Horse Swaps Hit Tie-Down Roping in Round 3
Tie-down ropers changed it up in Round 3 of the 2022 NFR.
Tyler Milligan
Tyler Milligan in Round 3 of the 2022 NFR | PRCA ProRodeo Photo

Horse changes hit the tie-down roping in Round 3.

Four of the top 15 tie-down ropers opted to make a switch in their equine partners last night. Three of those four were the first three guys to nod their heads last night. Joe Beaver, eight-time world champion, opened the tie-down telecast with, “I don’t know what it is about that third round but if things aren’t going right, people start changing.”

The 2022 Resistol Rookie of the Year, Riley Webb, was the first guy to ride in. He called on his standby black horse, Popeye. Though Webb won fourth on opening night, it appeared he wasn’t quite getting the starts he wanted in the early going. He nailed the start last night.

Tyler Milligan, who was second out, made a horse change as well. Milligan is no stranger to spectacular horsepower, but has dealt with tragedy in his barn. His superhorse, Little Smart Leo, better known as “Big Time,” was the back-to-back Nutrena Horse of the Year presented by AQHA in 2018 and 2019. While Milligan rode him at his NFR debut in 2019, Big Time passed away just prior to NFR 2020 in Arlington. He mounted out at the NFR that year and is doing the same in 2022. He started on NFR tie-down roper Jake Pratt’s horse in the first two rounds, after having success jump-riding, and winning at rodeos like Canby (Oregon) and Kennewick (Washington) on that horse during the regular season, before climbing aboard five-time NFR qualifier Clint Robinson’s horse “Bull” last night.

“After the first two nights I didn’t feel like it was going to be as easy as I thought it was going to be and I needed to do something different,” said Milligan, a three-time NFR veteran. “It gave me a bunch of confidence last night that it worked out and I got a good run under my belt after making a change.”

The theme continued as Marty Yates rode in the box last night. After a relatively slow start to his 2022 NFR, Yates pulled his sorrel horse, Jag, out of the stall last night. As Yates backed in the box, as the third guy to go, and the third guy aboard a different horse than he started out on, Joe B sarcastically remarked, “Another horse change tonight. We might not see anybody but Hunter Herrin ride the same horse, oh and Pockets of course,” referring to Caleb Smidt’s two-time and reigning Horse of the Year. I think it’s safe to say Smidt won’t be making any horse changes. He’s now tied two calves in 7.5 seconds and was 7.2 on night number two.

John Douch, who came into the NFR second in the world standings behind Shad Mayfield, had some tough luck in Round 1, missing with both loops. In the second round, his calf got up. He opted to make the change to a sorrel horse of Joe B’s for Round 3.

Of the four men who decided to try something different in terms of which horse they rode last night, it was Douch and Milligan who reaped the rewards for the changes by way of placing in the round. For both tie-down ropers, it was their first checks out of the opening three rounds. Douch went 7.5 seconds to split third and fourth with Smidt. Milligan’s time of 7.7 seconds tied for sixth with 2019 World Champion Tie-Down Roper Haven Meged.

“It wasn’t going good in the first two rounds, so I figured I’d switch and change my luck up. My little brother (Koby) actually had the sorrel horse out here to ride at the junior ropings this week, but he broke his wrist at the first roping he went to,” said Douch, who is roping at his second consecutive NFR. “I’ve ridden him a lot, and I think I’ll win a lot more money on him this week.”

Story by Lane S. Karney