A definite fan favorite in professional heeling is Missouri native Billie Jack Saebens, who’s best-known for his hocking talents aboard flashy Dixon Flowers horses. Thus, when fans noticed him switch to heading the past few months – and even enter next week’s BFI Reno Open that way – they went ahead and told him they were upset about it.
Lucky for them, as of a couple of days ago, Saebens changed his mind. After all, he’s placed at the BFI about four times in just the past seven or eight years – as a heeler. And oh, the horses. He’s got the 6-year-old he rode at RFD-TV’s The American, plus the two black powerhouses – DT “Sugar” Chex Whiz (an AQHA Reserve Superhorse and tie-down roping world champ) and back-to-sound Domino Lena (“Kevin”), the former Heel Horse of the BFI that took Saebens to the 2016-17 NFRs.
“I’d always wanted to be a header,” he said. “Those really good head horses? Those guys who rope the horns really sharp? That’s cool.”
But then it came down to it. For the past several weeks he’s been heading for Derrick Jantzen at rodeos. But he couldn’t quite get the head horses lined up that he dreamed about. And he started really thinking about it.
“I’ve devoted so much of my life to heeling,” he admitted. “I have five of the better heel horses I’ve ever had. I was like, ‘I’m just going to sell those and start over?’ I got a taste of it and a chance to decide I’m not really willing to do that.”
Saebens lined up Jake Clay for the rodeos starting after the Fourth of July. And on Wednesday, it occurred to him that he flat doesn’t feel ready to head in Reno. The following day, a guy named J.D. Yates called Saebens when his own heeler wasn’t going to be able to make it to the BFI Reno Open.
“I feel like it was meant to be,” said Saebens, who shelved his head rope to go back to his heavy Powerline Lites. “I’m pretty excited about roping with J.D. out there. “We’ve roped here and there, and before I ever was rodeoing I used to go out to Pueblo and stay with him quite a bit.”
They have more in common: Yates rode Sugar to her AQHA world title back in the day. He and Saebens would like nothing more than to nab an actual BFI championship to go with all their Montana Silversmiths Horse of the BFI awards. Find out their fate in person June 21 or tune in to www.WranglerNetwork.com.
By: Julie Mankin