Story by Susan Kanode (NFR Insider)
Much has been said about Harry Vold after his 93 years here on this earth. His legendary status is being carried on through five children that are involved in the rodeo business, but the influence he has had on rodeo, especially bucking horses, goes far beyond that. The foundation that he built spread to other contractors and with it came knowledge, support and friendship.
While Harry was named Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) Stock Contractor of the Year eleven times and has won numerous awards, the accomplishments of others were also a big reward for the humble man.
The PRCA honors top animals and personnel among others at their contract awards banquet the night before the first performance of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (NFR). On Nov. 30, 2016 at the South Point Hotel and Casino, Powder River Rodeo and Frontier Rodeo were on stage to receive awards. Harry Vold was not on stage with them, but he is who got them there. The same thing happened in 2015 with Frontier Rodeo and Three Hills Rodeo.
Those awards were for the top bareback and saddle bronc horses of the year. Additionally, since 2004, they have also given a Remuda Award to the stock contracting firm that provides the best, most consistent pens of bucking horses throughout the year.
In 2016, the top bareback horse was Craig at Midnight from Powder River Rodeo. Saddle bronc honors went to Frontier Rodeo’s Medicine Woman for the third consecutive year. Frontier Rodeo also won the 2016 Remuda Award and was voted stock contractor of the year for the second consecutive time. Iowa’s Three Hills Rodeo earned the Remuda Award in 2015. They all have one singular connection – Harry Vold.
For a stock contractor, picking the right stallion to breed to the right mare is a calculated endeavor. The breeding of animals for specific characteristics has been going on for hundreds of years. What past generations have learned is being put to use today.
That knowledge starts with foundation bloodlines that are carried through generations of animals. And, just like in a building, the right foundation can cause a program to crumble and fail, or develop bloodlines that grow and cross multiple generations. The foundations of the bucking horse breeding programs of Powder River, Frontier and Three Hills rodeo companies are strong thanks in part to Harry Vold.
When Hank and Lori Franzen started Powder River Rodeo more than 30 years ago, they had some mares and were looking for a stallion. Hank called Harry and told him they needed a stud. Harry sent them a horse named Necktie that had tremendous bloodlines and was one-of-a-kind.
One of the hardest phone calls they ever had to make was to Harry to tell him that his horse had sustained a fatal injury. It also meant that they were again in search of a stallion. They took horses to Cheyenne (Wyoming) Frontier Days where Harry was the stock contractor.
During the rookie bronc riding, a ratty-looking little horse was in the mix that caught Hank’s eye and it turned out that he was a stallion. Billy Ward was a picking up at Cheyenne and the Franzens had a horse that he wanted. A rancher from Torrington, Wyoming, showed up with a bucking horse for sale that he thought Harry could use. When it was all said and done, Billy bought the saddle horse, Franzens bought the young stallion and Harry had a new bucking horse.
That ratty-looking little horse was Cut The Cards, which became the sire to most of Powder River’s bucking horses. Two went on to win world championships, Miss Congeniality in the saddle bronc riding and this past year, Craig at Midnight, in the bareback riding.
The Franzens bought Cut The Cards as a three-year-old. He sired a total of 32 NFR horses for them and went to greener pastures just last year at the age of 30.
“Harry Vold helped us so much.” Lori Franzen said. “Every time we won a national award with our horses or had a big accomplishment, he called to congratulate us. That man was so kind and so generous. We learned so much from him.”
Medicine Woman’s genetics came from the Vold lineage on the dam side. Jerry Nelson, who owns Frontier Rodeo Company, had been involved with the bucking bull industry. People had encouraged him to expand and diversify his operation.
Jerry loved rodeo, so he made the move into bucking horses in the early 90s. The firm had been based near Hamshire, Texas. Then Nelson purchased land near Freedom, Oklahoma, and increased his interests. Knowing that the best place to get great bucking horses is to breed great bucking horses, he got that foundation together.
Jerry hired Heath Stewart to be his ranch manager and rodeo foreman. He bought a set of mares from Harry Vold and those mares have now produced many of Frontier Rodeo’s superstar bucking horses.
One of those horses is Medicine Woman who has won the saddle-bronc-of-the-year award four times. The 12-year-old mare has been earning awards since they started bucking her 10 years ago. And there have been other award-winning horses out of those Vold mares that have gained recognition for Frontier Rodeo.
Jerry Nelson is always one to give credit where credit is due. In his award acceptance speeches he has said that none of it would be possible without Harry Vold.
Stewart also gives credit to the Vold family. Frontier started taking horses to rodeos for the Volds in 2000. While at those rodeos, Stewart was also exploring Harry Vold’s knowledge base and learning.
“Harry has been the guy in the PRCA. He’s the one that everyone looked up to,” Heath said. “A lot of contractors won’t tell you anything. Harry would tell you everything, the good and the bad and what you could do to make it better. He wanted the whole industry to be better.”
David Morehead had taken stock from his Three Hills Rodeo company to Cheyenne Frontier Days for Harry Vold in 1990. He had been watching the young horses in the rookie bronc riding. During one performance, the pen of horses was bigger, stouter, stronger and had long curly manes. In short, they were more “broncy.”
David was in the market for a new stud and asked Scott Walton, who was working for Harry at the time, about those rookie broncs. Scott told him they were all out of a stud named Little Baldy and Custer-bred mares. So the horse trading began.
One of Harry Vold’s trademarks was the black horse that he always rode in the arena. He loved black saddle horses and the way they looked. Three Hills had a set of black saddle horses that Harry wanted. Harry had a potential herd sire that Three Hills wanted. After watching those rookie broncs, David had a pretty good idea where that new stud would come from.
They came to terms. Harry got the saddle horses, and David got his pick of the new colts that were sired by Little Baldy. Scott took him out to the pasture to see the prospects and a sorrel, stocking-legged, bald-faced colt caught David’s eye.
“That’s the one you want?” Harry asked at the time. David nodded. “Then, that’s the one you get.”
That horse came to his new home in Bernard, Iowa, and became the centerpiece of Three Hills’ breeding program. From the beginning, they called the horse “Harry.”
Initially they raised 15 to 18 foals out of Harry and were very selective with their breeding. When those foals got big enough to buck, the Moreheads were pleasantly surprised.
“He is a phenomenal breeding horse,” David said. “He’s one of those rare individuals that whatever you breed him to usually bucks.”
Harry is 23-years-old now and they still turn him out with a few mares. “We turn him out with some of the grand matriarchs of the herd,” David added.
In 2016 Three Hills Rodeo had five bareback horses and four saddle bronc horses selected for the NFR. Their success has been greatly influenced by Harry Vold and Harry the horse.
Other stock contractors have benefitted from getting a horse or two from Harry Vold. It’s safe to say that the bucking horse industry would be much different today without the knowledge, foresight and generosity of this man.