HEMPSTEAD, Texas – Clint Cannon rides bucking horses for a living.
He knows, probably better than most, just how important it is to have a high quality horse underneath him. It’s that knowledge that helped guide him to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo three times so far in his career.
He points to the great breeding programs that are a big part of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. With those types of programs in place, cowboys are getting more opportunities to get on high quality bucking horses.
“For years, a breeding program was just putting a stud out there in the pasture, then bucking all those colts,” said Cannon, a bareback rider from Waller, Texas. “In the old days, it was a numbers game just like the military. You’d send as many as you could to the beach, then you win the war. In rodeo, you buck all your horses and see what bucks best.
“Now they’re putting attention to detail. They develop them into athletes.”
He’ll have an opportunity to match his athletic skills with some of the greatest bucking horses in the business from Dallas-based Carr Pro Rodeo at Cannon’s hometown rodeo, the Waller County Fair and Rodeo, set for 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 4-Saturday, Oct. 6, in Hempstead.
“When you look down the list and see your name next to one of Pete Carr’s horses, then you know you’ve got a good horse,” Cannon said.
The purpose of the breeding program is to give the cowboys every opportunity to win money every time they compete.
“We want our rodeos to be a riding contest not a drawing contest,” said Carr, owner of the contracting company. “We strive to make sure the winner is the person that made the best ride or the best run.”
Hempstead will be home to many great animal athletes, but the foundation, is on the Carr Pro Rodeo ranch southeast of Athens in east Texas. It’s where bucking horses and bulls are pampered and where trees align pastureland to provide shade and cover. It’s where established athletes are matched to create the next generation of stars.
“We definitely take care of the animals,” Carr said. “Jeff Collins is our ranch manager, and he takes care of everything as if it were his own. That means a lot to me. I trust everything he does.”
From the right feed to the acres of grassland, the Carr ranch is a great place for great athletes.
Right now, mares that have performed at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo – from River Boat Annie to Black Coffee – are providing the TLC to their weeks old colts, fathered by NFR bucker Korczak. Yes, its 165 miles from the Waller County Fairgrounds to the Carr ranch, but the fans who pack the stadium get to see the result of great breeding when they watch the animals in action. For instance, River Boat Annie was named the reserve world champion bareback horse in 2007 and has been to the NFR every year since. She has three colts that are being prepared for their trips to Las Vegas.
“She’s got a 3-year-old colt that we just bucked with a dummy,” Collins said about one of the first arena experiences for young horses.
The device is controlled by a remote control that, when clicked, releases a lock on the dummy so it feels as though the dummy is bucked off. In order to give the young buckers confidence, Collins hits the remote trigger at three seconds.
“When River Boat’s colt bucked, it was so cool and so electric that it took everything I had to push that button,” Collins said. “You hope to see that kind of action every time that horse bucks.”
That’s what Carr is hoping and why he’s invested into the breeding program as much as he has. Korczak bucked at the NFR in both bareback riding and bronc riding, which makes him a valuable portion of the breeding program. The paint horse’s genetics flow quite easily among many of the colts on the ranch.
“I’m excited about where we have come and where we are going in regards to our breeding program,” Carr said. “Over the years, I’ve gone out and acquired the best animals I could find because I wanted to produce the best rodeos possible. Now with the breeding program we able to start working in some of our young up and coming featured animals and pick up some stars along the way. ”
The foundation for a great rodeo lies near Athens, but the benefits are found in Hempstead.