HICO, Texas – Each of Cody Ohl’s tie-down roping gold buckles came with a common theme.
“In each of those world championships, I rode the best horse of that year,” said Ohl, who won six world titles overall, including his 2001 all-around crown. “One of those horses was the only one I rode at every rodeo I went to that year.”
He might just have that again, thanks to his partnership with Joey Austin, president of Hooey Brands. Austin acquired a 12-year-old bay gelding the first of this year. Ohl has big plans for himself and his new horse, Hooey, for 2017.
That next step will be at The American, a one-day rodeo scheduled for Sunday afternoon in Arlington, Texas, that features a $2 million purse. The event will take place in AT&T Stadium and will include the greatest rodeo athletes in the game.
After that, he will travel North America in hopes of making his 21st qualification to the National Finals Rodeo.
Ohl has tested other horses since he rode the legendary Pearl, but he hasn’t found the right fit … until now.
“I’d seen the horse (Hooey) last fall, and I got to ride him at my dad’s memorial roping,” said Ohl, 43, of Hico, who spent 2016 in the Elite Rodeo Athletes association. “I got to ride him at the ERA Finals (in November). My first calf wasn’t that good, but the next three runs went really well. It just felt like it was supposed to.
“I had that feeling before when I had her (Pearl), but I haven’t been able to use her for three years. I’ve been searching for that feeling ever since. It’s just a long shot to get that feeling so quickly on a different horse, but Hooey had it.”
Like Ohl, Austin knew there was something special about the horse.
“I bought the horse from Kenneth Kelley, who has been training horses for a long time, and he felt like he had one of the best ones he’s ever made,” Austin said. “This horse is a throw-back, like a calf roping horse you’d see in the 1960s. He’s a ranchy, square-stopping bay with a roached mane and not a lot of chrome, which is just fine with me.
“Cody has ridden some of the best calf horses of all time, so I’m confident he can get the maximum potential out of him. This horse should be seasoned enough that he can handle the bright lights, but he’s young enough that he doesn’t have many miles on him yet.”
Ohl knows the need for great equine partners. They are, after all, the key for successful rodeo athletes. Every world champion credits the mount that helped him earn gold. That’s why he’s so confident heading into the next chapter of his life. Still in his early 40s, time is running out, and he needs the perfect partner to help him reach his goals.
“It’s not difficult to make the NFR if you’ve got the best horse,” Ohl said. “I love to rodeo. Over the last 10 years, there are a lot of rodeos I’ve cut out of my schedule. I’m just going to go back to them.”
Because of his legendary pedigree, Ohl was invited to be in the field for The American. He has a shot at the $100,000 prize guaranteed to the winner in each event.
“With going to the ERA last year, there are some big rodeos I’m not getting to enter because of the qualifications rules,” he said. “But I’m just looking at the big picture. I hadn’t been in the practice pen or gotten excited about going to practice until I got this horse. There are rodeos I’ll make this year that I haven’t been to in 13 years.”
Being aggressive is nothing new to Ohl, but it’s a different approach than he’s taken in recent years. He’s making the rodeo circuit his priority, and he’s leaning on Hooey to not only get him back into contention, but also give him the best shot at a seventh gold buckle.
“I feel like this is the horse that could get me back to where I want to be,” Ohl said.