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DALLAS â€“ Dirty Jacket was an exceptional bucking horse the first time he bucked.
The bay gelding was just 4 years old at the time. Heâ€™s grown up a lot since then, and heâ€™s just gotten better.
â€śHeâ€™s the perfect bucking horse, because he loves what he does and heâ€™s excited when itâ€™s time to buck,â€ť said Pete Carr, owner of Pete Carr Pro Rodeo. â€śHe ready when he gets to the chute, and he stands there until the gate opens; then he has a big leap in the air and bucks hard every time.
â€śWhen the whistle blows, he lines out with the pickup man and allows the guys to get off without any problem. Heâ€™s the kind of horse all the bareback riders want to draw, because they know that as long as they donâ€™t stub their toe, theyâ€™re going to win.â€ť
Ask any bareback rider, they agree with Carr. Over the past three years, bareback riders have selected the 10-year-old as one of the top three horses in the game. This year should mark the sixth straight year the powerful and athletic gelding performs at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, the sportâ€™s grand finale that takes place in Las Vegas each December.
â€śIâ€™ve been on big horses that look big and feel big,â€ť said Richmond Champion, who rode Dirty Jacket for 91 points to win the championship at the Cheyenne (Wyo.) Frontier Days. â€śHe has a huge frame, but heâ€™s so athletic from nose to tail. He just looks like an athlete. If you could pick a horse out of a herd that could jump nine feet in the air, heâ€™s that horse.
â€śIf youâ€™re going to win a big rodeo, thatâ€™s the horse you want.â€ť
Thatâ€™s true. In 2012, Dirty Jacket finished the season as the runner-up Reserve World Champion Bareback Horse. Last year, he was the Reserve World Champion. Can he be the No. 1 bareback horse in 2014?
â€śI think Dirty Jacket shouldâ€™ve gotten the halter a long time ago,â€ť Champion said of the Bareback Horse of the Year title. â€śI think he deserves one.â€ť
Three pasture mates from the Pete Carr Pro Rodeo herd have earned that title: Real Deal, Big Tex and MGM Deuces Night. So far this year on Dirty Jacket, three-time world champion Kaycee Feild posted a 92.5-point ride on the big bay during the Fort Worth (Texas) Super Shootout; Champion was 91 in Cheyenne; Bill Tutor was 88 points in Lovington, N.M.; and Steven Dent won the final rodeo of the season with a 91-point ride in Stephenville, Texas.
â€śItâ€™s an awesome feeling when you draw him, because heâ€™s absolutely the one you want to draw,â€ť said Tutor, of Huntsville, Texas, who has been on Dirty Jacket four times in his young career, winning in Claremore, Okla., and Stephenville, Texas, in 2013. â€śBut you get worked up about it, and your heartâ€™s pounding all week. I donâ€™t want to mess up a horse that great.â€ť
Not many do. In 2013, cowboys earned rodeo wins in 12 of 13 rodeos in which Dirty Jacket bucked. The scores in 2014 are proving heâ€™s been better.
â€śWhen I saw the draw for the short round in Cheyenne, I knew I wanted him,â€ť Champion said. â€śThere were a bunch of good horses in the short round, but I wanted Dirty Jacket. When I found out I had him, there was no chance I was going to sleep good. I was super excited. When I got to the arena and got behind the bucking chutes, everybody was congratulating me on the draw. I was pretty nervous, because I didnâ€™t want to waste the opportunity.â€ť
He didnâ€™t. In fact, he took in all the atmosphere of one of the biggest rodeos of the season.
â€śI wanted to take in every bit of that experience to get on him,â€ť he said. â€śHe looked healthy, probably the best Iâ€™d ever seen him was that day. Pete Carr and his crew do a phenomenal job taking care of their horses.
â€śI went and hung out with him for a while. That was probably the most excited Iâ€™ve ever been to get on a bareback horse that day. I was a kid in a candy store.â€ť
He got his fix. Dirty Jacket burst out of the chute like no other horse had ever done. The images of that first move out of the chute were magic on social media.
â€śIt felt like he wound himself up, and the next thing I know, Iâ€™m just looking vertical,â€ť said Champion, whose only appearance on the photograph was his right boot. â€śIâ€™ve never felt anything like that. From the rare out to about the fourth jump, it was just phenomenal. There are about two jumps I donâ€™t remember happening. Once he lined out and was stacked up underneath me, thatâ€™s where I really started to have fun. I didnâ€™t want the whistle to blow; I was having way too much fun.â€ť
A lot of cowboys have had that experience over the last six years. They talk about tremendous athleticism. They talk about explosiveness. They talk about an animalâ€™s love for what he does.
They talk about Dirty Jacket.
HEMPSTEAD, Texas â€“ Winn Ratliff won a share of the bareback riding championship at last yearâ€™s Waller County Fair and Rodeo.
Heâ€™d like to win it all this year. On Friday night during the rodeoâ€™s second performance, the Louisiana cowboy rode Pete Carrâ€™s Classic Pro Rodeoâ€™s Cimmaron for 86 points to take the lead. Heâ€™ll await Saturdayâ€™s final show to see how he finishes the weekend.
â€śMy first horse was a Pete Carr horse called Blue Smoke,â€ť said Ratliff, who will compete at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo this coming December for the second time in three years. â€śEvery once in a while, heâ€™ll throw a little fit, and tonight he decided he didnâ€™t want to perform, so we decided to give him a break and give me a reride.
â€śI had some history with Cimmaron and knew him real well. Heâ€™s a real nice horse and just circled around to the left. Heâ€™s real showy, and I just tried to do my part by making a strong ride.â€ť
It worked. Ratliff may have been assisted by the 8 Second Bareback Shootout, a head-to-head match between Clint Cannon of Waller, Texas, and Richie Champion of The Woodlands, Texas, both of whom are NFR qualifiers. It was a historical special event for the Waller County rodeo. Though it wasnâ€™t part of the ProRodeo, it was a highlighted event in which both cowboys put on exceptional rides – Cannon won the match with a 90-point ride on Pete Carr’s River Blast, two points better than Champion’s ride on Carr’s Little Sister.
â€śIt definitely helps when you see two of the top guys make jam-up rides,â€ť said Ratliff of Leesville, La. â€śIt makes you want to show out. Iâ€™m thankful I could see that. It definitely got my riding juices flowing.â€ť
The 25-year-old cowboy finished the 2014 regular season ninth in the world standings, having earned $73,000. With this being the first week of the 2015 season, he was excited to get off to a good start.
â€śSeptember was a tough month because I wasnâ€™t drawing good and just wasnâ€™t riding good,â€ť Ratliff said. â€śToward the end and to now, my confidence has shot back really high. My yearâ€™s been a blessing; I just tried to keep my priorities in line and not take anything for granted, because weâ€™re never promised tomorrow.â€ť
He is in great shape to collect a nice payday in Hempstead.
â€śLast night I was at my hometown rodeo, and I kind of choked,â€ť he said. â€śI came over here and knew I needed to redeem myself.â€ť
Waller County Fair and Rodeo
Bareback riding: 1. Winn Ratliff, 86 points on Pete Carrâ€™s Classic Pro Rodeoâ€™s Cimmaron; 2. Kyle Brennecke, 84; 3. Wyatt Denny, 82; 4. (tie) Will Lowe and Anthony Thomas, 79; 6. Bee Jay Scott, 78; 7. Kash Wilson, 77; 8. Ethan Assmann, 75.
Steer wrestling: 1. Darrell Petry, 4.0 seconds; 2. Bill Pace 4.4; 3. (tie) Aaron Vosler and Tommy Cook, 4.6; 5. Jarret New, 4.9; 3. Matt Cupp, 8.4; 6. (tie) Adam Strahan and Donelle Goodman, 5.9.
Team roping: 1. Lane Ivy/Tommy Zuniga, 5.0 seconds; 2. Kenton Woodson, 5.5; 3. (tie) Logan Olson/Travis Woodard, Tyler Waters/Kory Koontz, Jake Cooper, Tyler McKnight and David Key/Martin Lucero, 5.8; 7. Justin Davis/Colby Lovell, 5.9; 8. Nathan McWhorter/Cole Davison, 6.0.
Saddle bronc riding: 1. Jacobs Crawley, 80 points on Pete Carrâ€™s Classic Pro Rodeoâ€™s Icycle; 2. Bradley Harter, 79; 3. (tie) Dean Wadsworth, Justin Caylor and Kobyn Williams, 78; 6. Isaac Diaz, 77.
Tie-down roping leaders: 1. Matt Shiozawa, 7.9 seconds; 2. Houston Hutto, 8.9; 3. Ross Tucker,9.0; 4. Ace Slone, 9.2; 5. Timber Moore, 9.3; 6. Marty Yates, 9.6.
Barrel racing leaders: 1. Kelly Tovar, 14.52 seconds; 2. Amanda Davenport, 14.64; 3. Mary Walker, 14.75; 4. Sydni Blanchard, 14.82; 5. Lisa Thornton, 14.85; 6. Morgan Breaux, 14.89; 7. Brittany Grant, 14.90; 8. Christy Loflin, 14.91; 9. Taylor Jacob, 14.93; 10. Brittany Kelly, 15.02; 11. Kelly Allen, 15.05; 12. Tiffani Sonnier, 15.06.
Bull riding: 1. (tie) Zeb Lanham, on Pete Carrâ€™s Classic Pro Rodeoâ€™s Rainbow, and Chad German, on Lancaster & Pickett Pro Rodeoâ€™s Kubota, 85 points; 3. Jay Turner, 83; 4. Nile Lebaron, 81; 5. Toby Collins, 71; no other qualified rides.