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GoSmart with Charlie & Jason: Slick By Design Has Best Year Yet at NFR in partnership with SmartPak are pleased to continue the highly popular column, GoSmart with Charlie and Jason. Team SmartPak riders, Charlie Cole and Jason Martin have achieved success beyond compare. Since founding Highpoint Performance Horses in 1992, they have trained over 150 World Champions and over 300 Congress Champions.

Their next GoSmart column is about their barrel racing stallion, Slick By Design’s success at the Nationals Finals Rodeo. We wanted to find out more details about this year’s rodeo and why this year in Vegas was their best year yet.

Three is A Charm

After looking back at the stats and how Slick ran in Vegas, it appears that three is a charm for this talented stallion. This is the third year in a row that he has qualified for the NFR, and he definitely slick8made a statement in 2015. The black stallion and his trainer, Michele McLeod won two go-rounds and brought home a check for an impressive $148,000. The team ended up fourth overall in the world and Slick surpassed $450,000 in lifetime earnings. Slick is also the Equi-Stat all-time leading money earning barrel stallion.

One would assume that since Slick is a stallion, and bred to run fast, that he would be hot and difficult to be around. However, Cole and Martin dispel this assumption and told us that he is great minded. “He is super athletic and when I first saw him run, I saw that he had great ability and try,” Cole reveals. “He acts like a gelding. Anyone can go into his stall and pet him and he hauls with other horses. His great disposition, combined with his athleticism, always makes him a contender.”

Meeting Goals

slick11We asked Charlie and Jason how they met their goals this year and the secret to their success in the barrel racing world. Cole told us that before this year’s NFR, Slick had won a lot of rodeos, but he hadn’t won a go-round at the NFR. One of their goals was for him was to win one round in Vegas. This year their dreams came true when Slick went above and beyond their expectations and won two go rounds and was second in another run.

“We couldn’t believe it when he won the second round so early in the competition. We could have gone home then and would have been happy, but he stayed healthy and won a later round which was icing on the cake,” Cole shares. “He just kept getting better and better. You have to have a great deal of luck as well as good ground, and this year, it seemed to all fall in place for us. It was great to see him do so well on a national stage. His success also led to an immediate interest of people inquiring about breeding to him.”

Game Plan

Since this was their third year at the NFR, Cole says that that they finally developed a game plan that worked well.

slick4“The first year he actually clocked faster times, but we didn’t have the best of luck, and I think nerves may have played a part,” Martin says. “Michele and Slick have become a lot more consistent this year, more relaxed, and he had a big rest before the NFR this year. He won three rodeos right before Vegas, and I feel like he was really prepared and more confident going into this year.”

Martin adds, “I think Slick has matured a great deal over the past few years and Michele has more experience under her belt. We also had Ron Ralls ride and take care of Slick during the show. Ron Ralls is a great horseman and a two-time Greatest Horseman winner. He breaks all our two year-olds. Slick stays at his farm during the breeding season to keep him fit and not too hot,” Martin reveals. “Ron was instrumental this year in his success. The NFR riders are always having to do interviews and are busy up until they show, so Ron warmed him up and had him ready to go for Michele. This is the first time he helped us at the NFR so that was part of our new game plan that worked well this year.”

The Importance of Ground

slick9Another interesting aspect of barrel racing is how important the ground is for the horse and rider. While they all want good ground for their horses, the speed element of barrel racing makes it more of a necessity for the safety of the horses.

“In 2014, the ground at the NFR was a disaster but this year it was better. Most riders are aiming to run at the beginning of the round because there are less ruts and slick spots created. It is a lot harder to get a fast fun at the bottom of the runs,” Cole explains. “They don’t drag at rodeos so you always want to run towards the beginning of the round. It does make a difference, and, fortunately, Slick handled the ground well this year.”

Influencing the Sport

While Martin and Cole have learned a lot from the barrel racing world, they are also influencing the sport with their training methods and care of their show horses.

“We get all of our young horses really broke and the horses get a lot of treatments including cold water salt therapy when they are being run hard,” Martin shares. “We also take each ride as a single run and only focus on that one go. We don’t let past bad goes effect or carry over into our next run. We use this philosophy in both the barrel racing and horse show world and it has served us well.”

The Luck of the Draw

slick3Cole and Martin also stress there is more luck involved in barrel racing. “There really are no ‘Harley’s’ in the barrel racing world,” says Jason referring to legendary, Harley D Zip.

“The best horses only place fifty percent of the time. The draws, ground, weather, mud, etc end up dictating your chances even before you step into the arena. The rodeo world is a tough world full of extreme highs and lows. I believe Michele clocked over 70,000 miles this year on her truck and trailer and stayed on the road from June through September. I’m sure she feels more like a truck driver at times than a famous barrel rider.”

Slick’s Fans

slick 10Cole told us that this year was his most enjoyable time at the NFR. His favorite thing about Slick showing at the NFR is that the entire horse show community and longtime friends come together to root for Slick.

“I just took a depth breath and knew we had the horse and a strong back-up horse. Slick stayed healthy, so we kept running him. I feel we had a better plan this year; we still had highs and lows but nothing like the last two years. I was still nervous and watching him run is a nail biting edge of your seat experience. When he won or did well, both Jason and my phones would instantly light up,” Cole shares. “We have had friends from 20 to 30 years ago contacting and congratulating us. Slick’s fans are great, and we really appreciate all the support from our horse show friends and the horse show community in general.”

Future Plans

slick6“We are playing it by ear. If he stays healthy and continues to love to run, we will keep running him,” Cole states. “We plan to run him in the winter rodeos and if at some point, he seems like he is not enjoying it anymore, we will retire him.”

Charlie and Jason are also excited to see his babies run in the near future. Slick has five two year-olds, 35 yearlings and several weanlings on the ground and several coming in 2016. (Slick foal pictured right)

Advice for Others

slick 9Finally, asked these two legendary trainers what advice they have for individuals wanting to win in the rodeo or horse show world?

“Simply put, get your butt in the saddle and ride, find a horse that fits you well and start small and work your way up,” Cole says.

Smart words from two SmartPak riders who seem to find “luck” and success in everything they do. A quote by Thomas Jefferson comes to mind: “I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.”

We congratulate them and the entire Slick team on a job well done.

Photos © Impulse Photography, Greg Westfall, Charlie Cole, Jason Martin, Michele McLeod, Springer