2023 Heel Horse of the Year Kadabra King

2023 Heel Horse of the Year Kadabra King

Patrick Smith rides “Turbo” back to rodeo’s center stage. 

Patrick Smith and Kadabra King heeling a steer.

text size

The American Quarter Horse Journal logo

By Lane Karney for The American Quarter Horse Journal 

At 43, two-time Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association world champion team roper Patrick Smith is kind of a comeback kid riding a second career wave right now. After a seven-year absence at the Super Bowl of Rodeo, he’s about to rope at his second-straight Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. Patrick’s rodeo resurgence has everything to do with his young-gun header, Tanner Tomlinson, and Patrick’s heel horse, Kadabra King. And by a vote of Patrick’s cowboy peers, “Turbo” was just named the 2023 Nutrena Heel Horse of the Year, presented by AQHA, for the second-straight season.

Patrick and his wife, Christi, proudly co-own the 2010 dun gelding who is by Abrakadabracre and out of Quixote Jessie by Holidoc. Turbo was bred by Wayne and Carolann Hodges of Weatherford, Texas. But Patrick smiles when he speaks of the journey that started with a broncy 4-year-old and led to back-to-back horse-of-the-year honors. 

“Turbo was an outlaw. He wasn’t terrible to be around but wanted to buck every single time you saddled him. I sent him to my good friend Ben Gambrell, who just spent the first six months only roping the machine, going really slow. After that, he just spent six months roping only slow cattle,” says Patrick, who is roping at his 14th NFR. “After that, he was really good when he was good, but looked at every piece of trash and Ferris wheel there was. When he was 9, Turbo really came into his own. That’s when he went from being really good but inconsistent to being spot-on every time.”

It's no secret that there is a strong correlation between the best ropers and the best horses, and Patrick aboard Turbo is Exhibit A.

“I’ve always said my great years were tied to great horses. The older I get, the more I realize the importance of great horses. Having Turbo and a great header in Tanner is like having ‘Jaws’ (upon whom Patrick won the 2003 NFR average with Matt Tyler and his first gold buckle in 2005 with Clay Tryan) with Clay, and ‘Amigo’ (registered as Sunday Night Bingo, who tied with Randon Adams’ great horse Baileys Copper Doc for heel horse of the year in 2007, and carried Patrick to his second world championship in 2010 with Trevor Brazile). Great horses let us go to the next level,” says Patrick, who rode Turbo to a new NFR average record behind Tanner in 2022. “Glory to God for the great horses. I’ve had some really good ones but am fortunate to have had some great ones, and Turbo definitely fits in that category.”

Patrick’s peers clearly agree that Turbo fits into that category, since the horse of the year awards in the timed events are voted on by the top 25 in the world standings. 

“I want to say thank you to all the other ropers that voted for him. I truly believe Turbo’s one of the best horses I’ve ever ridden, and it’s special to win it back-to-back. There are some really special horses out there, but not one that went to 70 out of the 75 rodeos we went to and all the jackpots. Turbo’s a warrior and I think that’s what it takes to win this title,” Patrick says. “I would vote for Turbo whether he was mine or not. He’s an exceptional heel horse, and such a blessing to me and my family.”

Hunter Koch’s Two Socks Chic Cody, or “Garfield,” was voted this year’s reserve heel horse of the year. Paul Eaves’ Apolo Oak, aka “Apollo,” and Logan Medlin’s TRR Freckles Holidoc, or “Cantina,” tied for third in the voting.