Right time, right place
Horses and people find their way into one another's lives right in the nick of time.
By Kylene Scott
Sometimes horses come into people's lives at the right time; other times the horses find the people they need to be with. For Everett and Rochelle Miller of Scott City, Kan., both cases are true.
Everett Miller grew up on a "dirt farm" near Scott City, and since the beginning has always had horses around. Rochelle, on the other hand, didn't get her first horse until she was 29. The Millers now operate Flying M Ranch where they raise and train quarter horses.
Secret Effort Dash
How Everett came to own Dash is a story in itself, the pair said. Everett's family was good friends with Charles and Carolyn Socolofsky, also of Scott City, Kan.
"Their daughter (Barb) was 3 or 4 years older than me, so she was like a big sister," Everett said. "We rode together in saddle club--Kansas Western Horseman's Association."
Charles raised racehorses, and some of his best horses were out of Raise a Secret, and she was the mother to 8 or nine colts. One of her offspring, a filly by Special Effort, was A Special Secret. Barb inherited the mare when her father passed away, and eventually had a partnership with Royal Vista Equine. Socolosfky would raise the colts and then sell them at the Heritage Place Sale in Oklahoma City, and each one of them would get a percentage. Secret Effort Dash was one of those colts. Dash injured himself as a yearling, so she couldn't take him to the sale.
Eventually Dash made it to Everett's barn, and Barb thought he should own him. Through Everett's time and care, Dash's injured right hind foot healed and when X-rayed the veterinarian told him it was even sounder than he had expected.
"He was in the second crop by Fishers Dash and the ones in the first crop were starting to run really, really well," Everett said. "One gelding, named Dashing Nude, was named champion 2-year-old gelding and lacked, I think, 30-some thousand of making a million dollars as a 2-year-old."
The performances of Dash's siblings helped Everett and Barb's marketing strategies.
"Barb and I being a little greedy decided that would help enhance the price of her colts out of that old mare," Everett said. "And this colt could run so I decided to send him to the track as a 3-year-old."
Dash made his appearance on the track, running in races that Everett described as "street fights." Those races didn't have any added money, but Dash did win a race, and ran a 104 speed index. He ran at 330- and 550-yard distances and earned a register of merit at each distance, running at racetracks in Albuquerque, N.M., Denver, Colo., and Kansas City.
According to the American Quarter Horse Association, a horse receives a speed index number every time it races at an AQHA-recognized track. Because each racetrack is different, race times vary a bit from track to track, and the speed index system was developed as a way to compare horses and races run at different tracks. Indexes in the 70s are pretty good, 80s are getting speedy, 90s are downright fast and 100+ are just plain awesome.
Dash ran once as a 4-year-old, and then some as a 5-year-old. After that, he returned to Kansas in late summer and into the fall, Dash went to saddle club shows near by and entered him in a number of classes.
"We take a lot of the younger horses to these saddle club shows. We're too poor to get them seasoned any other way. It's very affordable, Rochelle said. "Six dollars for the whole day. You can go in the gate several times and do different things."
At the time, they didn't really have a goal in mind for the stallion as far as his training went.
"We just puttered around. We ran him in barrels and poles a little, but we were messing around and not trying to be competitive," Rochelle said. "Then we started taking him to jackpots but we still didn't really know what we had in the barrels until we took him to Canadian when Joe got sick."
Joe is Rochelle's other barrel racing horse who colicked in 2008 and spent some time in the Colorado State University vet hospital at Fort Collins, Colo., with an impacted intestine. Rochelle was already entered in all the rodeos over the fourth of July, and took Dash to Canadian, Texas. It was his first rodeo that year, and he was fourth.
"I was up in the slack there, and it was big. It was our first time we'd ever been there and we didn't know how slack would run and we waited forever," Rochelle said. "We parked a million miles away on the asphalt just about, because that was the only place we could park. The ground was terrible at Canadian and he got in and just ran."
Rochelle said Dash has such a nice temperament, but they still take precautions while traveling, such as parking away from other horses and keeping him by himself.
"He's so well-mannered people don't realize it's a stallion," she said. "At the KPRA (Kansas Professional Rodeo Association) finals one year it seemed like everyone was on a mare. Oh, he noticed, but he minded his manners."
Dash essentially trained himself to run barrels, Rochelle claims.
"We didn't work at training him, we really didn't. People might be mad at us if they knew," she said. "We just piddled around and he got it. We would take him and run at the jackpots and he wouldn't run any faster than he could to do it right."
Something just clicked, and the stallion had barrel racing figured out.
"He's so easy to run, except for the fact that he can spin around those turns so fast that you better be bolted down, but he doesn't want to hit a barrel and it's incredible how automatic he is," she said. "I think in training and competition, everything all together I think we've hit four barrels on him lifetime."
Always appreciative of what she has, Rochelle has praise for both Dash and Everett.
"I've been really lucky to have been able to run him. He's pretty awesome," Rochelle admits. "I don't realize how much Everett does for me."
Barb hasn't forgotten the sorrel stallion she had a hand in raising. Everett said Barb still claims he's her boy too.
"She's pretty proud of him," Rochelle said.
Rochelle and Joe
"I didn't grow up riding. At all," she said.
Joe was really the first horse she owned along with another paint horse. He was young and inexperienced when she bought him. She started showing the paint in the saddle club shows because he was older and more finished than Joe, and she was able to do anything with him.
"I was learning how to ride," she said. "Joe was fed up (with me) and I don't know how many times he's bucked me off."
She tried to sell him but had no takers, but a good friend told her not to give up. Everett ended up riding Joe for 30 days, and helping Rochelle to learn to ride Joe. Everett came along at a critical point in her life, Rochelle admits.
"That horse probably would have hurt me," she said. "I was only brave enough to lope circles on him."
Rochelle eventually started riding him again and as a 5-year-old, Joe won the high-point for the KWHA and won a local saddle series as a 6-year-old.
"I hit a lot of barrels on Joe. I didn't know how to ride well enough to ride a horse like that," Rochelle said. "He loves to turn, he loves to work. We got by. We set some arena records."
Rochelle recently qualified for the Prairie Circuit Finals rodeo in Weatherford, Okla., and almost missed the opportunity to compete. She is an art teacher in the Scott City, Kan., school district, and board policy prohibits teachers taking off during the first week of school.
"I'm so inexperienced in the Pro Rodeos, I didn't really understand how the 15 rodeo count worked," she said. "I thought if it was in your circuit, it's in your circuit. I didn't know if they are first approved and I didn't know the co-approved rodeos didn't count."
She found out just in time, and had to enter everything that was left in the season--Vinita and Altus, Okla. But there was no missing school; she had to teach that week. Her dad has an airplane and offered to fly Rochelle down to the rodeos in the so she could still teach school during the day.
"It was kind of a big deal that my dad said he would take me, so I really didn't want to tank it," she said.
But she didn't tank at Vinita or Altus, she placed second at Altus and third at Vinita, securing her place at the PCF.
Dash didn't get to run at the circuit finals as he was sore, so Joe got the call. The PCF was tough competition, Rochelle said. Nine out of the 12 qualifiers have been to or are headed to the Wrangler National Finals rodeo.
It took a 17.59 to get a check in the first round and a 17.63 in the second round. Rochelle and Joe were pretty close to placing in the first round, but she's very happy with their performance at the circuit finals, especially since it was their first.
"Just a tough crowd to run with," Rochelle said. "He's just gotten to be so honest. I'm so proud of him."
Growing up near Scott City, Everett's parents had milk cows when he was a young child, and his dad had an old horse, but it really wasn't kid-worthy so Everett made due with a young heifer who would be the last one in to milk.
"I started riding her in with the rest of the cows," he said. "They figured the probably ought to get me a horse. I was probably 5 or 6 at the time."
He was training horses by the time he was 10 or 11 and has ridden outside horses for other people ever since.
"I've rode one to 30 colts a year ever since," he said.
Rochelle said Everett takes his time with the colts and doesn't rush through their training just to get done. Because of him, their own horses have been really solid.
Everett rodeoed some when he was younger in amateur rodeos and then bought his permit for the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.
Both Rochelle's boys, Miles and Bret Haire, ride and compete in 4-H and saddle club shows.
The Millers have around 20 head of horses, some are the kids' horses, a few young ones and three broodmares.
"I'm really excited about some of the young ones. None are as far along as they should be because we are gone so much," Rochelle said.
The pair recently bought back a horse that Rochelle used to run, Gator. Everett's granddaughter is planning on riding the horse. She learned a lot from the horse and plans to keep him for the remainder of his life.
It seems the horses will remain part of the family for a long time, even though they are a small operation, Everett said they are one of the areas best kept secrets.
"It helps if you own super mares, and you have to have money to promote stallions (the way they should be.)" Rochelle said. "The best advertisement we can do is to have him perform."
For more information about Secret Effort Dash, visit http://secreteffortdash.homestead.com/.
Kylene Scott can be reached by phone at 620-227-1804 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.