The Value of Horses (Down the Line, Stran Smith)

Many of you will be reading this article during the toughest week of the year for any professional rodeo cowboy in pursuit of a world championship. During the week of July 4th there are more big purse rodeos going on than any other time of the year. This is an opportune time for guys to make a jump in the world standings, whether they’re trying to catch the leader, pass the leader or try to keep the lead.

There’s no way to describe the preparation that goes into this one week out of the year. Most of these rodeos are two head plus a short go and it’s quite a challenge trying to draw up decent, then plan travel for you and your horses when you may be up at two or three rodeos in one day. Even the best travel agents couldn’t compete with some of the strategic and creative planning that takes place. Booking commercial flights, chartering flights and deciding which horses to send to which rodeos leaves you exhausted by the time you have to start the trip. Food and sleep is purely a bonus. Thankfully, I take some pretty good vitamins.

The key factor at these rodeos, or any rodeo or jackpot for that matter, is your horse. I hear a lot of controversy about horses – how much they cost, are they worth it, and so on. What I believe to be fact is that from beginners to the very top ropers, your horse makes or breaks you as a competitor. One thing we all have in common is that we’re all looking for a better horse.

Right now I feel like I’ve got the best calf horse in existence. Even though I didn’t train Topper, I real feel fortunate to own him. I learned late in my career that your horse makes all the difference.

When I was about seventeen, my dad and I were pulling into a roping and he asked me, “Would you rather pull up in a $3,500 rig and unload a $35,000 horse; or would you rather have a $35,000 rig and be pulling a $3,500 horse?”

My answer was that a $35,000 horse would pay for a $35,000 rig. Now days you can triple that amount.

Because the price of horses is not an exact science, a lot of people have the misconception that they need to spend $60,000 for a good horse and that’s not necessarily the case. Personally, I don’t believe there’s a horse worth over $35,000.

However, they’ll bring more, and I’ve paid more, when they’re proven winners and really fit me. That’s when they’re worth extra. Finding a horse like that forces a guy like me to pay just about whatever they ask because this horse could mean the difference in winning a gold buckle or not. I don’t buy horses that aren’t proven. I‘ll watch them go and if I like what I see, then I ride them to see how they fit me.

Horses are the foundation of my rodeo business. If I had $50,000 in hand to spend on a house, a rig or horses – it’s always gone to the horse. Because of that philosophy I own four horses that are all first string caliber. I’m fairly confident that if anyone else owned them, they’d be happy to have them as first string. In my opinion, you can’t have too many good horses.

I see people every day who are in a $50,000 rig, pulling a $75,000 trailer and then unload a $10,000 horse. That just doesn’t make sense to me when you’re out here trying to win. That doesn’t mean you need to pay $100,000 for a horse. But you do need a horse that is consistent that you can win on. If you are satisfied to ride a mediocre horse that won’t let you win, you need to question your priorities.

When looking for a horse, if you’re not comfortable with the decision of purchasing an expensive horse, find someone you know and trust who knows more about it than you do. Also, if you’re just beginning to rope, you don’t need an open caliber horse. Find a horse that will let you learn and still be competitive. As you progress the time will come to find a better horse.

No matter what level of roper you are, ask yourself, “Is this horse going to make me better?”