Meet the Member Tony McDowell
story by Michele Toberer There’s luck, then there’s beginners’ luck, and Tony McDowell may just have both. Although the argument that luck is just preparation […]
story by Michele Toberer
Some were born to buck, some were born to be in the bucking business, and for Gus Haley of Rushville, Indiana, it’s a little bit of both. He grew up watching his dad, Dale Haley, working in the rodeo world as a stock contractor and rodeo producer, with a passion for raising bucking horses. His mom, Julie Haley, and brothers, Eric and Andy Talent helped with their dad’s business as well. Gus’ dad passed away over a year ago, and Gus, now 20, has not only continued with the business his dad started, but a little over three years ago he started adding miniature bucking stock to the mix as Rafter H Mini Broncs. “I still have bucking horses out of the lines my dad was breeding, and I’ve bought some other mares that I have been raising some of my own with. I work out of the horse sale barn my dad bought in 1985. They held regular horse sales there for about 75 years but stopped doing sales there in 2014.” Buying and selling horses got into Gus’ blood, and besides contracting stock, he spends time traveling to horse sales across the country as he buys horses and ponies for his business and to trade.
Starting out, Gus bought a couple ponies to trade that weren’t quite as broke as advertised, and after taking them to a local arena to buck them out he saw the interest in the bucking horses for the younger rodeo athletes and decided to focus his energy towards a new area of his business. “The miniature bucking stock business has grown incredibly in the last few years. I’ve been with the International Miniature Rodeo Association for two years, and they are a fantastic association that is really doing a lot to promote the sport with this younger generation. This year at the IFR49 in Oklahoma, I could see a lot of growth from the year before and it’s really going to continue to grow.” Besides the IMRA, Gus also leases stock out to other rodeo producers and contractors to put on adult and youth rodeos.
Although Gus never competed in rodeo, a lifetime around horses has given him quite an education on the traits needed in a good bucking horse. “It’s a little more challenging to predict on the ponies and miniature bucking horses because there’s not generally as much history on their bloodlines. I know many of the bloodlines in bucking horses, and since the babies generally get 80% of their capability from their mom and the rest from their dad, when I know what parents they are out of I have a pretty good idea of what their offspring might be like.” Gus believes that there’s a purpose for all livestock, so when he buys or breeds a pony that doesn’t end up as a top bucking pony, he generally finds a job that suits its ability. “Not all of them are going to jump and kick up over their head, but those that buck some and trot down the pen are perfect for the 4 and 5-year-old riders that are just learning. I’d much rather start kids out on horses or ponies that are going to give them a chance to learn their balance before they move on. I try my best to have as much age-appropriate stock for kids to ride and learn on that I can.”
Gus believes that the Indiana and Ohio area is a little behind the western states when it comes to the interest in bucking ponies. “The kids here haven’t had as much chance to ride them as kids that grow up on ranches out west where they’re breaking and riding ponies. So, it’s taken a little longer to catch on here. But from what I’ve seen the interest is growing rapidly. I like seeing what the IMRA is doing, because they’re giving these kids an initiative to ride for something big. Giving them the chance to go ride at the IFR in Oklahoma like the big guys do is such a great opportunity. I’m really glad to be a part of it.”
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