By Kristen M. White
Young Horses Rise to the Occasion
Excited and pleased to win? Yes. Somewhat surprised? Also a yes.
All three ladies who won top honors in the WPRA futurity and derby world championship races were happy to add the accomplishments to their resumes, albeit something they perhaps didn’t see coming.
For 1D futurity champion Molly Otto, she and the owner of 4-year-old Teasin Dat Guy, the expectations were pretty minimal, so to capture such a big title was quite a shock.
In the 2D futurity race, VR Jojo Wood Pay was a “cute little horse” that Bailey Webb-Olson purchased sight unseen off Facebook, then saw there was something special in the horse. It eventually led them to the title.
And in the derby competition, Margaret Jones was happy to have the win all to herself – last year she tied for the derby title on a different horse – this year aboard Shes Packin Dynamite.
An unforeseen victor
Suffice it to say, if you asked Otto a year and a half ago whether Teasin Dat Guy – better known as Chewy – would win the 1D futurity title, she might have gotten a good laugh over the question.
Chewy came to Otto from owners Katie and Dustin Lindahl. Just a 4-year-old, Katie Lindahl told Otto that she was “really lazy and super slow and probably was going to be just a kid’s horse.”
“She didn’t think the horse wanted to go fast. She didn’t even lope nice circles!” Otto said. “She really didn’t have very high expectations when she sent her to me. But after having her for about five minutes, I didn’t know what she was talking about. I think she was just bored and needed a new challenge.”
Otto took her through the barrel pattern and by the third day, she was loping through. Otto called the young horse really smart and said she picks up things very quickly, and seems to enjoy working, so the challenge of the barrel pattern might have been just what she needed.
When she first began to exhibition Chewy, she would duck and dive a little bit across the pen, so Otto figured she needed to be hauled a little more because at home, she was solid. Otto took the horse to her first jackpot, not looking for a fast run, but simply looking for a straight, solid, confidence-boosting one. What she got was quite different.
“She went out and broke the arena record!” Otto said. “I was just laughing so hard. I’ve held the arena record there on some legit 1D horses (including Famous Charm and I’m a Rare Bug) so I knew this was real.
“From there on, she literally placed in the 1D at every single futurity I ran her at, winning money every weekend I’ve run her.”
Otto and Lindahl laughing together about how amazing Chewy had become, and Otto also ran the horse at some pro rodeos. She helped Otto get to the Badlands Circuit Finals Rodeo and placed her in a round there.
But headed into the WPRA Finals, the 1D futurity title was by no means wrapped up. Otto and Chewy were leading the standings by just 2.5 points, so Otto knew she needed something good out of the horse at the finals.
“At the beginning of the year, we didn’t only run WPRA sanctioned events. We didn’t chase points. We just went where we wanted to run,” Otto said. “So we thought it would be cool to win (the WPRA title).”
At the finals, Chewy and Otto tied for second in the first round in 15.999 seconds. Unfortunately they hit a barrel in the second round, taking them out of contention for a top finish in the average, but it was enough to solidify the year-end victory. Otto and Chewy finished with 412.5 points over another of Margaret Jones’ horses, Smooth Operraider, who had 367.5 points.
Otto will continue running Chewy at pro rodeos and she said she and Lindahl are excited to see where the young horse will go from here.
New experience leads to new title
Webb-Olson bought little Clover as a yearling because she “thought she was cute” and considered it a project horse “for the heck of it.” But an interesting turn of events transpired as she and her husband began riding her.
“I don’t usually start my own horses. My husband always puts in the first 60-90 days on colts and then I take them over,” she explained. “But he had about 30 days on this mare and then suffered a pretty good injury to his arm, taking him out of riding for six months.”
Webb-Olson said she thought about just leaving Clover until he was ready to get back on her, but her husband encouraged her to ride her, reminding her that the goal was to futurity her as a 4-year-old, so time was of the essence.
“I got on her, and immediately she was broke and handy. I set up the barrels and she acted like she had done it a million times,” Webb-Olson said. “She is a very grown-up and mature horse, even at 4. Just easily trainable, easy to get along with, willing to do anything I ask.”
Webb-Olson said she was a bit concerned about the curveballs thrown their way with the coronavirus, because she’d already entered Clover back in December so she couldn’t hold her back for her 5-year-old year. But they entered where they could and Clover did well, pulling checks, finishing in averages, instilling confidence in Webb-Olson.
Her husband had been checking standings and they had hoped Clover could finish in the top 10 or five. Clover jumped up into the top five fairly quickly, and then one day Webb-Olson said they were suddenly winning the 2D standings and she was nervous, wondering if they could actually win it all.
In the first round of the WPRA World Finals, Webb-Olson and Clover finished 12th. In the second round, they sped up, finishing 4th in 17.564 seconds. Webb-Olson finished 14th in the average aboard Clover.
“I got the call while I was at the Finals telling me I’d won, and I almost didn’t believe it was real!” Webb-Olson said with a laugh. “Even standing in the arena, it just didn’t seem real. This is my most proud accomplishment. This was my first horse that we really started from a baby up, and I’m proud to say that I did everything except for the first 30 days!”
Webb-Olson said she plans to derby Clover, and she hopes one day she’ll make a good rodeo horse. She’d like to try the “pretty gritty” horse in some bigger places. She purchased her WPRA permit in October of 2019, so she’s excited for her and Clover to continue on.
“I think she’s a lifer with us,” Webb-Olson said. “We like her quite a bit. She’s nice to ride and she travels well and handles well.”
Prepping a horse for the future
Last year when Jones, riding Classy and I Know It, tied for the win in the derby with Hilary Van Gerpen, she had high hopes for the horse to be her daughter’s sidekick. Unfortunately, Classy had a freak accident in January and Jones isn’t sure if or when he’ll be able to return. Which brought Jones to Shes Packin Dynamite (Esther).
“I futuritied her as a 5-year-old and she just got more and more solid through that year,” Jones said. “So, I really wanted her for my daughter, again.”
Jones and her daughter, Sydney, alternated runs on Esther. She would take her to WPRA derbies, while her daughter ran her elsewhere.
“I figured if I just ran her once or twice a month and made sure she stayed honest, she would be a great horse for Sydney,” Jones said of the horse and her 15-year-old daughter.
The coronavirus pandemic changed things up a bit – there was no youth rodeo season in the spring in Wyoming, but futurities and derbies began to open up, so Sydney would go along with her mom with an open horse they have.
“You’d just never know what was going to happen,” Jones said. “You’d send off entry fees … and then they’d come back. It was a strange year.”
She and Esther made the best of the year, headed into the Finals with a narrow lead in the derby standings over Karen Gleason and her horse Mobetta Fame (winners of the 1D futurity last year). She was the only one in striking distance of Jones, and when Gleason didn’t run at the WPRA Finals, Jones secured the win.
Esther clocked a decent run in the first round, to place 16th.
“It was overall a nice run, she just got beat some,” Jones said simply. “Just like I do for every run, you hope you’ll do your job and clock, but all I can control is my run, making a smooth one and hope it’s good enough.”
She noted there were “a few little things” in the second run that ultimately landed them in 24th. They finished the average in 13th place and it was enough for a few more points on Jones’ year (265 to Gleason’s 255).
Jones has handed the horse completely over to Sydney now and said she’s looking forward to seeing where the two go together.