2017 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo: Round 1

Three American Quarter Horses took their riders to the gold-buckle ceremony in Round 1 of the 2017 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

AQHA Media

Tyler Waguespack and Canted Plan (PRCA/Hubbell photo)

Three American Quarter Horses – two of them 2017 AQHA-Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association horses of the year – took their riders to the gold-buckle ceremony in Round 1 of the 2017 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo on December 7. 

Defending Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association steer wrestling world champion Tyler Waguespack has seamlessly transitioned from one horse of the year to another. And the new horsepower carried him to a win in Round 1 of the 2017 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

Tyler was planning to ride Landrys Cadillac, the 2014 and 2016 AQHA-PRCA steer wrestling horse of the year, again at the 2017 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, but “Cadillac” got hurt and Tyler had to find a new ride. Fortunately, Canted Plan, this year’s steer wrestling horse of the year, was healthy and available.

"I got off one horse of the year and got on another and ‘Scooter’ was awesome," the Gonzales, Louisiana, cowboy said. "I was able to ride Scooter several times throughout the year and have success on him."

Kyle Irwin and Tyler Pearson took a huge leap of faith when they bought blaze-faced sorrel Scooter sight unseen in the winter of 2016. They took a chance on a tip from cowboy friend Lynn Churchill, who told the two southerners there was a horse that caught his eye up in the Dakotas.

Tyler Waguespack flew into Rapid City for the Black Hills Stock Show and Rodeo and Wrangler Champions Challenge, and test-drove Scooter for them. They got a thumbs-up from “Wag,” cut North Dakota bulldogger Jason Reiss a check and had the horse delivered to them in Fort Worth, Texas, that February.

Kyle, an Alabama native who currently lives in Westville, Florida, and Tyler Pearson, a Louisianan who now hangs his hat in Atoka, Oklahoma, are also riding Scooter at the NFR.

“The original word we got from Lynn was that a bunch of guys had ridden him and won on him up in the Badlands Circuit,” says Tyler Pearson, who’s bulldoggin’ at his second NFR. “They’d won a pile on him, and though he hadn’t been hauled much, he told us the horse tried really hard and was just a winner. This is Scooter’s first full year to rodeo, and he’s sure proven himself. He scores good, he loves to run, anyone can win on him, and he just keeps getting stronger and stronger.”

“To put into perspective how much we need these equine athletes, I came from 36th in the world halfway through the season and, with Scooter’s help, jumped to 11th after winning $24,500 (the most of any steer wrestler over this year’s Fourth of July run) in one week,” said Kyle, who’s wrestling steers at his third NFR. “I give all the credit to this horse. He lets us win in all situations – long scores, short scores, fast steers, slow steers, it doesn’t matter – and that’s something special.”

A year ago, Tyler Waguespack won $213,218 to not only capture the RAM Top Gun Award for winning the most money at the 2016 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, but he also claimed his first world title.

He picked up right where he left off from last year, winning Round 1 after posting a 3.5-second time – his second-fastest at the NFR, and tied for the fourth fastest time in the history of the first round.

"Coming into it, I always try to treat it just like another rodeo and that's pretty hard with the stage that it's on," the defending champion said. "I don't know if the hype gets to me or I just get excited, but whatever I'm doing sure seems to be working. I thought if I could start it off with a bang in the first round, it will relax me for the rest of the time and I'm glad I got that accomplished."

Tyler has entered the NFR in fourth place. The first-round win moved him up to third with $140,175, with Ty Erickson still holding the lead with $173,152.

“Sister” Gets a Win

Another of this year’s horses of the year, Rafter W Minnie Reba, got Nellie Miller a gold buckle.

Nellie Miller and Rafter W Minnie Reba (Dan Hubbell photo)


Nellie, who hasn’t competed in the Thomas & Mack Center since 2010, made a triumphant return to the NFR, winning Round 1 in 13.64 seconds.

"This round win is a tremendous start to the week and it gives you a lot of confidence in that arena," said Nellie, who is, sitting in third place in the world standings. "It is what we came here to do. Everything worked out. I didn't win any rounds at the 2010 NFR, so this is new for me and I am just so excited."

Rafter W Minnie Reba, aka "Sister," also garnered the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association Horse with the Most Heart award, voted on by the Top 15 Barrel Racers in 2015.

Nellie immediately pointed to Sister as a reason for the win.

"My run was amazing," she said. "Sister is so confident in what she's doing. She hunts the barrels and she always turns, no matter what. She just went in there and looked for those barrels."

With the win in Round 1, Nellie and Sister are sitting solidly in third place in the world standings, with $166,767.52 in earnings for the year.

 

A New, Young Ride for Ryan Jarrett

Ryan Jarrett has plenty of experience at the NFR; his horse, “Snoopy,” not so much.

Ryan has qualified for the NFR 10 times in tie-down roping, once in steer wrestling and won the all-around in 2005, the same year he won the NFR tie-down roping average.

His mount for the 2017 NFR, Arrogant Cutter, doesn’t have near that kind of experience. Snoopy is a 7-year-old sorrel gelding by Sophisticated Catt and out of a Doc’s Oak mare named Lindys So Fine. Bred by William Lacy of Pueblo, Colorado, Snoopy has 18 AQHA tie-down roping points and qualified for the 2015 AQHA World Championship Show in junior tie-down roping. But at the NFR, this gelding is a youngster and a greenhorn among much-older veteran equine contestants.

"He's never been here,” Ryan said after the pair won Round 1, tying their calf in 7.5 seconds. “I rode him toward the end of the (regular) season and I had a lot of confidence on him and I chose to bring him here. I wanted to be against the barrier and I knew he would do his job. You get confidence in him, but to bring him to this level, you have to have a different kind of confidence in him, and he came through.

"This is a good feeling," Ryan added. "I've never won the first round, so this is exciting. Getting started off like this means a lot. Winning Round 1 is like no other (for your confidence) and winning rounds doesn't get old."

The victory moved Ryan from eighth to fifth in the world standings with $132,286 on the year.