Remembering Loni Kay Yates’ “Boss”

A nightmare unfolded for Loni Kay (Lester) Yates during a circuit rodeo run in Texas this June that resulted in the death of her great breakaway horse, Boss Tin Lights.

“Boss,” was one of the most well-known breakaway horses in the rodeo community, beginning his career with Yates when she was high school rodeoing and leading her to a College National Finals Rodeo Championship in 2017, among countless other accolades at events like The American Rodeo, the Spicer Gripp and just about every jackpot or rodeo across the country in their 11 years together. Through the past decade, Boss has been a fixture in Yates’ life, through her marriage to world champion tie-down roper, Marty Yates.

Boss Tin Lights pedigree

In the spirit of allowing the Yates and Lester families space to grieve through their tragic loss while honoring an icon , BRJ decided to reach out to some of Yates’ close friends to let them tell readers just what it was like to know and love Boss.

Loni Kay and Boss en route to the 2017 CNFR Championship. Hubbell Rodeo Photos.

“Loni got boss when he was young. I remember her bringing him up slowly while she was riding her good horse, Biscuit. He had some huge shoes to fill following that horse. Watching him transition into another dream horse for Loni was really cool. They went through all the hiccups of seasoning together and grew to become a dominating team.
Boss was one of those super freak athletes. He could run, score, stop—he was the full package. In my opinion, that was consistently in the top five horses going at any level. He was incredibly solid. Loni and I have always joked that our CD Light babies just loved us so much, but hated everything else, especially other horses. You could tell him and Loni had a special relationship, they took care of each other. He put up with Loni’s silliness like a champ (if you know, you know).”

Tacy Kay Webb

“They just had it. He was her everything and she was his everything. Now, he would keep Loni on her toes—he’d still throw a few bucks with her in the practice pen. But when it came time to rodeo or jackpot, he always gave it her all. Even Marty rode him last summer at some rodeos and he worked great. I remember at Walla Walla, Boss got the rope under his leg and got in a bind. I thought Loni was going to have a heart attack. Marty loved him too and would never have wanted him to get hurt. That horse wasn’t a tool to Loni, she took unbelievable care of him and loved him as much as he loved her.
And he was the total package. I mean he would score really well, run hard to the calf and he would drag ass when she threw. He was one of the coolest stoppers ever. That horse was Loni’s pride and joy. We all have great horses that come along, but he was so special to her. This is heartwrenching for Loni and I have just been praying for her and trusting in God’s greater plan through all this. Loni has an amazing bond with all her animals, but what she and Boss had was truly impossible to put into words.”

JJ Hampton

“Loni and Boss were an incredible team, but even more than that — he was like her kid, her partner and her best friend all in one. Boss was more than just a great horse to her, and by the way she treated him, he knew exactly how much he meant to her. He brought her to great victories and through hard times. He helped her cultivate relationships that will last a lifetime. We’ll remember him for scoring like a rock, the big flashy stop, and how he made her feel. Everything about Boss made Loni’s heart happy, and I pray that the memories she, Marty and their family have of him will continue to do so always.”

Hailey Kinsel

“I think we all know without a doubt how special he was to her what a heart breaking loss it is. I would giggle sometimes during the summer Loni and I hauled together because she was always pampering him—icing his legs, putting a Centurion blanket on him, whatever it was. He always looked so annoyed, like he was thinking ‘Mom, please leave me alone.’ Needless to say, having him feel his very best at all times was very important to her.Even when she shifted her focus more to breakaway than barrels, Boss never moved down on her priority list. He was always her number one.
I just recently lost a really special mare to me, and for a moment I wished that I didn’t give them such a big piece of my heart for them to take when they go. But then I got to thinking, how special is it that we get to experience this bond with these incredible animals that most people will never get to experience in their entire life?”

Tierra Zapalac

“I don’t think people really understand the magnitude of what boss meant to Loni. I not only saw the love they had for each other, I felt it. I had the pleasure of being boss’s aunt and babysat him many times and witnessed their bond together. From the very beginning when she first bought him as a 4-year-old he was sort of an outlaw and would buck sometimes, but I think she knew deep down that he was special and she wasnt going to give up on him. Here we are, over 11 years later and he became one of the greatest breakaway horses out there. He was a very sweet, gentle, kind horse but he was also kind of a grump when he wanted to be and when he just wasn’t feeling it, he’d let you know.

One of the nights I was watching him, I was going to get his grain ready and I had my ‘Boss list,’ of all his supplements. I remember laughing, because I dumped them all in. At that time I was battling breast cancer and i yelled out to my now fiance, Ryan Thibodeaux ‘This horse gets better care than I do, and I have breast cancer!’ Another time I was babysitting Boss, I had to take him down to my parents’ house with me. I made a pit stop at a rodeo so I could rope on the way. I remember feeling like I was watching someone’s toddler who just learned how to walk, and if I took my eyes off him something was going to happen. So, I ponied him as I was warming up for the rodeo and i took him in the arena with me because I was too scared to leave him tied anywhere.

Ryan always teased Loni, telling her ‘He’s a horse, he’s not made of glass!’ and she would reply with her little giggle and say ‘But it’s Boss!’ I think she was just as special to him as he was to her. The way he would raise his head up and look over to her when she would talk and the look in his eyes when she would pet on him— it was just like you could feel the love he had for Loni. His demeanor would change when she was around. Boss meant a lot to me as well, not only was I in awe of his athleticism, but I loved him for being the perfect partner for my best friend. He was so talented, loyal and an honest partner to her. I will truly miss him and watching the two of them as a team! 

Jenna Caldarola

“I can’t even put into words what that horse meant to her. They had the most special relationship. Boss was so perfect for her. Loni is extremely outgoing and fun to be around, and Boss just went along and did whatever she wanted. One of my favorite pictures of him is when Loni put the roping gloves on his ears. I chuckled every time I see it. In college he had an ornery streak in him (still did years later, but not as often as back then). He loved his mares. There has been so many laughs about that horse over the years.
One thing for certain is those two loved each other. He seriously had the personality of a person. He had been with Loni through everything. High school, college, heartbreaks, wins, loses, everything. He gave her some of the most incredible memories and opportunities. Everyone that met him loved him. I always loved to hear Loni talk to and about him. She’d just light up. I still wish it were all a dream for her because of how much he meant to her. I wish we understood God’s plan and knew why he had to leave so soon. He was part of her family.

Katie Jo Halbert
Boss with his roping gloves on his ears
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