In the same Oklahoma arena where he rode Popular Resortfigure to the Superhorse title, Yates won his very National Finals Rodeo event at just age 15. It was 1975 and Yates roped with his dad, Dick, to win the Team Roping.In the same Oklahoma arena where he rode Popular Resortfigure to the Superhorse title, Yates won his very National Finals Rodeo event at just age 15. It was 1975 and Yates roped with his dad, Dick, to win the Team Roping.
In the same Oklahoma arena where he rode Popular Resortfigure to the Superhorse title, Yates won his very National Finals Rodeo event at just age 15. It was 1975 and Yates roped with his dad, Dick, to win the Team Roping.
By that time, Yates had been roping for quite a while. He won his first breakaway roping when he was 4, riding a pony at a local playday show. According to his mother, Jan, Yates was on track by the time he was a year-old toddler who never let go of his piggin’ string.
"J.D. didn’t play like other little kids played," she said. "He played with his rope all the time, always. I’d buy the big, fancy trucks at Christmas and he never took them out of the boxes."
These days, Yates is listed among pro rodeo legends, plus he has established an impressive professional show record that spans two decades and includes 24 AQHA World Championships. Immediately following the 2002 World Show, Yates was headed to the National Finals Rodeo, where he was qualified in the Team Roping-Heading.
He made the NFR 19 times in the Heeling and went to the 2000 Finals in the Heading. After that, Yates decided to forgo rodeo and spend more time on training and showing rope and cow horses. Juggling a very intensive show and rodeo schedule last year, Yates proved he could finish among the top in both.
"I just can’t be more proud, and there’s a pretty proud papa sitting up there, too," Jan said while motioning her hand toward the stands where Dick was sitting.
The event might be the same, but roping for rodeo and roping for show are two very different endeavors for the cowboy.
"When I go to a rodeo and miss, I’ve only got one person to look at," Yates said. "But at a show, you’re competing for not only yourself but a person who owns the horse and pays the bills. It’s a different kind of pressure."
And the real pressure, according to Yates, was on his roping partner and cousin, Jay Wadhams, a competitor who has won his own seven World Championships. Yates was quick to credit a lot of his World Show success to Wadhams.
"He doesn’t exactly have a glorious job," Yates said. "You’ll either be the guy who caught for J.D. or you’ll be the guy who missed for him that cost him the Super Horse. This is a team event."
This wasn’t the first time Yates accompanied a horse into the Superhorse circle. In 1986, he rode Smoke Um Okie to the title along with Bob Avila, who was in the saddle for the reining and working cow horse. This was however, the first time Yates showed a Superhorse through every single event that added up to the title.
Although roping was practically second nature for him, the cow horse has been a formidable challenge for Yates, and he was thankful to the many trainers, especially Don Murphy, who taught, schooled and critiqued.
"Sometimes, it don’t look like it, but I’ve been working at this for a long time," he said about the Cow Horse event. "I can’t take all the glory because without them guys showing me right and wrong along the way, it wouldn’t have worked out for me here."
Reprinted with permission of Quarter Horse News