2018 Black Hills Stock Show horse sale high seller: A Nebraska horse for Nebraska cowboys
January 24, 2018
A Spanish proverb says, "A horse is worth more than riches." That thought, or something very like it, darted through the mind of Steve Bass as he watched a stripe-faced bay mare going around the Black Hills Stock Show horse sale ring last January in Rapid City, S.D.
She showed plenty of style, superb action and great, light response to her owner Jamie Olson in the saddle. With Tresa and the boys nearby, the auctioneer's patter rang in Steve's ears. Quickly it reached $10,000, then climbed on and on. Past $11,000… $12,000… $13,000.
Thoughts raced inside his head:
"It's a mare…"
"We can't afford her…"
Recommended Stories For You
But Steve and Tresa and their sons Ty and Cooper, who are from Brewster, Neb., knew the consignor Jamie Olson, his wife Mica and their youngsters, from Bloomfield, Neb., well. They were Nebraska Quarter Horse people, same as the Bass family. Steve liked their horses. Liked the way Jamie started them, and finished them. He knew Jamie made horses his kids could ride and show.
When the auctioneer said $15,000, Steve bid again, and nobody raised him.
A gate swung open and Jamie Olson rode the 2005 bay Quarter horse mare DJ Smart Like Cat out of the sale ring. The daughter of the Smart Little Lena mare, Smart Like Lena, sired by Peppy San Badger grandson Cat Duel, had been turned out in his brood mare band for a few years, raising some nice foals. He hadn't thought much about consigning her to the BHSS sale, but then decided she might fit a younger rider who needed a chance with a good horse. So now, his mind registered, they wouldn't be taking "Scatter" home. It was probably a good thing she had been out with the brood mares and his three kids hadn't been on her for a couple years. The goodbyes would be a little easier.
On a hot market they hadn't made the sale's top 10 on the price list, but they were in the top 15. Jamie and Mica's kids were well-mounted on horses they'd gotten used to since Scatter started running with the brood mares.
Jamie had been taken by surprise when Steve placed that winning bid on Scatter. Jamie figured Steve was looking at younger horses. Jamie wasn't disappointed though, because he knew the mare was going to a great home, and was also confident Steve and his family could make good use of her.
Ty Bass was in high school, and high school rodeo now includes the working cow horse class, which is really growing in popularity. Jamie realized that in a few months Ty Bass and Scatter could be pretty competitive and maybe even qualify for the National High School Finals Rodeo at Gillette, Wyo. Both Ty and his younger brother Cooper roped and, after all Scatter's daywork in the feedlot with Jamie, this mare knew all about catching cattle and working a rope.
Not surprisingly, Steve Bass' mind was following that same track. Both Cooper and Ty were roping calves. It was Ty's passion, but he could work the cow horse event on this bay mare and that would be another avenue to qualify for nationals. And Cooper always seemed to like the horse show events, like reining and cow horse.
As with every great story, this one was moving right along to "and they all lived happily ever after." That's exactly what you hear today, when you talk to either the Olson or Bass family.
Mica Olson is a true fan of Scatter, and loves to talk about the mare, saying, "Scatter gets along real well with other horses. She's a great traveler, never kicked or bit. She didn't paw tied to the fence. You didn't really need to tie her, she would stand all day with the rope hung on the fence. She tolerated all of us, even when none of us knew what was going on. She stopped square, turned like a top, worked a rope like it was her last and she loves cows. She always gave her all. Of course there are things that were not wonderful traits, but the good outweighed the bad. I could go on and on."
Scatter had surely proven herself in Olsons' barn. Along with all the kids being able to successfully show her in the fair and 4-H events, the mare was good enough to earn her Register of Merit rating in working cowhorse, reining and ranch riding with the American Quarter Horse Association. On top of that, the talented bay earned around $7,500 in the National Reined Cow Horse Association. Jamie rode her in Reno's big, tough Snaffle Bit Futurity in 2008 and said she's "the safest, most fun horse" he's ever ridden down the fence.
Mica says, "She is a phenomenal fence horse, they missed the Snaffle Bit Finals by only half a point. She is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of horse that will go down in our history books as one never to be forgotten. We are glad that a family has her that will appreciate her as much as we did."
That's very evident when you listen to Steve Bass speak of Scatter. "I don't even know if I can put her into words," he said. "She's unreal. She's unbelievably broke and she has a big, huge motor — they have to have, to run that fence with a cow. Even though Ty is all about calf roping and not so wild about the cowhorse thing, they only missed the Nebraska State High School championship by a half point. And it got him to nationals." Ty, now a high school junior, said, "I got Scatter the winter of my sophomore year. I had a hard time with her at first, but after I got used to riding her, and riding with Jamie Olson some, I started having a little more success. With lots of practice, the spring of my sophomore year I started competing on her in the reined cow horse at the high school rodeos. I ended up getting second in the state and qualified for the national finals.
"I practiced a lot before the National Finals and went up to Jamies to practice for a couple days. At the National Finals, I had two good runs in the first two rounds … qualified to compete in the short round, and ended up 18th in the nation with another solid run. I've learned a lot, and become a better rider because of Scatter. I'm very thankful to own her," he said.
Steve chuckles at the diversity of his sons, and the way Scatter handles them both. "One day we were in the arena and Ty was doing something with her on the cowhorse thing, and I could see she was pretty tight and just feeling him not being into it. Then Cooper got on her and said something like 'Just do it like this,' and he put her through some paces and she just cooled right down and worked great."
Cooper competes in the Nebraska Junior High School Rodeo Association, and is in the eighth grade. He's very enthusiastic about having Scatter in his rodeo arsenal. "I like Scatter because she has taken me a long ways in the calf roping," he said. "She has helped me achieve new goals and kept me trying hard. She makes calf roping fun, and is one of the best horses I have ever thrown a leg over. I would like to have more horses on the ranch like her.
"When you have a good horse you can trust and get along with, you can go a long ways. I'm just so glad we were in Rapid City when we were. If not I wouldn't get to ride her, and I'm sure I wouldn't be where I am today in my calf roping."
Steve said the traveling they do to the boys' rodeos is very special, and means a lot to both the boys. "They go to kind of a small school," he said, "and it seems like their rodeo friends have become very close, almost like a family." Definitely a "happily ever after story" — one great, big-hearted Nebraska mare, helping some talented and determined young Nebraska cowboys become true horsemen. ❖