He’s that one special horse.
The Keith Bartley family has owned lots of horses, but one stands out from all of the rest and will forever in their lives.
“Bugs is the best horse we’ve ever owned,” described Linda Bartley as she was helping her daughter get ready for college rodeo competition at Alva, Okla.
“He’s not here today, and we have some other horses that are doing quite well, but they aren’t like Bugs,” continued the Emporia, Kansas, woman.
Their daughter, Angela, a high school junior, rode the 15-year-old bay Quarter Horse gelding to be the champion in pole bending at this summer’s National High School Rodeo Finals in Farmington, New Mexico.
That accomplishment is a major feat considering the caliber and number of competitors from throughout the country.
It was no coincidence happening either. Bugs has been considered “the-one-to-beat” by junior rodeo competitors throughout the Midwest for the past decade.
With Angela or her older sister, Michelle, aboard, Bugs has been in top standings of the Kansas High School Rodeo Association for seven years.
“Whichever one was riding him could often win or generally place in pole bending, as well as in barrel racing, and he’s even been used in breakaway roping, goat tying and team roping,” Bartley confirmed.
“He is an all round horse,” Bartley, her husband Keith, and their daughters unanimously agreed.
Registered as Mr Shawnee Pass, Bugs was born on April 27, 1994, to the mare called Miss Gold Shawnee by Mr Shawnee Bug. His sire is A Special Pass by Special Effort. The lineage is elite in Quarter Horse racing circles.
Longtime prominent Kansas rodeo clown Larry Conley raised the horse and sold him to a speculator at a sale in Oklahoma. Green broke as a two-year-old, Bugs sold again to a buyer, who after training difficulties resold him to the Bartley family.
“Bugs never bucked any of us off, but he’s always been ready and persistent in his ways,” Bartley admitted. “That’s the kind of horse though when their energy is funneled into what you want them to do, you’ve got a good one.”
Nobody questions that Bugs is a “good one.” He tries every time out, whatever the event. “Keith used Bugs team roping as a four-year-old and won a lot heeling on him,” Bartley credited. “That was before we really considered making him into a barrel and pole horse.”
All of Bugs’ training after their acquisition has been done personally by the Bartley family. “That way we know what we have,” Bartley evaluated. “We progressed at his own pace, so Bugs got to really liking what he was doing.”
After winning competitions on many levels, a highlight in Bugs’ career was when Michelle rode him to win the pole bending at the 2004 International Finals Youth Rodeo in Shawnee, Oklahoma. “That was a big deal,” Bartley evaluated.
While there had already been a number of requests to buy the winner from the Bartleys, that national youth championship rapidly expanded the interest in him. “We had one potential buyer from Texas who said we could name the price whatever it was and they’d pay it,â€ Bartley related.
Quickly, she added, “Bugs wasn’t for sale then, and he won’t ever be for sale. He is one of our family.”
There is truth to that. Every member of the family has ridden Bugs and achieved success. “I’ve probably ridden him the least, but I ride him in barrels and poles, too,” Bartley said. “Most of the time, I’ve been in the fun competitions where parents ride their children’s horses, but Bugs has worked just fine for me.”
Horses have helped make the Bartley children more all-around individuals themselves, too, Bartley emphasized.
“They are involved in training the horses and are responsible for their care at home and on the road,” she clarified. “When they can do well, it makes their wins even sweeter.
“After the girls are grown and out on their own, they will know what life’s responsibilities are, and it will be the result of their horse background,” Bartley remarked.
The family has slowed down Bugs’ schedule this fall. “I guess you’d say he is semi-retired,” Bartley described. “Michelle has a couple of great prospects she’s using at the college rodeos, and Angela is riding other horses some now, too.
“Because of his age, Bugs isn’t being used as hard,” she continued. “But, Angela hopes to make the state finals on him again next spring. Then, if she could win another national championship, that would sure be a great accomplishment.”
In looking back at the achievements her family has had with Bugs, Bartley admitted the success could have never been predicted. “It does prove though that there are a lot of champions out there that are never taken to the level of their ability,” she commented.
Winners generally know they’re good and have a certain attitude about all that they do. “Bugs has been such a great horse for us that we gladly put up with his little quirks,” Bartley concluded.