Johnson County man trains horse that won third in the American rodeo
You might call it riding on faith, but after Brent Bennett got the horse itch when he was in seventh grade, he knew he wanted to be a cowboy and rope calves. Little did he know that one day he would train a horse named Cat who would go on to win third in the American “richest one-day rodeo,” on her first try.
Bennett did not grow up in a family that had horses.
“My mom and dad went out and bought me a horse,” Bennett said. “It wasn’t a rope horse, but it was a horse. My mom thought the day after I graduated school I’d stop riding. But I didn’t.”
Bennett developed a passion for horses and riding and continued to practice and get better. He eventually got a job for a man in Everman who owned a construction service company who also happened to own horses and rope.
“We’d wake up early every day and go do a job and by noon we’d be home and we would rope,” Bennett said.
Bennett would also spend days on end with other trainers and learned as much as he could about training rope horses. People started sending him their horses to train on. Then in 2005 he made the radical decision to train horses full time.
“I went from a $150,000 to $200,000 job a year to not knowing what was going to happen,” Bennet said. “I had friends who thought I was crazy. But it wasn’t what I wanted to do. For some reason the good Lord said to do it, so I did.”
Bennett also manages several herds of cattle for cattle producers and credits time spent in the saddle roping loose calves as a method of his training.
Bennett bought Cat, whose registered name is Smokin’ Little Lena, from cutting horse trainer Tom Lyons out of Grandview. When Bennett first went to go look at Cat, it took two hours and a method of pushing her into smaller pens and traps to catch and halter her.
“She had been turned out into the pasture for the past year, but every time they went near her she would just stop so hard on her hind-end, you could tell she had the makings of a great rope horse,” he said.
Cat was challenging to work with at first, Bennet said. She was sometimes unpredictable and was known to act up and misbehave.
“That’s where we got the barn name from, Cat, because she was scared of everything,” said Bennett.
When Cat was four Bennett started riding her everyday and rode her to check calves on, trying to get her tired enough so she would focus.
“She would get you tired,” Bennet said. “You couldn’t tire her out. Catching her was a nightmare. By the time you got her caught, you were so mad you didn’t even want to ride.”
For all of Cat’s frustrations, Bennett saw the potential in her and refused to give up. He also realized that she was claustrophobic and when put in tight spaces would get nervous. Which made getting her into the roping box in an arena problematic.
“It might take me five minutes to even get her in the box and loaded,” Bennett said. “If there was a low ceiling she would rear up, she was scared. But I’m one of those hard headed guys and I refused to give up on her.”
Soon, Bennett started taking Cat to different ropings and rodeos and was winning checks left and right. Soon, Cat started to get noticed from other competitors, including 23 time National Finals Rodeo champion Trevor Brazile.
“He liked her, but he didn’t like the issues she had in the box,” Bennett said.
Other friends expressed interest in Cat and rode and hauled her to shows, but like Brazile, couldn’t handle her quirks. That’s when Marshall Leonard of Shandaloo, Louisiana, called Bennet and said he wanted to buy her.
Leonard had been out of the rodeo world for several years but was looking to compete again and thought Cat was the perfect horse for him, Bennett said.
“He drove to my place and roped three calves on her and decided he had to have her,” said Bennett.
Leonard paid $25,000 for Cat and took out a loan to pay for her. After six months he had won so much money on her that she had paid for herself. He kept Bennet up-to-date on their progress. Then, a huge opportunity came for Leonard and Cat - a chance to qualify for the “richest one-day rodeo,” the American.
“Aside from the National Finals Rodeo, it’s one of the biggest rodeos in the country and is held at Cowboys Stadium,” Bennett said.
Leonard and Cat competed against 148 other riders at the qualifying round, then came in 16th at the semi-finals, made the top ten and was qualified for the big show.
Bennett and his family traveled from their home in Grandview to cheer on Leonard and Cat at the rodeo and Bennet even helped keep Cat calm while fireworks were going off in the stadium.
“She didn’t like that too much,” he said. “She’s a jumpy little critter.”
Bennett hopes that his connection with Cat and Leonard will help him train more champions in the future. Though, for now, Bennett is happy with his smaller set-up and said the eight horses he currently has in training is enough.
“I am very blessed with what I have,” he said. “I’m happy that Cat found someone to ride her to her full potential.”