The athletes that thrill attendees of the St. Paul Rodeo don't all walk on two legs. Some have long noses, shiny coats and enjoy a handful of grain from time to time.
Kool Toddy, a 22-year-old brown mare owned by a Washington rodeo stock company, is just such a so-called "equine athlete" and competes in the saddle bronc contest. She will appear once again at the 2021 staging of the St. Paul Rodeo June 30 to July 4. She is one of about 100 head of bucking horses and bulls that will appear in the rodeo.
"That horse has been amazing for years," said Cort Scheer, who set earned a new arena record and first place at the 2019 St. Paul Rodeo with 89 points. "I've been on that horse four or five times now and she has been unbelievable every time."
The mare, who has distinctive paint markings on each side of her belly, is no stranger to the rodeo circuit.
"She's been to about every rodeo there is on this side of the Mississippi River," said Chad Hutsell, co-owner of Flying Five/Big Bend Rodeo Co. in Washington. That includes rodeos ranging from the Calgary Stampede in Canada to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, where she has made 15 appearances. Along the way she has gained a reputation for putting purse money in riders' pockets and big, shiny belt buckles on their jeans.
"I don't know how many hundreds of thousands of dollars they've won on that mare, but if you think of all the big rodeos she's been to, it's a lot," Hutsell said.
Kool Toddy began her career in rodeo at the age of 5 and shows no sign of being ready to retire.
"I let the horses tell me when they're done (bucking)," Hutsell said. "And she's not done. She still loves going and getting on the truck."
When she does retire she will become a brood mare, possibly producing offspring that will thrill rodeo-goers as well.
The opportunity for Kool Toddy, the other stock and the cowboys and cowgirls to return to the ring is not lost on the participants, both human and not. Hutsell said that the COVID-19 shutdown of rodeos in 2020 had an adverse effect on his horses. On one particular afternoon, when a semi-truck and trailer rig rattled by the rural Washington ranch, some of the horses took notice.
"Half of the herd, their heads popped up like, 'Do we get to go somewhere?'" Hutsell said.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.