Bill Smith of Thermopolis, Wyoming, had a long saddle-bronc riding career. That represents only a portion of a lifetime well-spent in the horse industry. See the print feature, “Under This Wyoming Cowboy’s Hat,” in the May issue to learn more.
In addition to three (Professional) Rodeo Cowboys Association world championships in 1969, ’71 and ’73, Bill considers nine opportunities to ride six-time bucking horse of the year Descent among his career highlights. Of those, Bill bucked off four times and rode the wily bronc five times.
“He’s the greatest horse who ever lived-bar none,” Bill says, “right up there with Secretariat.”
That’s saying something considering the man’s reputation as a skilled horseman known for the broke, trained ranch geldings he sells annually at his WYO Quarter Horse Ranch Sales.
“The rankest Descent ever bucked with me, I rode him, and I don’t know how I did,” Bill says. “But it was, by far, the best bronc ride I ever made on the best horse I ever rode. He nearly bucked me off every jump, and I can remember every jump. I’d give my life to be able to do it one more time-even if he threw me the first jump. Descent was one of the horses that really makes life worthwhile.
“When they retired Descent at Denver (National Western Stock Show and Rodeo),” Bill continues, “I stood there with tears running down my face. When he walked into the arena, I just couldn’t hold them back.”
In 1979 as retirees, the two arena standouts met again at the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs, where Descent was on view to the public. He had a reputation for steering clear of adult visitors, but on occasion would come near if a child stood at the fence.
After personnel had related that to Bill and wife Carole, Bill commented-much to everyone’s amusement-that as many times as Descent had bucked him off, the old horse would come right up to him.
“It would seem a lie if Carole hadn’t taken that picture,” Bill says. “That old horse walked right over and stood there while I scratched him, just like I would one of my riding horses. He was not gentle, and he didn’t just come up to me-he stayed there. That would be just another big, windy story without that picture.”
“It was,” Carole says, “a really neat, neat moment.”
Some might have thought it was two champs meeting on their own turf, but not Bill. “That was two souls meeting-never mind the champs. He was the winner.”
For information about the Smiths’ next WYO Quarter Horse Ranch Sale, scheduled May 19, call (307) 864-5671, or visit wyohorses.com.