Cashing In With Colonel: Jake Long's Heel Horse

Long had a great winter on a sorrel gelding he found in the Quarter Horse show industry.
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Long had a great winter on a sorrel gelding he found in the Quarter Horse show industry.

Jake Long and Coleman Proctor have been buddies since their diaper days. They’ve headed and heeled more steers for each other than any two guys on the road, but although they clocked the fastest run in the 30-year history of the Bob Feist Invitational in 2008 (they held the record five years) and won the George Strait Classic together in 2010, they could never quite make the NFR together.

Credit: Hubbell Rodeo Photos

Credit: Hubbell Rodeo Photos

Now, however, Long has rekindled his old partnership with Proctor. The two found themselves in the top five in the PRCA’s world standings in March, thanks in part to the second great horse of Long’s career.

“I bought this horse, Zans Colonel Shine, from Dixon Flowers Performance Horses in 2010 and just hauled him for a couple of years,” said Long, whose number-one had been a gelding he named Mikey after a cousin who died too young.

In fact, “Colonel” was the 2009 high-point heel horse in the AQHA. 

“I picked him up right before I started practicing for my first NFR,” said Long, who went to the Big Show with Brady Tryan in 2010-11 and Travis Tryan in 2012. “He got a lot thrown at him right there, going from making jackpot-like runs in the middle of the arena to me trying to be 3 on him every day. But he always had such a good mind and attitude toward everything. He’s so calm and cool, I can put my 2-year-old daughter on him.”

Long also has a backup—a chestnut gelding he calls Iron Man—that he bought last fall from Shay Carroll. Plus, 14-year-old Mikey had successful surgery with help from the Brazos Valley Equine Center in Morgan Mill, Texas, in November and is just getting back in the lineup.

“Coleman and I set a goal to win the regular season this year,” said Long. “It’s the first time I’ve ever made that goal. I always used to just set out to make the Finals, but it’s such a long year that if you feel like you’re ahead of your goal, you can get to coasting a little. Setting a goal of being number one at the end of the year will keep us always striving to be the best.”


THE TAKEAWAY

For the first two years he owned Colonel, Long just seasoned him and rode him in the grand entry at the NFR—until 2012, when he used him for seven of 10 rounds. 

Ten-year-old Colonel is a smoother stopper than Mikey, Long said, and easier to rope on. Typically, a heel horse that’s been shown for judges will boast a huge stop and be really broke with lots of “cow.” Like most show horses, Colonel is solid in all three roping events as well as being stout and “made to last.”

But to convert a show horse to a rodeo horse meant getting Colonel used to faster-paced action. A show horse might be accustomed to a pattern mid-way down the arena, and likely isn’t used to firing out of the box as hard as a rodeo horse. Colonel had never seen things happen right outside the chute, so he wasn’t paying attention quite that fast.

“It took a while of letting him realize, ‘Hey, this steer could actually be roped right here out of the gate,’” said Long. “Otherwise, at any kind of jackpot when I first got him, he was really locked on and made no mistakes.”

There was only one other slight tweak Long made during the conversion. A show horse isn’t typically ridden as high on a steer going down the arena as a rodeo horse, so that was also something Colonel needed to learn. 

“I’m fortunate that when I got Colonel, I was so confident in Mikey that I didn’t try to rush Colonel; I just took him jackpotting and finally it was like, ‘Man, this horse feels really good and is not making mistakes,’” Long said.