ND horse carries NFR steer wrestlers
Waguespack rides Canted Plan to dog steers
A horse with North Dakota ties competed at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo this past week.
Scooter, a fifteen-year-old sorrel gelding, was at his fifth Wrangler NFR, this year carrying steer wrestler Tyler Waguespack.
The horse, whose registered name is Canted Plan, was owned and trained by Jason Reiss, a steer wrestler from Manning, N.D. He is by the Dash for Cash grandson Up In Your Face and out of Gambler Speed Line by Crystal Gambler. He was bred by Joe H. Peltier of Dunseith, N.D.
Off the race rack, Reiss purchased him, took him home, and the first time in the arena, Scooter ran as hard as he could go, Reiss said, “there was no whoa, no control. He wanted to run.”
So he used Scooter for ranch work before taking him back to the rodeo pen.
“I just kept riding him,” Reiss remembered. “We’d go to the breaks and bring cattle out.” It was a long trail coming out of the badlands, “and we’d get to the top, and he’s prancing and ready to go. I’d take him back down to the bottom, help get cows out, get to the top, and he was still the same way.” On the third trip, Scoter “finally dropped his head and from then on he was teachable,” he said. “He turned into a horse after that.”
Reiss roped on Scooter, drug calves to the branding fire, and even hazed on him. Ranch work is good for rodeo horses, Reiss believes. “It takes their minds out of the arena, and lets them know that work can be harder” than rodeo.
“I had him broke,” Reiss said. “You could spin him on a dime, do whatever you wanted. You could do anything you wanted on him.” The first time he ran a steer on the sorrel was in 2011, and the next year, Reiss made the Badlands Circuit Finals on the horse.
In 2016, world champions Tyler Pearson of Atoka, Oklahoma, and Kyle Irwin, Robertsdale, Ala., were looking for a steer wrestling horse, when former steer wrestler and Nebraska native Linn Churchill told them about Scooter.
Waguespack, also a world champion, came to South Dakota to ride the horse at the Rapid City winter rodeo. Reiss, Tyler Schau, and another cowboy also rode him for the steer wrestling at the pro rodeo that weekend. When the weekend was over, three of the four cowboys on Scooter won nearly $11,000 on the horse. “That horse was proven before he left here,” Reiss said.
So, sight unseen, they bought the gelding. Pearson called Irwin and said, “I’m going to take a chance on him,” Irwin remembered. “Do you want in? I said yes, and the rest is history.”
Since then, the three cowboys, plus others, have ridden the horse throughout the regular season and at the Finals, every year since 2016. In fact, in 2017 the horse had forty runs on him at the Wrangler NFR, carrying his cowboys to first, second, fourth and fifth places that year (Pearson as world champion, Erickson, Waguespack and Irwin, respectively.)
Scooter is good in the box, is laid back and can adjust to any size arena, Waguespack said.
The Gonzales, La. cowboy rode him for nine of ten rounds of this year’s Finals. “He’s super easy in the box and gives you great position in the field,” he said. “You can focus on your run and not focus on if he will make a mistake or not, because he makes very few.”
He’s also easy to be around, Irwin said. “He’s as good as gold. He’s gentle around kids, and my wife and Tyler’s (Pearson) wife.”
That’s more than can be said for Pearson’s haze horse, Metallica. Pearson rode Metallica as he hazed for Waguespack at this year’s Finals. Metallica “is spastic and antsy all the time,” Waguespack said. “Scooter is the laidback one of the crew.” Metallica needs to be around a buddy horse all the time, and usually Scooter is his buddy.
The men haven’t kept track of how much money Scooter has won throughout his career, but Irwin estimates it’s close to $2 million. Waguespack has won seven NFR go-rounds on him; Irwin has won two, Pearson two and Ty Erickson each one. One year at the Finals, $500,000 was earned on Scooter, and in 2019 Irwin won the Calgary Stampede and $100,000 riding the horse.
The horse is special to Irwin, Pearson, Waguespack, and anybody else who has ridden him.
“Oh, man, I bet his heart is as big as a watermelon,” Irwin said. “To give your all, every single time. He’s got something that’s a little different from your average horse. It’s that ‘it’ factor. He’s got it.”
Pearson concurred with Irwin. His kids play around him and under his feet, “and he doesn’t care about anything. He’s changed our life for sure. He’s bought everything we own.”
This year, they didn’t ride Scooter as much but kept him in shape for the NFR. All three men have solid backup horses, and they’re trying to extend Scooter’s career for as long as possible. “I think he has another good two years in him,” Irwin said, “and then maybe we slow him down.”
But for now, the gentle steer wrestling horse keeps carrying bulldoggers to the pay window.
As of press time, Waguespack, the only man in the group to have qualified for this year’s NFR, was ranked sixth in the world.
Scooter has twice won the AQHA/PRCA Steer Wrestling Horse of the Year awards (2017-2018).
South Dakota governor Kristi Noem carried the national anthem on horseback for opening ceremonies of round two, on Dec. fourth.
Rodeos in South Dakota did not cancel, as they did in other states, and Rapid City was able to host two big PRCA events: the Pro Tour Finale and the Xtreme Broncs Finals, when their original venues couldn’t, due to virus restrictions, in September.
Noem was also part of a Youtube video, featuring world champion cowboys Trevor Brazile and Patrick Smith going “undercover” at the Ft. Worth Stockyards during the Wrangler NFR.