EDITOR’S NOTE: This story appears in the June issue of Women’s Pro Rodeo News, the official publication of the WPRA. It is republished here with the approval of the WPRA.
The dry climate of the Oklahoma Panhandle is vastly different from his lake-washed environment of his north Texas home, but Slick By Design seems to like it.
Slick and his jockey, Michele McLeod, won the Guymon (Okla.) Pioneer Days Rodeo’s average championship for the second time in four years. The talented tandem finished in a two-run cumulative time of 34.71 seconds to claim the title, guided by a 17.19-second final-round winning run.
“Guymon started off our career in 2013, and that was the first rodeo we won,” said McLeod, a three-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier from Whitesboro, Texas. “It was nice to come back and win it again.”
McLeod’s first victory inside Hitch Arena may have been the guiding force behind her first trip to the NFR, all aboard a stallion that is just 9 years old. Every year he’s played for the biggest pay in the sport, Slick has improved. A year ago, McLeod and the black placed in six rounds, finished fourth in the average and pocketed more than $138,000 in Vegas.
His job in May is considerably different than it is in December, but Slick still has a winning way about him.
“What’s going on with slick right now is that he’s basically spending most of this spring breeding,” she said. “He’s not really at the top of his game, because he’s only been run once a week for the month of April and the first of May. The weekend of Guymon, for example, I usually run him twice in Guymon and once in Duncan (Okla.), but I opted to run another horse in Duncan.”
That seemed to be a good choice. Even on another mount, McLeod placed fourth in Duncan, so it was a win-win weekend. In all, she pocketed more than $4,600 of Oklahoma’s money, with $3,918 coming in the Panhandle. She and slick posted a 17.52 in the first round and placed 12; only 10 women earned money per round.
“We ran ninth in our drag, so we were at the bottom of the ground,” she said. “He’s been running in smaller pens, so it’s the first big pen he’s worked this year. He worked great, but it was heavier and deeper ground. His time reflected that.”
The .19 on Saturday night was 17-100ths of a second faster than the second-round runner-up, Tori Morris. But that was enough to allow McLeod to squeak past Taylor Langdon by a hundredth for the average title.
“There’s just some history behind Guymon,” she said. “I had always heard about Guymon. I had gone years and years ago when I first went to Texas, and it seemed like all the good barrel racers were there. Then going there and winning it always makes me want to go back.
“The committee’s great. They always have a really good crowd for their performances, and you can just feel the electricity in that pen.”
In fact, she and Slick ran in front of the largest audience among the four performances at Hitch Arena, with nearly 6,000 on hand to see the dynamic pair race to the title. Of course, it helps that her mount has a calm demeanor and acts much different than most stallions in the game.
“I don’t think he’d be where he’s at if he acted like a stud,” McLeod said. “He loves to run barrels. He gets stronger and faster as each day goes on. He just absolutely loves doing this, and you can tell the look in his eyes, especially this time when he’s breeding. Running in front of that big crowd was great.
“He loves to be in the crowd. He tries every time you run barrels on him, but he’s a performer, and he loves it when the crowd is loud. When you get to our level, these horses know the difference between slack and a performance.”
As of mid-May, McLeod was in the top 15 in the world standings with more than $58,000 in season earnings. She credits an outstanding winter run with that success and sitting third in the standings at the time, but she knows there’s a lot of rodeo left to play.
“The rodeo season really hasn’t begun,” she said. “I’m not a true superstitious person, but on this subject, I am. I choose not to look at the at rodeo any different. I’ve seen in the past that people have had a really good winter and still not made the NFR.
“My plan is to rodeo as normal. With Slick, he’s just going to go to some particular rodeos. He’s been great, and he feels healthy, so we’re going to try to keep him that way.”
That’s what the best ladies in the game do with the best horses. They care for them as much as possible, and the cowgirls pay attention to their personalities. That’s what makes McLeod and Slick so special.
“His attitude and his personality really make him special to me,” McLeod said. “He tries so hard to do what I ask him, to do his job. He’s a very kind horse, and he absolutely loves his job. For me now being on him three years, it makes me smile just to ride him.
“I’ve said for the past couple years that if he throws babies with half his try, his babies are going to be phenomenal.”
Spoken like a true phenom herself.