The famous heeling horse they called Peso left his mark on the Camarillo brothers and their roping careers.
By Chuck King, originally published in the May 1970 issue of Western Horseman
In the last few years the Camarillo brothers, Leo and Jerold, have really come to the front in professional team roping competition. Both specialize in heeling; and, like other winning ropers, they have to be well mounted to earn money in today’s highly competitive tandem ropings.
Although he is now out of action because of an injured stifle, a black, bald-faced, stocking-legged gelding is the horse that the brothers give credit to for taking them to the top. The money-earning black is aptly named Peso. His sire, Lotta Dollar, traces back to Joe Reed; and his dam goes back to Red Joe of Arizona and a McCloud mare, tracing back to Traveler. Rich in Quarter Horse breeding, Peso stands 15 hands and weighs in at around the 1,250-pound mark. He is 12 years old and was raised by Leo and Jerold with the help of their dad, Ralph.
Speaking of the caballo’s early training, Leo says, “Both Jerold and I broke and trained the horse, with pointers from Dad. We kind of took turns working with him, however. We didn’t really have much hope for the horse at first. He was an awful lazy horse, and would have rather been left alone to sleep and eat. We started roping on him when he was about four, and that woke him up a little bit, although he didn’t really come to life until he was six. He’s never been a nervous or excitable horse, though, no matter how many steers you roped on him.”
The fastest steer ever roped on Peso was at the Treasure Island rodeo in California. Jerold was heading and Leo was heeling and the time on the steer was 5.6 seconds.
Ralph Camarillo has also heeled from the horse at times, and how Peso carries father and sons, individually, each to a favorite roping spot at the hind end of a steer is noteworthy. Ralph likes to come in fairly straight behind a steer. He uses a larger loop than either of his sons, and reaches out some for his cattle. Jerold rides in a little high (near the steer’s left hip) on cattle, and stays in that position while throwing his heel loop. Leo rides a little wide (stays farther away from the steer than does Jerold) before turning in for the heel throw. He really cranks up (lots of fast swings) his rope and comes in behind, or goes slightly by the hind end of the steer to make his throw.
On all three of these positions—with the exception of wild or fresh cattle—Peso can be given his head and he will know his rider and take him to his favorite roping spot, “perfect nearly every time,” according to Leo. From the spot, Peso braces himself for the heel shot; if it’s a miss, he seems to know, and without cue he gets back in position to give the roper another throw. An example of this occurred when Jerold missed his first loop at Salinas last year, but was able to get his second shot in quick enough to win the average at the rodeo.
The black gelding is the kind of a horse that likes people, and Leo says, “He seems to sense how important he is to us and always demands his share of attention.” He’s a good horse to haul, and eats and drinks well while on the road.
A list of the larger ropings won on Peso would include: Riverside, Calif., twice (1968 and 1969) and the Salinas rodeo in 1969 with Jerold as the rider. Leo rode the horse to win the Oakdale, Calif., roping in 1967, the Chowchilla, Calif., Western Stampede in 1969, the National Finals Rodeo in 1968, and first and second at the Madras, Ore., roping in 1967 and 1968. Peso was honored as “best heel horse” at the Oakdale roping in 1967.
A few years back, Reg Camarillo ( a cousin) headed on Peso at the Riverside roping to win second. The horse was also hazed on at quite a few rodeos some years ago, and he worked real well. Leo says, “He could be a pretty good all-around horse, but we just heel on him now to save him as much as we can.”
Veterinarians are treating Peso to try to get him sound again, and only time will tell whether they are successful. In the meantime, the Camarillo brothers are still tough heelers without their top heel horse. And if they never ride him again, they’ll remember Peso as their first great team roping horse.