2017 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo: The Horses

Here are the American Quarter Horses we've been watching at this year's National Finals Rodeo.

AQHA Media

Canted Plan and Tyler Waguespack (PRCA/Hubbell)

There’s a digital sign that spans the length of the arena at the 2017 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas that reads: Rodeo isn’t rodeo without the American Quarter Horse.

Isn’t that the truth!

While it’s fun to cheer on the ropers, steer wrestlers and barrel racers at the NFR, it’s even more fun to know the pedigrees and back stories on their four-legged partners. We know those stories because for the past 15 or so years, AQHA, along with the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, has recognized the top timed-event horses in pro rodeo competition.

The NFR concludes this Saturday, but through Round 8, we’ve seen some great performances by our 2017 horses of the year. We’ve also seen some awesome up-and-coming superstars who, for one reason or another, have had to step into the shoes of a cowboy or cowgirl’s main mount to try to win the almost $7 million that’s up for grabs to the NFR timed-event contestants.

Here are some of the horses we’ve been watching:

Canted Plan: Defending PRCA steer wrestling world champion Tyler Waguespack 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 “Wag” 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.

It was a good investment, as between four of the top-five steer wrestlers in the world – Waguespack, Pearson, Irwin and Ty Erickson – they have won more than $325,000 on Scooter just at the 2017 NFR. These young men are sitting in four of the top six places in the steer wrestling world standings, thanks to this American Quarter Horse. Scooter even has his own Facebook page, where you can watch videos of his goes in every round.

Tanner Milan and RGR Ryon (PRCA/Hubbell photo)

Also, according to Clayton Hass, Landrys Cadillac came through a successful surgery, is now on stall rest and will start rehab soon.

RGR Ryon: This is “Maverick’s” first NFR, and he has really shined. Steer wrestler Tanner Milan has won rounds 2 and 5 aboard Maverick, and Baylor Roche hopped on Maverick and won Round 6. Thanks to the 2005 sorrel gelding, Tanner has gathered up nearly $73,000 at the NFR, while Baylor’s win on the horse got him a $26,000 paycheck to bring his NFR earnings to $45,11.38. RGR Ryon, who is owned by Peggy Lewis, is by Ralph Ryon and out of RTR Easy Angel by Sixty Sir. If you notice the “Ryon” in the gelding’s name and wonder if he’s got some racing blood in him, you’d be right. He traces to Ronas Ryon and Rocket Wrangler on his top side and Easy Jet on his bottom side.

Rafter W Minnie Reba, aka "Sister," is not only the 2017 barrel horse of the year, but she was the winner of the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association 2015 Horse With the Most Heart award. She has shown that heart in the Thomas & Mack, as she has won nearly $90,000 for Nellie Miller.

"Sister is so confident in what she's doing,” Nellie says. “She hunts the barrels, and she always turns, no matter what. She just went in there and looked for those barrels."

Nellie and Sister are sitting solidly in third place in the world standings, with nearly $210,000 in earnings for the year.

Arrogant Cutter: You don’t haul a 7-year-old horse to the NFR unless you have a lot of confidence in him. That’s what Ryan Jarrett has done this past week with Arrogant Cutter, aka “Snoopy.” 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 greenhorn who has helped Ryan win nearly $45,000 through Round 8.

Amberleigh Moore and CP Dark Moon (PRCA/Hubbell photo)

CP Dark Moon: After a somewhat disastrous – though injury-free – go in Round 1, CP Dark Moon and Amberleigh Moore cowgirled up and won gold buckles in three rounds. In Round 1, “Paige” and Amberleigh had a near-wipeout on a barrel, but Amberleigh stayed in the saddle and Paige came out of the near-catastrophe without a scratch. The scrappy duo gathered themselves up and came back to win and set an arena record in Round 2, place third in Round 3, and then won rounds 4 and 8.

The barrel racer, who holds the NFR earnings record, won Round 2 in a round record time of 13.54 seconds, besting the previous record (set by Sherry Cervi in 2013) by .12 seconds. Amberleigh and Paige have NFR earnings of $104,346.16 through Round 8.

Eight-year-old Paige is by Darkelly and out of SRQH New Highs by On A High. The mare was bred by Chuck and Barbara Snellman of Helena, Montana. Paige’s sire, Darkelly, is an AQHA Superior racehorse with a race record of four wins, nine seconds and two thirds out of 24 starts. Paige’s maternal grandsire is an AQHA Superior racehorse who had nine wins, six seconds and four thirds in 24 outs. On A High won more than $1 million on the track. The 1981 son of Dash For Cash won the prestigious All American Futurity and went on to sire money earners of nearly $10 million.

Firewatermakemehappy and DM Sissy Hayday: These two barrel horses contributed to a lot of drama – good drama – in Round 3 of the NFR. Immediately after watching the 13.37-second arena record get broken by Kassie Mowery and Firewatermakemehappy, Hailey Kinsel and DM Sissy Hayday posted a blistering time of 13.11 seconds to set the arena record in Round 3 of the NFR. The previous fast time of 13.37 in Round 3 was set by Taylor Jacob in 2013 and Amberleigh Moore and CP Dark Moon in 2016.

DM Sissy Hayday, aka “Sister,” is a 6-year-old pretty palomino mare by PC Frenchmans Hayday and out of the Royal Shake Em mare Royal Sissy Irish. With $572,095 in barrel racing earnings, according to AQHA’s Robin Glenn Pedigrees, Hailey and Sister won the barrel racing and became the first qualifier to win the barrel racing championship and split the million-dollar bonus with two other qualifiers at RFD-TV’s The American rodeo in February 2017. Hailey and Sister’s take-home pay from The American was $433,333. Then, the pair won the national barrel racing title this past June at the 2017 College National Finals Rodeo. Qualifying and competing at the 2017 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo is the icing on the cake for Sister and Hailey, who compete on the Texas A&M University rodeo team.

You’ve gotta hope Hailey has a big wallet, because she and Sister have earned $120,423.09 at the NFR through Round 7.

Kassie Mowery’s Firewatermakemehappy is a 2010 buckskin gelding by the Fire Water Flit stallion Firewaterontherocks and out of Junior Country Girl by Deep Note Jr. “Junior” has $321,480 in career barrel racing earnings, according to AQHA’s Robin Glenn Pedigrees, and 43 AQHA barrel racing points. Through Round 8, the duo has NFR earnings of $58,230.77.