Mount Money (Down the Line, Stran Smith)

The other day I ran into an old college buddy who suggested I write an article about a topic that caused the two of us to have a disagreement years ago. Back in our college days we had gone to a jackpot where I rode his horse. The entry fees were $300 and I won the last hole, which paid $350. After the roping he looked to me for the 25% mount money, which would be $75. By my calculations, I subtracted my entry fees before figuring the mount money, since we had split the cost of the fuel. I also couldn’t figure out how placing in the jackpot should cost me $25, where if I had not placed at all it wouldn’t cost me anything.

Actually we were both right and the whole problem stemmed from a lack of communication. We laugh about it now, but you can see the potential for problems and misunderstandings.

When you ride someone else’s horse there are many factors you should keep in mind. Mount money covers the expense of getting the horse to the rodeo as well as taking care of that horse. With diesel in California now close to $3.50 per gallon, that’s not exactly chump change.

If you ride someone else’s horse and he gets crippled – you didn’t cripple your horse. You crippled their horse. Most professional cowboys, especially the guys who own nice horses, will tell you that any horse has a certain amount of runs in him. Five runs on my best horse, Topper, could be five NFR runs for me – and a chance at $15,000 per night round money. Am I willing to sacrifice those runs? That’s how I feed my family so no, I am not.

Now there are some who are charging 35% mount money, an increase from the unspoken standard of 25%. They’ve raised the fee because they had to pay more for the horse or because he’s a better than average horse. Before getting on, think about how much you’re roping for and how good the horse is. It may be well worth the extra cost in mount money.

If you rodeo long enough, you will have to ride someone else’s horse at some point in time. This is just one aspect of a business where you are your own boss. Don’t assume anything – have a clear understanding beforehand. Do the right thing and don’t cheat anyone because if you do, eventually no one will mount you and that will hurt your career over the long run.

It’s also easy to forget to pay mount money. For that reason, when you get your check – write a check right then and either put it in the mail or put it in your wallet and give it to them the first time you see them. Don’t make someone ask you for it.

Consider this scenario and the potential problems that could arise. I fly to the rodeo in Cloverdale, Canada, get on someone’s horse and win $7,500. I may not see that person until Reno. Hopefully by that time I’ve received my Canadian check. By the time it’s cleared the bank, with the exchange rate, my actual winnings are now $6,750. Without prior discussion – the guy who mounted me is expecting prompt payment for 25% of $7,500, which would be $1,875. How would it go if I waited the month it took for all these checks to clear and then sent him a check for 25% of my winnings in US dollars, which would be $1,687. That $200 difference could ruin a business relationship for us both.

I’m not discouraging you from riding other people’s horses; it’s part of this business. Just be sure to handle it as a business and have a very clear understanding before you put your foot in the stirrup. In fact, my outlook has always been that I’d rather have 75% of something than 0% of nothing.