Liz Hirdes was consistent throughout both qualifying rounds of competition at the 2022 Women’s Rodeo World Championship, winning third in the first round with a 2.64-second run and punching her ticket to the Semifinals through her top-eight aggregate finish after a 3.13-second run in the second round of competition.
And she did it on a sorrel gelding that may look familiar to team roping futurity fans. The horse’s name is Walkin The Dog, by War Bird Dog and out of War Peppys Love by Peppys Buckshot Bob. And he has been a perennial rope horse futurity contender in both the heading and heeling for the last two years under California futurity sensation Andy Holcomb.
So, how can Walkin The Dog be a force in three different roping events?
“I don’t know how to explain it,” Hirdes said. “He just wants to be such a good horse. He’s probably one of the hardest horses I’ve ever had to figure out how to ride—he just has so many buttons. He’s 110% all the time [and] has so much feel and is so smart with cattle. He wants to be a winner”.
When Quentin Hall sent Walkin’ The Dog to Andy Holcomb, Liz Hirdes was immediately intrigued by the sorrel gelding.
“I was over there one day, just roping. They were riding that horse and I was like, ‘Hey guys, what’s that one? That’s kind of what I’ve been looking for,’” Hirdes said. “I came back the next day and ran some on him, got him vetted and bought him.”
Holcomb began taking the now 7-year-old “Louie,” to futurities at the end of his 5-year-old year, and he placed in two rounds of the American Rope Horse Futurity Association’s World Championships that first year. In 2021, he won the Arizona Sun Circuit against the best horses in he business in the heading, and he and Holcomb followed that up with a win at the Royal Crown’s Open Futurity in Rock Springs, Wyoming. Holcomb showed him in the heading in Fort Worth in 2021 to win eighth in a tough short round with a leg, while Jade Corkill showed him in the heeling.
Hirdes would rope on the horse in the breakaway throughout the year, only bringing him to Holcomb two weeks before each show to get him ready. For Holcomb, breakaway has been the perfect complement to help the gelding’s heading career.
“He’s a really good breakaway horse and that has helped with the heading, too. He’s physical but not that big. He probably could have ended up body sore or learned not to like it as much,” Holcomb said.
Hirdes noted that her main goal has been to put the gelding needs at the forefront when making plans for his career. He is currently her main breakaway horse, and said that she isn’t tempted to pick up a head rope at events like the WRWC because she knows it wouldn’t be ideal for Louie.
As for Louie’s heeling career, Herdes has backed him off to help the gelding dial in for the breakaway.
“We don’t heel on him anymore because of how much I’m using him in the breakaway. If I had to fault him anywhere, it would be getting him to break to the pin a little harder. He’s on the cowier side and, when we heeled on him, he had to break wide. We try to stay away from the heeling just to get him tuned up in the breakaway,” Hirdes said.
While Hirdes was walking around the Historic Fort Worth Stockyards in between WRWC competition rounds, she took a moment to comment on the exciting journey she has had with the Holcomb, Louie and the sport of breakaway roping.
“I just think it’s fun that I learned how to rope from Andy and his wife, Fallon. Here we are, 16 years later. Between my husband and myself, we have bought three or four horses from Andy’s program, so just to have that come full circle and have Louie be a part of it—that’s pretty cool. Andy’s one of my best friends, so to see him get to win at the futurities and be a part of it—it’s extra special.”