Horse adds to clown’s comedy

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DODGE CITY, Kan. – Snoopy got his name naturally.

“He was always snooping, always in your pocket,” John Harrison said of the paint horse. “That’s the reason he got his name. He’s always wanting to know what you’re doing. He’d grab your hoodie on your sweatshirt and pull you backwards. I was like, ‘You’re the most annoying thing in the world.’ He’d aggravate the horse-shoer while getting his feet trimmed.”

That trait turned into a job for Snoopy, though it wasn’t the one first intended. Harrison is an entertainer and clown, and he’s one of the most decorated in ProRodeo. He will be on hand for this year’s Dodge City Roundup Rodeo, set for 7:45 p.m. Wednesday, July 31-Sunday, Aug. 4, at Roundup Arena; Dodge City Xtreme Bulls is set for 7:45 p.m. Tuesday, July 30.

“This act actually just kind of fell in my lap,” said Harrison, a trick-rider turned comedy act who utilizes his skills as a horseman to showcase not only his talents but those of his equine partners. “I bought this horse as a yearling years ago with the idea of using him for a trick-riding horse. He never got real tall, and he’s really round in the back, and he was really hard to break.

“He liked to rare up, so I had (fellow trick-rider) Madison McDonald put a pattern on him once we finally got him broke, and she talked about how annoying he was, always pestering.”

 That irritating personality became a gift.

“My wife actually was the one who said, ‘He should be a trick horse, not a trick-riding horse,’ ” Harrison said of his wife, Carla. “I thought, ‘You’re exactly right.’ So then I came up with this idea. I originally wanted to do the act where a horse was loose in the arena and then runs to the middle, but then we’d have to do what we call ‘spot training,’ where we have to put down a piece of plywood or something like that.

“I thought that was too staged, so I came up with the idea of him being a bucking horse, and he just starts chasing me. It’s a fun act to do.”

It’s fun for him, and it makes for incredible comedy for the fans that come to the rodeo. It’s one of the reasons why Harrison is one of the most decorated funnymen in rodeo. Each of the past two seasons, he has won the three major honors at the PRCA Awards Banquet: Comedy Act of the Year, Coors Man in the Can and Clown of the Year. It was the third time for winning comedy act, the sixth time for the Coors award and the second time to be named the PRCA’s top clown.

He will return to Roundup Rodeo for the second time in four years. He last appeared inside the legendary arena in 2021 and brought the crowd to its feet six straight nights.

“Dodge City is one of those legendary rodeos you love to go to,” he said. “It’s a lot of work, and there are a lot of performances, but you get to see the best of the best go in front of. You get to work with the best, too, with (announcer) Boyd Polhamus and (sound director) Benje Bendele, and you get one of the best stock contractors with Frontier Rodeo. It’s going to be fast, and it’s going to be good.

“It’s not just entertaining for the crowd, but it’s entertaining for me as well.”

That’s part of the package fans get with a ticket to any night of Roundup Rodeo. While the primary draw is the world-class action that comes with one of the best ProRodeos in the country, there is a family-friendly entertainment value that comes with the sport. The volunteers that produce the annual rodeo not only want folks have a good night of fun, they want them to come back and see it again.

While there will be fast runs and high scores, rodeo is not scripted. There are some wild things that happen from time to time, and nobody wants to miss that. Take a few situations that have happened with Snoopy in the last year. Harrison has a pretty good idea how he wants the “Liberty Act” to go, but working with animals can make for some last-minute adjustments, especially with a soul as direct as Snoopy’s.

He’s trained to follow and harass whatever is in the arena, and that typically is Harrison. Therefore, the entertainer has to make sure other personnel know what is about to happen when Snoopy comes into view.

“He will attack a moving target,” Harrison said with a laugh. “(Bullfighter) Dusty Tuckness learned that in Gooding, Idaho, last year. He was actually helping me with the act, and he ran out there to get my stuff for me, and the horse hadn’t laid down yet, and he started chasing Dusty, and Dusty was throwing bullfighting moves at him and couldn’t get away from him.”

It made for a fun evening of comedy, though it was a bit frustrating for the animal’s trainer and primary target.

“I finally had to go over and get the horse, and at first, I was a little mad, but then everybody’s laughing and saying it was great,” he said. “It made it memorable, and I think everybody really enjoyed it. Tuck was like, ‘I’m going to lease that horse for my bullfighting schools, because he’s all over you and won’t leave you, which would be great to train these kids wanting to fight bulls.’ ”

It’s probably the highlight act of Harrison’s arsenal, which will get plenty of work over the six days he’s in western Kansas.

“I’m not sure what I’ll do, but I’ll have that main act and throw in a few of the others to keep it fresh,” Harrison said. “The main thing is you want people to enjoy the show and want to come back, so we’ll do what we can to make that happen.”


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