Hail to the Ranches

Chance O’Neal and Royalty Return claim the ranch remuda contest at the 2011 Battle in the Saddle for the Four Sixes Ranch.

Chance O’Neal and Royalty Return claim the ranch remuda contest at the 2011 Battle in the Saddle for the Four Sixes Ranch.

By Larri Jo Starkey

Chance O'Neal and Royalty Return stop a cow right under the Four Sixes logo at Battle in the Saddle in Oklahoma City. (Larri Jo Starkey photo). To see more photos from the ranch remuda contest, scroll to the slide show below.

The ranch remuda competition at Battle in the Saddle, presented by RFD-TV, is for bragging rights for the ranches, proof that their breeding and training creates good ranch horses that can perform under pressure.

The competition is also for a $10,000 purse, so the stakes were high when Chance O’Neal of Guthrie, Texas, rode into the Jim Norick Arena on July 9 at State Fair Park in Oklahoma City.

Chance was first in the finals draw, representing the Four Sixes Ranch on Royalty Return. He usually doesn’t like to ride from the first position, but July 9, he was glad for the draw.

“Since I was first today, I didn’t have to sit and watch some of these other guys go out there and make runs and then mentally think I had to go beat them and end up beating myself,” Chance said. “I felt if I went out and let things happen and was real smooth, then hopefully everything would work out and put some pressure on some of those guys.”

That’s exactly what happened. Chance and Royalty Return slapped up a score of 430.5 as a challenge to the other competitors.

“(My horse) felt a lot smoother than she did yesterday, and I was pleased with her yesterday,” Chance said. “She felt a lot more relaxed today in the pen, and I felt like I could use her a bit more, and I felt like she held her stops a lot better in the reining.

“Then it was a drawing contest (for cattle) today. All the horses (in the competition) were good. It was just who drew the good cows, and luckily for me, I drew a really nice cow  that held up in the box real good and went down the fence real good and let me control it. We got two good fence turns, and then the cow ran hard in the roping – had enough to finish on.”

Chance’s score held up through the rest of the finals, and the win will make the trip home to the Four Sixes, which sponsored the class, a bit easier, Chance admitted.

“I think everybody at the ranch is going to be real pleased,” he said with a big grin. “It’s a lot easier to go home a winner than it is a loser. We raise ranch horses, and we’re real proud that AQHA has an event like this that we can showcase these ranch horses.”

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Royalty Return is a 2005 buckskin mare by Royal Fletch and out of Gray Badgers Return by Hollywood Return. She was bred and foaled on the Four Sixes Ranch, where she began her training as a 2-year-old, Chance said.

“Then we started her in the cutting pen and worked our way up into the reining,” he said. “The older she gets, the more solid she’s getting for me.

“We’ve been showing her for the last couple of years, and of course, as these horses get older and age, they get a little more experience, and you (as a rider) get a little more confidence in them as well.”

One man with plenty of confidence in his horse but less in himself was Tim Washington of Roaring Springs, Texas, who rides for Matador Cattle Co.

Tim was up early July 9 thinking about his performance in the preliminaries and what he needed to do in the finals.

He sat on his horse, staring out into the Norick Arena at State Fair Park, pondering AQHA’s working ranch pattern 3, the one scheduled for the dry work.

“I just work on a camp for (Matador Cattle Co.) and don’t get to do a lot of this,” Tim explained. “I was studying the pattern in my head, envisioning what I need to do in the reining, step by step through my run, how I needed to set my horse up for every maneuver.”

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Tim’s horse was the Matador Cattle Co.-born and –bred MCC Double Heaven, a 2006 gray gelding by Seven From Heaven and out of Claires Double by Josephs Gold. “Seven” is one of Tim’s string on the ranch, and he shows the gelding in Ranch Horse Association of America competition.

“But we can do our own patterns,” he said. “We don’t have set patterns like AQHA.”

Tim’s concentration on his pattern paid off. He completed it successfully and then called for the cow.

“We had a great cow,” he said. “We nearly lost her right at the first but then he got hold of her. He really nailed her (going down) the fence.”

Tim and Seven’s run drew whistles from the crowd and a 429 from the judges, good for second place.

“We just love this, and we hope we get to keep coming,” Tim said. “It’s a lot of fun.”

For more photos from the ranch remuda contest at Battle in the Saddle, watch the Journal slide show below. To view the captions, click on the photos.

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