Pocketful Of Light is the 2022 Nutrena Tie-Down Roping Horse of the Year presented by the AQHA

Pocketful Of Light is the 2022 Nutrena Tie-Down Roping Horse of the Year presented by the AQHA

"Pockets" takes 2021 PRCA tie-down roping world champion Caleb Smidt to the pay window in Round 1 of the 2022 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

Man in plaid shirt jumping off of a bay horse to tie down a calf.

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By Lane Karney and Kendra Santos

You can’t force greatness on anyone. That goes for people and can also be said about horses. The great ones from any species and in any arena in life love what they do. That’s the extra “it factor” that sets them apart from the rest. Reigning and three-time world champion tie-down roper Caleb Smidt loves his job. His horse, Pocketful Of Light, who is the 2022 Nutrena Tie-Down Roping Horse of the Year, presented by AQHA, loves it, too. 

“‘Pockets’ is unbelievable, and I give him all the credit,” says Caleb, 33, who calls Bellville, Texas home. “No matter what I draw, I feel like I have a chance to win when I’m riding him. When I don’t win, it’s usually my fault, because Pockets hardly ever makes a mistake.”

Bred by Joe Festervan of Dallas, Pockets is by the Grays Starlight stallion Jonathan Starlight and out of Playful Pockets by Freckles Playboy. Caleb bought Pockets in February 2015 from Wyoming cowboy Ian Wells, who bought Pockets as a 4-year-old, trained him in the tie-down, then mostly “eased around and circuit rodeoed on him” to get him seasoned, Caleb says. It’s no coincidence that Caleb won his first world championship the year he got Pockets. 

“Pockets felt good from the very first run I made on him, and I’ve won everything on him,” says Caleb, who also won world titles in 2018 and 2021 on the 15-year-old bay, who stands 15.2 hands and tips the scales at a stout 1,300 pounds. Other Caleb-Pockets career highlights include winning tie-down roping at The American in both 2019 and 2022. 

By a vote of Caleb’s top-25 cowboy peers, Pockets also took Horse of the Year honors in 2020. The talented tandem was dealt a devastating curveball that December, when on the eve of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, Caleb tested positive for Covid. He was asymptomatic but not allowed to compete per NFR ground rules. 

Pockets was Caleb’s main mount again this year. Fellow Texan and 2022 NFR qualifier Marty Yates also rode him on occasion. 

“A good horse is everything to those of us who rope for a living,” Caleb says. “Good horses just make our jobs so much easier, and it’s hard to win on horses that aren’t as good. I’ve always been a big believer in good horses, and Pockets has it all. He’s big and strong, and short-strided. He scores good and can haul butt and really run. He’s super easy to catch on, has a lot of rate and always stops hard and pulls. Pockets loves to stop. He’s just super easy and so consistent. He works the same every time, and that makes things so much easier on me.”

Caleb rides Pockets under all arena conditions, and pressure doesn’t seem to get to either of them. 

“When I back him in the box, Pockets is as calm as if we’re out in the middle of a pasture,” Caleb says with a smile. “He’s super laid back and gentle, and nothing bothers him. I don’t have to do anything to keep him working, so I don’t ever practice on him. Pockets enjoys roping and winning, just like I do. And I do ride him everywhere. He’s great in big arenas, but he’s good in the Thomas & Mack, too. That’s just him. Easy.

“Pockets has been so good for so long. It means a lot to have the cowboys vote for him. Pockets is like a big teddy bear, and he means so much to my family and me. I wouldn’t have won half the stuff I have in my career without him. That’s how much credit I give him and how good he is.”

Lane Livingston’s Marked Up Cat, aka “Rudy,” was second in this year’s Tie-Down Horse of the Year voting. Big Cats Monkey, aka “Rampage,” who’s owned and ridden by 2020 world champion tie-down roper Shad Mayfield, finished third.