My Favorite Bucker

Photo by matt cohen / cowboy journal

Photo by matt cohen / cowboy journal

She had a crooked front leg and wasn’t the most athletic animal. But, man, #960 Beaver Fever had heart. She’d give you her best every time.

by Tim Bridwell


I had been working with the Growney Brothers Rodeo Company and, back in 2004, I bought a group of fifty or sixty bucking horses from a man in Oregon. I named one of the colts #960 Beaver Fever.

When I first started bucking Beaver Fever, she would spin and turn back and rear a lot, squealing and doing all kinds of silly stuff. But the minute the guy would get off, she would really line out and jump and kick as good as you’d ask. For a while there—the first five or six trips—she fought through moving forward. If they don’t move forward, they can’t kick out, because they stay all balled up and blowing, kind of like a spoiled saddle horse. But each trip, she developed and learned to move through the spurs.

One day that first summer, we were in Joseph, Oregon, at the Chief Joseph Days Rodeo, and Joe Ketter, an NFR bareback rider, left the chute on Beaver Fever. She started to move forward and really leap and kick. That’s when I knew she was going to be something special.

She was a bald-faced sorrel with a pretty head—not a heavy-boned horse, just medium-build. She looked more like a big quarter horse. She had a crooked front leg and wasn’t the most athletic animal. But, man, she had heart. She’d give you her best every time. She knew her job.

In her prime, you could watch her pattern. She’d circle right every time. Toward the end of the ride, she’d get stronger and stronger. She’d just keep coming with it. That’s one of the main ingredients in any higher-end animal. The real special ones look as strong at eight seconds as they did out of the gate.

If she felt those guys getting loose, she would really turn up the heat. It was almost like a wrestling match. She knew when she had the advantage. That’s when she’d really give it to them. She bucked high-headed. It was almost as if she looked over her shoulder at them as she was getting them loosened up. She was really aware of what was going on.

Otherwise, she was a docile horse, real nice to be around. Horses all have different personalities. Some want to run you over. Others are dopey and slow movers. She was right in the middle—a good mover to get where you needed to go, but if you stuck out your hand or said, whoa, she’d stop and turn. Anything you asked of her, she’d do it.

She ran with a good group of mares. They lived together and raised babies together. They were like a family. Her best friend for the last five years or so was Wild and Blue. They were pen mates and went to the NFR and short goes together.

Beaver Fever’s oldest colt now is #221 Beaver Bend, a seven-year-old gelding who has been to the NFR once so far. I have two other babies from her that I haven’t started bucking.

Photo by Matt Cohen

Photo by Matt Cohen

Greatest Hits

A few moments stand out to me. One was in 2015, when Steven Peebles won a round on her at the NFR and then went on to win the world title. Another day I was proud of her was one year during the Calgary Stampede. Beaver Fever was in a really good set of bareback horses—a bunch of heaters—and Will Lowe won on Beaver Fever. That was cool.

Of all the horses we’ve had, she was my favorite. I always had confidence in her. I’d say that from about 2006 to 2013, Beaver Fever was one of the best bareback horses in the country.

We retired her after the 2017 National Finals Rodeo. That was her eleventh NFR appearance. Beaver Fever passed away this year on May 16th. She was twenty and died during the night of natural causes. She was with a set of weaned colts, looking after them babies.

Photo by Matt Cohen

Photo by Matt Cohen


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