, and Shane Smith roped on him until selling him to Schmidt at 6.

“He had really good foot work, he was fast, explosive, damn sure strong to the horn,” Schmidt said. “He had weak sides, but when he did it right, he was one of the best ever. The way he was built, the way he put his feet, his body through the run—there weren’t many who could do what he did.”TRJ

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