A ROPER’S BEST FRIEND: Good calf-roping horses hard to find

Kim Williamson of Farmington has won six world championships with the help of her horse Cutter. (CNJ staff photo: Jesse Wolfersberger)

By Jesse Wolfersberger: CNJ staff writer

World champion calf roper Kim Williamson said she owes much of her success to her faithful steed.

“I’ve had him since he was five,” said Williamson, who finished as the runner-up in Ladies Tie-down Match on Saturday during the Joe’s Boot Shop Calf Roping at the Curry County Mounted Patrol Arena. “I trained him myself. I’ve won six world titles on him and about $350,000.”

Williamson’s 13-year-old quarter horse is named Cutter.

“He’s solid as a rock,” the Farmington resident said. “He’s good on long scores and short scores, big arenas and little arenas. He runs hard and stops hard — he works good for me.”

Williamson, 36, said Cutter has a long career ahead of him, a career that might outlast her own.

“He’s got a long time to go,” Williamson said. “He’s got a good 10 years if I take care of him. I hope I’m still roping when I’m 46. I imagine I will be.”

Some ropers, such as Darnell Johnson of Pueblo, Colo., think a horse’s biggest problem a lot of times is the rider, not the other way around.

“He’s a good one,” Johnson said of Cajun, his 18-year-old gelding. “He’s better than I deserve.”

Calf ropers look for horses the same way NFL teams scout players for Saturday’s draft.

“It’s just like your regular athlete,” Portales roper J.D. Kibbe said. “They’ve got to be able to run fast and stop hard — just like an athlete.”

Former world champion Monty Lewis of Hereford said another quality ropers look for is consistency, something his 9-year-old horse Breezy is not strong on.

“You just don’t know what you’re gonna get from run to run,” said Lewis, who lost to reigning all-around world champion Ryan Jarrett in Saturday’s Young Guns Shootout. “But he’s startin’ to figure it out. He’s not sure when to run and when to stop and when to do what yet. It’s just like ropers — the good ole’ ones know what to do when the money is up.”

Lewis said he has gone on plenty of runs with Breezy at home, but it is hard to match the experience of a competition.

“You can run a lot on ’em at home,” Lewis said. “But it’s a lot different. It’s just like when you get somebody off the practice field and get them into the game with people in the stands — when it counts.”

Even horses that are naturally athletic have to be trained to be used for roping. It usually takes about three years of competition for a horse to hit its prime.

Guy Miller of Lamesa, Texas, said he’s trying to put some miles on his 5-year-old horse, Teddy Bear.

“He hasn’t been hauled a whole lot,” Miller said. “He’s just starting out, but he’s doing pretty well.”

Teddy Bear got his name after a cold night when he was young.

“His ears got froze off when he was a baby,” Miller said. “He’s got little short ears that look like a bear’s.”