A registry for bucking horses adds integrity and incentives for stock contractors and rodeo producers.

bucking horse from Sankey Rodeo
A bucking horse from the Sankey Pro Rodeo string performs at the Big Sky Pro Rodeo in Great Falls, Montana. The Sankey family has been instrumental in helping verify bucking horse bloodlines for the Bucking Horse Breeders Association.

Bucking horses are some of the most athletic equines in rodeo. Without protective leg gear, posh stalls or even a warm-up, they  jump, kick and perform athletic feats akin to any performance horse. The Bucking Horse Breeders Association, formed in May of 2016, understands the significance of these equine athletes and is working to get their names and bloodlines in front of fans, as well as boost the integrity and value to the horses and bucking horse breeding programs.

“The way [the association] was started is my son wanted to ride bareback horses so I bought a pen of practice horses,” says co-founder Steve Stone. “They were mostly older horses, but there were also a few colts I took to dummy futurities to buck. [At the futurities], I heard people talking about how their bucking horses were bred, and I asked if there was a registry to verify that breeding and was told there was not. The bucking horse industry is legitimate, and I couldn’t believe they didn’t have a registry to verify the DNA of these horses.”

herd of horses for the Bucking Horse Breeders Association
Tracking bucking horse pedigrees and performance records will create recognition of top horses, and add value and integrity to the bucking horse industry.

Stone researched rough-stock registries and found one for bucking bulls, but not bucking horses. He also contacted stock contractors such as Sankey Pro Rodeo and Tooke Bucking Horses about the formation of a bucking horse registry and if they would assist in collecting DNA from their well-known sires to help verify bloodlines for a studbook and pedigree records.

As Stone and his associates researched the bloodlines of top bucking horses, they noticed the prevalence of the name Custer, who was the foundation sire of the Sankey’s program and whose blood runs strong throughout bucking horse breeding programs. First owned by Harry Vold and later Ike Sankey, the horse was considered an average bucker in the arena but his offspring became extraordinary athletes and dominated the bronc riding. For example, at the 1996 National Finals Rodeo nearly 30 of the bucking horses were descendants of Custer, with half of those from Sankey’s string.

“The BHBA’s DNA registry is only a few years old, but as more horses get tested and registered it’s showing that Custer was a one-in-a-million sire,” says Wade Sankey, manager of his family’s bucking horse program based in Joliet, Montana. “Never has there been a [bucking horse sire] close to him in terms of producing quality and longevity.”

Custer died in 1994, but when the BHBA formed his remains and those of the Tookes’ great sire, Gray Wolf, were exhumed for DNA verification. For years, bucking horse breeders thought Custer was the son of General Custer from the Tookes’ program, but DNA testing proved otherwise.

“The story goes that Harry Vold took six mares to the Tookes’ to be bred to General Custer and not all of the mares took, so a few were bred to the stallion Gray Wolf, a son of General Custer,” says Stone. “But there was one who got bred by the stallion Timberline. That mare was Custer’s dam and Timberline was actually his sire.”

Since this discovery, the BHBA has been able to verify the pedigrees and register more than 1,000 bucking horses. Owners wanting to register their horses are required to join the association and send samples of hoof or mane hair for DNA analysis at the University of California-Davis. Horses that have bucked at the NFR receive gold seals of accreditation on their papers, while a sire and/or dam of an NFR bucking horse receives a silver seal. Horses can also have gold and silver seals. The registry allows breeders to better market their horses, buyers can confirm the bloodlines of horses they’re buying, and event producers can ensure the quality of the stock at their rodeo and can be eligible for BHBA incentive money.

bucking horse foal
Eligible young bucking horse prospects, such as this one, have a chance to compete in the BHBA Futurity as 3-year-olds.

On December 31, 2019, the BHBA will hold its first Super Stakes Sale in conjunction with the 17th Annual Kissack Water & Oil New Year’s Eve Buck & Ball in Gillette, Wyoming. The sale will feature 20 BHBA-registered 2-year-olds with accredited sires and/or dams. These youngsters’ entries will be paid for by the first annual BHBA Super Stakes Futurity the next year. Online bidding will be available at breedersconnection.com.

“The stock contractors we work with are not only stock contractors, but also horsemen,” says Stone. “They see how this creates value for the horses and provides a way to track families of horses and correctly identify a horse’s bloodlines. We want to create a following for bucking horses.”

For more on the BHBA, visit buckinghorsebreeders.com.

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