PECOS, Texas – When Paul Peterson leans over the chute to grab the strap wrapped around Dirty Jacket’s flank, the veteran cowboy knows there’s danger ahead.
“When he leaves the chute, he’s trying to kick the flankman off the back of the chute,” said Kaycee Feild, the reigning bareback riding world champion who won the Fort Worth Stock Show Rodeo after riding Dirty Jacket for 89 points in the championship round. “He’s so fast, and he bucks so hard.
“There’s no way you can muscle up on him. You’ve got to be fast and aggressive, or he will get you out of shape and might get you bucked off.”
The flank strap is a leather device with wool that serves as leverage and an enticement for the greatest animal athletes to perform at their best, and Peterson is the man who adjusts the strap for Carr Pro Rodeo. He knows what to expect every time Dirty Jacket performs, and he’s OK with it.
You see, the 8-year-old bay gelding is one of the greatest bucking horses in ProRodeo today and will be one of the featured athletes at the West of the Pecos Rodeo, set for 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 27-Saturday, June 30, at Buck Jackson Arena.
In addition to Feild’s win in Fort Worth, two other cowboys earned titles on the horse so far this year: Wes Stevenson of Lubbock, Texas, won in San Angelo, Texas, after matching moves with Dirty Jacket for 87 points in the short round, and Jeremy Mouton of Scott, La., posted an 84 on him to win in Bridgeport, Texas.
“That horse has just gotten better,” said Stevenson, a seven-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier. “I think he may have stepped it up from what we’ve seen.”
Dirty Jacket is always electric, which is why the top bareback riders in the game have selected him to buck in the elite rounds at the NFR each of the last three years – the TV pen features the “showiest” bucking horses, and the moniker comes from the days when only the final round of the NFR was televised. The “TV pen” animals buck in the fifth and 10th rounds, which provides a great touch to the halfway point of the championship and the season’s final go-round.
“That horse is in his prime,” Stevenson said. “He could be having one of the better years he’s had, and that’s saying a lot. The first time he was bucked was four years ago in Guymon (Okla.), and they won the rodeo on him.”
Pete Carr, owner of Carr Pro Rodeo, has a dozen animals selected to the finals each year, a couple of which are bucked in the fifth and 10th rounds. Carr owns some of the greatest bucking animals in ProRodeo, including Real Deal, the 2005 Bareback Riding Horse of the Year, and Riverboat Annie, the 2007 reserve world champion bareback horse.
“This spring is the best I’ve seen Dirty Jacket,” Carr said. “He’s been phenomenal.”
He’s been pretty good since he first started bucking in May 2008.
“The first time he was bucked was four years ago in Guymon (Okla.), and they won the rodeo on him,” Stevenson said.
That was just the beginning of some miraculous stuff. He helped cowboys to the Guymon title each May from 2008-2011 – four straight seasons of excellence. But he can handle the kind of heat that Pecos offers. Last August, for example, three-time world champion Will Lowe shared the victory in Lovington, N.M., with an 87-point ride on Dirty Jacket – Lowe is also one of the four cowboys to have won the Guymon title on the gelding’s back.
“He’s so electric,” said Heath Ford, a three-time NFR qualifier from Greeley, Colo. “I think maybe he’s Pete’s best horse this year.”
Ford isn’t the only one who thinks that.
“I think guys are going to win a lot of money on him,” said Cody DeMers, a four-time NFR qualifier from Kimberly, Idaho. “You dang sure have to ride good. Those kinds of horses are the ones that are going to psych you up and talk you into riding good.
“Having horses like that says a lot for Pete. He takes care of those horses. He babies those horses. He probably loves those horses as much as he does his own family.”