Kadabra King is the 2022 Nutrena Heel Horse of the Year presented by the AQHA

Kadabra King is the 2022 Nutrena Heel Horse of the Year presented by the AQHA

Heeler Patrick Smith and his heel horse of the year claim Round 3 win in 2022 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

Man roping a steer from the back of a bay horse.

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By Lane Karney and Kendra Santos

Two-time world champion team roper Patrick Smith made a standing statement for years in reference to heel horses he has ridden over the course of his professional rodeo career: “I’ve had two great ones, and a lot of good ones,” he has long said. A vote of Patrick’s top-25 cowboy peers naming his Kadabra King, aka “Turbo,” the 2022 Nutrena Heel Horse of the Year, presented by AQHA, says Patrick has now been charmed a third time by equine greatness. 

“Turbo has provided a resurgence in the confidence you have to have in your horse at this level,” says Patrick, who this year qualified for his 13th Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, his first since 2015. “So many guys rope so good anymore, and the pool of guys who rope outstanding every day is so deep that the only way to get an edge is to have great horses. 

“Turbo has been an advantage for me to have that trust in, no matter the set-up, because he’s physically able to perform whether it’s at Salinas (California), Cheyenne (Wyoming; Salinas and Cheyenne are both renowned big-arena rodeos), a small pen like Nampa (Idaho), or looking forward to riding him at the NFR (where the Thomas & Mack Center Arena in Las Vegas is small). A great one gives you more motivation to get out there and beat the best in the world.”

Turbo is a 2010 dun gelding by Abrakadabracre and out of Quixote Jessie by Holidoc. He was bred by Wayne and Carolann Hodges of Weatherford, Texas. Abrakadabracre, a great-grandson of Doc Bar, won junior cutting at the 2002 AQHA World Championship Show. Abrakadabracre has sired 285 American Quarter Horse foals that have $1.5 million in progeny earnings in the cutting pen.

Turbo now joins Patrick’s previous “two greats” list, which included “Jaws,” who kickstarted Patrick’s now two-decades-and-counting career. Patrick purchased the grade gelding with tips earned waiting tables at Chili’s and won the 2003 NFR average (Patrick heeled for Matt Tyler at the NFR that year) and Patrick’s first world championship in 2005, when Patrick roped with Clay Tryan. 

The second horse on that list was Sunday Night Bingo, “Amigo,” who shared 2007 Heel Horse of the Year honors with Randon Adams’ rodeo-world-famous Baileys Copper Doc, aka “Diesel.” Amigo carried Patrick to his second world championship in 2010 roping with living rodeo legend Trevor Brazile. 

While Turbo assumed the primary heel-horse role in Patrick’s quest for a return trip to the Thomas & Mack, where he’ll heel behind NFR rookie Tanner Tomlinson, Turbo was not an overnight first-stringer. 

“I wanted to find a young horse to bring along and practice on,” says Patrick, who bought Turbo when the 2010 model dun gelding was 4. “I was roping with Trevor at the time, and he called and said he saw one of Lari Dee Guy’s horses that looked good. He said he was a little broncy but looked good and wouldn’t cost a whole lot. Turbo humped up every time you saddled him for years. I sent him to Ben Gambrell for almost a year to just rope the machine on. He got him keeping his distance, holding up and developing that foundation. Ben put Turbo on some slow steers at the end but didn’t hurry him too much.

“When I got Turbo back and put some pressure on him, he would do good, then go through spurts where he’d look at everything else and not do good. Then he turned 9, and a switch came on. When some other horses came up hurt, Turbo stepped up. He finally matured enough mentally to keep up with his physical ability, and when I needed him, he was like a young quarterback that’s forced into the game when the veteran gets hurt. He answered the call.” 

While Turbo has always possessed the physical ability to be an elite heel horse, it took those additional years for his mind to match his raw talent.

“It’s easy to have a fast horse,” Patrick says. “But one that’ll shorten his stride, make the turn, get out of the way, stop and finish the run is crucial. Things are faster, scores are shorter, and guys reach farther now than they used to, so you have to have some wheels to be in position when your header reaches. A horse that also allows you to control that speed and do your job is what separates horses. When one does all that, then it’s just up to me.”

The timing of Turbo stepping up, and the way he has done it, was not only apparent to Patrick. The rest of rodeo’s roping elite who voted for him took note, too. 

“I’m very proud,” Patrick says. “I was talking to (ProRodeo Hall of Famer) Joe Beaver the other day about Turbo winning this award, and Joe B. said of all the things he has won, some of the most special were winning Horse of the Year. They only give that to one horse, and to have one that we (Patrick’s wife, Christi, is also on Turbo’s papers and treats him like family) brought along from a young age win it is a cool feeling and a special feat. Of course, you need a great header and head horse, too. But this award feels like something you win together as a team with your horse.”

Logan Medlin’s Nita Win Playboy, “aka Drago,” who has claimed top heel-horse honors the past two seasons, was voted this year’s reserve Heel Horse of the Year. Jake and Tasha Long’s The Star Pepto, aka “CJ,” finished third in the cowboy voting.