Legendary bronc Big Tex dies

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Ryder Wright rides Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s Big Tex for 91 points to share the 10th-round victory at the 2020 National Finals Rodeo at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas. The ride helped secure Wright’s second world championship. Big Tex was 20 years old at the time and died this past week at age 24.

Big Tex was born to be a bucking horse on the Zinser Ranch in Michigan, but he was much more than that.

Most of his life, he was recognized as one of the elite broncs in ProRodeo. He was selected 17 times to perform and the National Finals Rodeo, a credit to his breeding and to the care he received. The 2010 Bareback Horse of the Year, Big Tex died overnight Tuesday on the Pete Carr Pro Rodeo ranch near Moscow, Texas. He was 24.

He was the epitome of everything right in the world of rodeo. Sired by the legendary stallion Night Jacket, Big Tex lived up to his heritage. He was the kind of horse the cowboys dreamed of riding, whether it was early in life under a bareback rigging or the last half in saddle bronc riding.

“He was pretty cool, and you were always excited to see Big Tex by your name when the draw came out,” said saddle bronc rider Wyatt Casper, a four-time NFR qualifier from Miami, Texas, who had success on him the three times he rode the powerful bronc. “You had a good chance to win on him any time you drew him. He pretty much had the same trip, and he gave you all he could every single time.”

Casper found his way to high markings each time he drew the powerful gelding: He was 87 points during the 2022 RodeoHouston, where he finished second overall. He was 86.5 points to win the Weatherford, Texas, rodeo in 2017 and was 85 points to finish second at Stephenville, Texas, a year later.

Casper was just one of many cowboys that loved drawing Big Tex, and several of them had the horse multiple times. World champion Wade Sundell won both Houston and San Antonio on athletic beast in consecutive years, scoring 90 points both times. Dean Wadsworth finished second both times the two matched up; the first was at the 2016 Lovington, New Mexico, rodeo, and the second was at Hempstead, Texas, in 2021.

“That first time I drew him, I’d seen guys be so many points on him that I was really excited about it,” said Wadsworth, a 13-time Texas Circuit Finals Rodeo qualifier. “I found out pretty quick that he’s no day off, and he dang sure about got me on the third jump. From the first time I got on him to the second time five years later, he hadn’t lost a step. He was still pretty tough those first three jumps.

“You know if you do your job, you’re going to be in the high 80s every time. Once you survive those first three or four jumps, you can have all the fun you want on him.”

During his last out in Hempstead this past October, Big Tex bucked off a young cowboy, and Wadsworth was there to see it happen. The veteran bronc buster from Buffalo Gap, Texas, took note of just how much the animal loved his job.

“One of the coolest things I saw was this year at Hempstead during the bareback riding,” he said. “Big Tex got himself in the load alley and was ready to go. He was just standing there waiting for his shot, and we still had a few events to go before we were going to load the broncs.”

Billy Jones, the operations manager for Pete Carr Pro Rodeo, found the horse in the pasture Wednesday morning. He said Big Tex had a pretty typical routine along with the hundreds of other animals on the southeast Texas ranch.

“It looked like he just laid down and died,” Jones said.

Sometimes the tough guys just give out, and Big Tex was definitely tough, and he proved it a decade ago. While in Guthrie, Oklahoma, for the National Circuit Finals Rodeo, he began to show signs of colic. In his case, his colon was displaced and was between the spleen and the kidney. On-site veterinarians from the Oakridge Equine Hospital in Edmond, Oklahoma, cared for the animal for 48 hours. Travis Adams was Carr’s operations manager at time, and he was there with the vets as they cared for him.

“He was just acting off, and like a lot of horses that are stoic and strong-willed, it was hard to tell how much discomfort he was in,” Adams said. “There were two or three of those vets that worked on him. I slept with him at night, and they took care of him through all that. I credit them with saving his life.”

The doctors performed a rolling maneuver in which Big Tex was lifted off the ground by his hind legs with a tractor to help release the colon off his spleen and kidney. While it worked, it failed to relieve the horse’s discomfort, so he was sent 45 miles north, where doctors with Oklahoma State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine surgically alleviated the blockage.

“They found the impaction in his colon and were thankful that it wasn’t a twisted gut, so they injected the impaction with fluid to help it pass,” Adams said. “They sewed him back up and kept him there for two weeks.”

Big Tex was expected to be out of action for four to six months, but veterinarians didn’t realize the animal’s make-up. Three months later, he was bucking in the championship round at the Cheyenne (Wyoming) Frontier Days Rodeo, and he was back in Las Vegas that December.

“He was an extremely tough horse,” said Adams, who cared for Big Tex and other Carr horses for several years. “That horse also foundered when he was young, and he was still at the NFR that same year. A lot of it goes to how big and tough he was, but a lot of his resilience was in the way that Pete took care of him. Pete’s had some incredible animals, and that’s a testament to the care he puts into the animals he’s owned.

“Vet trips and surgeries are expensive, and when I told Pete what the veterinarians were going to do, he did not hesitate. His exact words were, ‘You do whatever it takes to save that horse.’ ”

Adams has been around rodeo most of his life and has been close to many world champion bucking animals. He’s fed them and doctored them, and he witnessed their personalities, but there was always something special about Big Tex.

“He may be one of the greatest bucking horses ever,” Adams said. “He was the coolest horse; he was a giant teddy bear. He was so big, and then he was so incredible to watch him buck. He had a real soft look in his eye and always wanted to get along. He was a pleasure to be around and had such a look of kindness.

“Then you’d watch him buck and think, ‘How does an animal that size with that kind soul put so much energy into his bucking?’ I’ve been around a lot of great animals, and he’s one of the very best.”


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