‘Sweet’ indeed: Shoshoni native sends rope horses to WNFR
Wyoming native Karen Herbst has experienced success with her rope horses in Texas, and this year her 19-year-old Sweetness, two-time PRCA-AQHA Tie Down Roping Horse of the Year, is competing once again at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (WNFR).
“Joe Beaver says to take a horse to the Finals who’s old enough to vote,” says Herbst of her horse’s age.
Sweetness, whose registered name is Eighty’s Sport, is competing with Clint Cooper, who once again qualified for the WNFR along with his brothers Tuf and Clif.
Cooper was fifth in calf roping heading into the Finals, and, along with Sweetness, he’ll take one of Herbst’s nine-year-old rope horses as a backup.
“We’ll watch all 10 nights and cheer them on,” says Herbst of her trip to Las Vegas, Nev., which will include accepting the 2011 Tie Down Roping Horse of the Year award.
Herbst grew up on a ranch in central Wyoming as what she describes as her dad’s “right-hand man,” and when she graduated from college in 1981 she was determined to take a break from the hard work of ranch life and get an office job.
“I lucked out and got a job in oil and gas. I moved to Texas and ended up eventually working with Roy Cooper on a country music project. The first evening Roy asked if he should saddle a horse, and I rode around his place and realized how much I missed it,” says Herbst. “I didn’t realize the stress relief that I was missing.”
She says from there she went “overboard” picking up horses, and she now lives in the Dallas area while her horses are kept near Whitesboro. After growing up with a Three Bars cowhorse, Herbst now features the Quarter Horse stud as a prominent bloodline in her rope horses, as well as cutting horse breeding.
“I would prefer to be out there full-time, but I stay in town during the week,” says Herbst, who still works in the energy industry as a partner in an oil and gas company.
“It’s great, and I love them,” she says of her horses. “I love watching them compete in the arena.”
Herbst says she didn’t rope growing up, but now she is learning to head and breakaway rope.
“I have access to some good guys to teach me, and I love it,” she notes.
Of her partnership with Cooper, Herbst says he’s dedicated, and that he’s been able to add heading and heeling to her calf roping horses to make them more marketable to high school and college rodeo contestants.
“The professionals want a different horse for each event, but he’s made three of them into horses for both ends of a steer as well as calf roping,” she says.
Herbst says she has another rope horse she calls Cat Daddy, registered name Fletchable, that she was hoping Cooper would take to Las Vegas, but she describes him as “the freshman who thinks he’s a senior in the locker room.”
“We’re still trying to get him tamed down in the box. Blair Burke took him to the Finals for the grand entry several years ago, and he’s a pistol,” she describes.
Other than the WNFR, Herbst says she plans her vacation throughout the rest of the year around the country’s major rodeos.
“I always come back to Cheyenne, and I’ve gone to Pendleton in the past, and Calgary this year. That’s where my friends are, is out on the road,” she notes.
Herbst says 2011 was a rough year that included losing a horse to colic at the Houston Stock Show and Rodeo and battling salmonella, which turned into founder, with another she calls her second-best.
“He’s a cutting horse reject I bought from Zeke Griffith in 2007,” she says of the foundered horse, an 18-year-old whose registered name is Little Bo Bo Hickory but who is known as Boo. “Trevor Brazil, Fred Whitfield, Cody Ohl, Tuf, Clint and Clif Cooper, Houston Hutto and Trent Creagor all have won money on him prior to this bout with salmonella poisoning and founder.”
Boo is now in recovery and growing new hooves, and Herbst hopes he’ll return to soundness enough for light riding.
“It breaks my heart – he is such a warrior in and outside the arena. He loves cookie treats too – he thinks all women have cookie treats in their pocket,” she says.
Herbst hopes for the best at the Finals, and she says she looks forward to the excitement and the anticipation of winning.
“The calf roping event has gotten so competitive,” she says, noting the young talent that qualified, along with the more seasoned competitors who returned this year.
“Hopefully Clint can win the world, and be the number one man when it’s all done in December,” says Herbst.
Of her plans for 2012, Herbst says she’ll start all over again. “After WNFR the slate gets wiped clean, and they all have to go down the road and try again for next year.”
Christy Martinez is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.