“Lil Punch” started his career as a cutting horse before moving into breakaway roping with 2023 NFBR World Champion Shelby (Boisjoli) Meged and then calf roping with 2019 Calf-Roping World Champion Haven Meged—eventually winning the 2023 NFR Average Championship at 6 years old.
So, what does it take to build a champion like that? Not many horses can withstand the pressure of the Thomas & Mack—much less one as young as Lil Punch.
The Genesis of Lil Punch
Bred by the esteemed Allsup family—the creators of that iconic gas station chain and a cutting horse empire—Lil Punch was primed for the cutting pen. Sired by NCHA Horse of the Year Kit Kat Sugar and out of Dual Rey mare Goodness Reycious, Lil Punch (registered as For Goodness Shakes), was broke as a cutting horse and ended up with rope horse trainer Nick Travaglia as a 3-year-old.
“Nick had called me and said he had a good one, and he only calls if he has a really good one,” Shelby said. “I got over [there] as fast as I could before someone else bought him. It was 2020 and Haven and I had just started dating. I remember telling him that Lil Punch was the most expensive 3-year-old I’d ever bought, and I was really stressed about it. Once Haven saw him, he said, ‘Nope, you did good. Don’t worry.’”
Haven was right. Lil Punch took to breakaway with Shelby easily. A little too easily.
From cutting horse to breakaway star: Lil Punch’s smooth transition
Travaglia had swung a rope and tracked the sled on Lil Punch before Shelby bought him, but he was nowhere near a finished horse.
“When I got him home, I started roping on him and tracking the sled,” Shelby said. “I taught him how to track a calf. He had the stop and everything, so I started roping out of the box the second day on him. He was so easy.”
According to Shelby, Lil Punch didn’t have a hole in him from the breakaway sense. “He had every single tool he needed,” she said.
Focusing on building confidence in the box, Shelby scored and walk-started most of the time on Lil Punch before tracking calves in the arena. She first started entering him in 2021 with full faith in his ability.
Shelby Meged’s Winning Partnership
“I won on him every time I entered him,” Shelby said. “His first-ever outing, I entered the American sidepot and qualified for the 2021 American.”
Shelby then won California Rodeo Salinas on Lil Punch in 2021 after only a few ProRodeo appearances.
Aside from breakaway roping, Shelby also taught Lil Punch to lie down, and his mischievous nature meant he’d tear off back numbers, remove hats and breathe into TV cameras at events. In all, Lil Punch was “Shelby’s horse” for 2.5 years.
“He was so easy to train because he was so smart,” Shelby said. “And then he figured out how to not do things for me, like switching leads running to the calf, and became Haven’s horse in 2022.”
Haven Meged Takes the Reins
Where Lil Punch played and misbehaved with “good cop” Shelby, he was on his best behavior for “bad cop” Haven. After Shelby handed over the reins, she encouraged Haven to take “Punch” to an upcoming calf roping futurity in Waco, Texas.
“I told Haven, ‘I bet he’d take to logging quick,’” Shelby recalled. “In all of 10 minutes, Punch was perfect. Haven tied two calves down, took him to the futurity, and Punch loved it.”
“Shelby does an amazing job with her training,” Haven said, praising Shelby, and joking that he was trying to get her to ride all of his horses. “You can just look at her horses. She puts so much confidence in them, and there are no horses that can score better than hers. They stand like statues and run to the calf.
“All I had to do was teach him to back up,” Haven continued about Lil Punch. “It’s great to be able to get to rope together and train together because we both have different styles. It really helps the horses to get two different feels.”
Haven added that he thinks Lil Punch enjoys the adrenaline-filled nature of calf roping—taking the jerk from the calf with such enthusiasm his tail head will hit the ground.
Lil Punch’s second futurity was the 2023 Royal Crown in Rock Springs, Wyoming. There, he and Haven won the average and $4,400.
“Then Haven took off to a few ProRodeos and won $10,000 on him,” Shelby said. “Punch was meant to be a calf horse. He’s so smart and trainable. Sometimes he’ll try to do too much…when he just needs to stay the course.”
Lil Punch’s Rodeo Success Unleashed:
• Snake River Stampede, Nampa, ID — $12,348
• Fiesta Days Rodeos, Spanish Fort, UT — $3,995
“From the first time Haven ever rode him, he told me Punch was special. So, we’ve had huge plans for him for so long, and that’s why it’s just been so emotional for us for him to succeed [at the NFR]. We tried to bring him along slowly, do it right and make sure that he was going to be great.” – Shelby (Boisjoli) Meged
Lil Punch’s NFR Debut: A Game-Changing Moment
As the 2023 NFR approached, Lil Punch continued to prove his mettle—allowing Haven to win Chris Neal’s Rising Stars roping in late November with low 7-second times.
But Haven was set on riding mainstay gelding “Smoke,” at the 2023 NFR, since he’d won just shy of $200,000 on him throughout the season.
“Haven was worried Punch was going to be tight on him, so he decided to ride Smoke at the NFR,” Shelby said. “We had a little bit of a disagreement, because I thought Punch was showing Haven he was ready.”
The pair went 8.8 seconds in Round 1—not terrible, but not what Haven was looking for. Six-year-old Lil Punch got the call.
“Punch was just perfect,” Shelby said of the rope horse whose rodeo potential was realized in her care. “He stepped up to the plate. I think that was a huge turning point in his career because now Haven’s going to treat him like a finished, seasoned horse.”
After Haven and Lil Punch’s Round 2 run of 7.4 seconds, where they finished No. 2 and earned $24,268, Shelby said she couldn’t hold the tears back.
“Seeing him shine at the NFR was really cool to see, because both of us have poured so much time into him,” Shelby said. “We have had so many talks about how special he is. We’ve also had talks where we’re like, ‘What do we do with him? He’s such a little shit.’ So, it’s really cool to see him finally mature and step up.”
Arena Record Smashed: Lil Punch and Haven’s 6.4-Second Triumph
Then in Round 4, Haven and Lil Punch broke the arena record with a 6.4-second run. The record was held by Cody Ohl, Shad Mayfield and Trevor Brazile at 6.5 seconds. It was Haven’s turn to cry.
“I think it was God’s plan for Haven to have Lil Punch,” Shelby said.
Though Haven fell short of catching PRCA world standings frontrunner and eventual world champion Riley Webb, he earned a total of $216,195 throughout the NFR and set a new average record—77.4 seconds on 10 head.
“I feel like as he matures, he could be one of the greatest calf horses to ever live.” – Haven Meged
Haven will be loading Lil Punch up for the slate of winter rodeos including the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo, Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo and RodeoHouston. He says Smoke will get the call on longer setups over the summer, but Lil Punch is expected to become a regular in his trailer.