Broke as Can Be

“These horses have got to be broke to do just about anything,” said Kelly. “A lot of cutting horses don’t have a good handle, but a turnback horse has to have a good handle. He has to move where and when you tell him to.”

Rose agrees. “My honest opinion is, if you can’t help a fella on a horse, if you can’t get your horse turned and you can’t get him where you need to be, then you’re in the wrong place and you’re on the wrong horse. A good turnback horse has got to be broke.”

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As an example, Rose cites his former half-Thoroughbred turnback horse, another one named Brownie.

“He was about as handy a horse as I’ve had,” Rose recalled. “He had a lot of smarts about what you were doing. You could show him what you wanted, and he’d do it. And you could do whatever you wanted on him. But he didn’t like a rope under his tail,” Rose said with a laugh. “It got under there one time, and he about bucked me off!”

Welch’s turnback horses were also dead broke and multi-talented. “Rabbit could just figure out anything you wanted to do,” Welch said. “And Enchilada, he had been the Super Horse back-to-back years at the Wichita Falls Ranch Rodeo, and then he was Super Horse two years running at the Abilene Ranch Rodeo. He could rope, cut, heel, head. My son-in-law won the Coors Light Heeling Championship on him.”

What’s more, added Sheila, “The grandkids have done barrel races, cutting and ranch work on him.”

In fact, Enchilada, although now 23 years old, still goes to the youth and high school cuttings.

“To me, these two horses, in their own right, were at the same level as [Thoroughbred racehorse] Cigar,” Sheila said. “They were so intelligent. You could put up kids or advanced riders. They were just incredible in their own fields, which was pretty much everything!”

A Whole Lotta Love

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There’s one other quality that distinguishes a good turnback horse from a great one, and that’s the ability to stamp their presence and their personality on your memory –– in short, to become respected, admired and even loved by those who have known them. Certainly Rabbit, Enchilada, Redwood San and the two Brownies fit this bill.

Take, for instance, the ease with which Rose recalls the special attributes of Redwood San and his own Brownie –– horses he rode 20–30 years ago. And the way he recalls Brownie as a horse that “had a lot of heart,” while stating with admiration that Redwood San “sure enough knew the difference between settling a cow and turning back.”

The same spirit is even more pronounced when you talk to Buster and Sheila about Rabbit and Enchilada.

“They were just phenomenal in the cutting pen,” Sheila said. “They were so extremely reliable and unflustered.”

Buster added, “There were more people wanting to cut and turn back on Rabbit. Why, back then, I’d turn back for half the people at a cutting. He probably turned back on $5 million worth of winnings.

“We had him from 1974 until he died here three years ago, and we buried him right here on the ranch.”

The Banuelos family, too, has no qualms about telling the world how much Brownie means to them. “He was one of the best turnback horses, and all the famous trainers loved to turn back on him if they didn’t have their own horse,” said Ascension. Tiffani added, “A bunch of big-name people who’ve come through our barn have taken lessons on him.”

These days, the 23-year-old Brownie is taking some time off with a set of sore hocks. “I don’t know if we’ll ever get him sound,” said Tiffani. “But if we don’t, he’s certainly earned his spot in the pasture.”

After all, added daughter Erica, “I just love him. He’s Brownie the Champ!”

And our hats are off to you, Brownie –– as well as to all the other turnback horses that play the game day in and day out, doing their job with steady heads and true hearts, just outside the spotlight, so that our cutting horses can shine.

Article first appeared in the April 2005 issue of Performance Horse

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