You Can Call Me Medicine Woman
A Tribute to the Greatest Saddle Bronc Horse
By Susan Kanode
I am an 18-year-old mare that loves bucking. Because of that and 10 trips to the NFR, I’ve become one of the most decorated saddle bronc horses in the history of rodeo.
My first award came when I was just seven and was selected as the best saddle bronc of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. I was also the reserve saddle bronc horse of the year for the PRCA. I think that was confirmation for Jerry Nelson and Heath Stewart, my friends at Frontier Rodeo Company that they were doing something right.
Jerry is the owner of the company and he’ll be the first to tell you that he didn’t know anything about rodeo in the beginning. He was an oilfield guy. But he loved rodeo and wanted to make it better. He started from the ground up learning everything he could. In 1993, he bought 10 mares from Harry Vold and started his breeding program.
That’s my heritage. Big Medicine is a stallion that came out of those mares and I am one of his offspring. My dam came from the Suttons in South Dakota, and I was the only foal out of that pairing. Heath Stewart, who is the rodeo manager for Frontier is responsible for the company’s day-to-day operations and manages the ranch at Freedom, Oklahoma. That’s where I was born in 2003.
The first year of my life was spent roaming the hills, playing in the pastures with my friends and listening to the stories our bucking-horse mothers told us. I knew from the beginning that I was destined to have a very exciting life. I was big and strong, and I loved to run and buck and play like I was planting cowboys in the pasture.
After that first year, we were separated from our moms and that’s when our personalities start to come through. I tried my best to get along with everyone and kept growing. We got to try out our skills when we were three and if they liked what they saw, we got to do it again with some college kids on our backs. In fact, the first time I ever had a cowboy on my back was at Robert Etbauer’s in Goodwell, Oklahoma with somebody from Panhandle State University on me. Heath said at the time that I was the real deal, but it took me a while to learn what that meant.
I always had good instincts and the desire to buck, but working my way up to the professional ranks, I learned how to be patient, wait in the chutes until they open the gate and how to take care of myself before, during, and after the ride.
Being able to do my job and do it well has led to four world champion saddle bronc titles. I won those in 2011, then three in a row from 2014 – 17. I’ve also gotten awards at the NFR and my people have been on stage representing me a lot. As a bucking horse, that means I’m performing. That’s good because I like my people and I depend on them. When I do good, it’s even better for them.
I’m pretty happy with some grain and hay, but when I see Heath Stewart smile and he tells me “good job girl,” my world lights up. Some of the best cowboys in the world have ridden me and anytime a saddle bronc score is over 90 points, I promise, you’ve seen something special.
It’s for that reason that the 2018 NFR will always stand out to me. I was out in the fifth and tenth rounds. They call that the tv pen, but because we bucking horses don’t watch tv I don’t really know what that means.
What I do know is when they sort us off and we start talking about our rides I know the other horses in that pen are stellar. It’s an honor to be among them. Back in 2014 I was at the Dodge City Roundup in Kansas. This guy, Wade Sundell, had his name next to mine. He had some kind of feather in his hat, was bouncing around behind the chutes laughing and carrying on like he didn’t have a care in the world.
When it got close to being our turn he got right down to business. I wasn’t sure we would get along because honestly, he looked like he could use a little extra feed. Well let’s just say I shouldn’t judge a cowboy by how light he is in the saddle. When the judges added up our scores, Wade had a 92 by his name.
At the 2018 NFR, I’d been resting in my pen behind the arena at the Thomas and Mack for a few days. Then they sorted me off and took me to the arena. Heath tells me to get ready because “Wild Wade Sundell” is going to ride me tonight.
Wade had placed in the first three rounds, then got a goose egg in round four. I know he was excited to get on me because he was bouncing around again. He and Heath were joking and acting like kids back there. I was loaded in the farthest bucking chute, my favorite spot because I can see everything going on around me.
The atmosphere at the NFR was already electric. Clayton Biglow had scored 93-points on the bareback horse of the year, Virgil, and I could tell the fans were ready for more excitement. Finally, I feel Wade settle down on my back, the gates open and I do my little circle around the arena and drop as hard and kick as high as I can. I nearly ran into the bucking chutes about seven seconds in and thought that might unseat him. He stayed with me and we got his first round-win of his gold buckle season.
I know that Heath and the whole Frontier Rodeo crew were happy for Wade. He’s a pretty likeable fellow, but about as different from CoBurn Bradshaw as he could be. I got CoBurn in the 10th round that year. That guy rides so good and is so quiet. He’s all business and once again when the judges added up their scores, there was a 92 flashing around the arena.
I don’t think there are many horses that could say that they had two rounds won on them at the NFR and that those two wins took cowboys to the average win and the gold buckle. I like it and taking them to those titles is as important to me as any award I ever won.
Wade and I have quite a history together. I kind of like the guy and I think he has a soft spot for me too. He rode me again in 2019 at the San Antonio Stock Show Rodeo and we got the W with another 92-point ride. That summer, I bucked him off at Dodge City, Kansas.
I’m headed to Arlington, Texas for the 2020 NFR. I’m proud to say my best traveling buddy, Showstopper is going too and a whole bunch of us are looking forward to it. It will be cool to say we’ve bucked in a football stadium, on a basketball court and now on a baseball field!
Sometime after the NFR they tell me that my responsibilities are going to change and while I will always love bucking, I think raising the next generation of animal athletes will have it’s perks too. I know I’m going to enjoy eating the bluestem—that’s grass—on the Oklahoma prairies. I’m sure when they start gathering, sorting and loading horses, my heart will want to go with them, but I’ll leave my hooves firmly planted on that Oklahoma dirt knowing that I left the arena at the top of my game. That’s something to be proud of.
You can call me Medicine Woman.