The Spring 2016 Chrome cover wasn’t Doc Holidays Warrior’s first time in the spotlight.
By Blanche Schaefer
The stout black tobiano stallion has turned hundreds of steers on a dime, setting up team ropers for championship runs and countless trips to the pay window. But before he graced the cover of the Spring 2016 issue of Chrome, before his strong legs sprung from the roping box under pro-rodeo lights, Doc Holidays Warrior was just a stringy yearling.
Long-time Paint breeder and horseman Melvin Stipes saw something special in the spindly colt, however, and purchased him in 2001 as a long yearling. Back on Melvin’s ranch in Salina, Oklahoma, the young horse blossomed under Melvin’s attentive care. Melvin’s grandson Jesse started “Bunny” as a 2-year-old, and Jesse recalls how quickly Bunny learned new tasks and his kind, eager-to-please demeanor. Roy Shoop of Inola, Oklahoma, finished the flashy stallion’s training and primed Bunny for Melvin’s son Leon to begin training him as a heeling horse in 2004.
Bunny learned the ropes on the local rodeo scene. Leon and Bunny accumulated a pool of earnings from local jackpots before moving on to United States Team Roping Championships competition. At Bunny’s first USTRC event in 2005, Leon won two ropings, earning a cash purse along with a saddle and a position in the “Shoot-Out” division at the 2005 USTRC National Finals. Leon roped in the finals that fall with header Cale Markham, and the team placed in the #12 Shoot-Out Division. Their success at Bunny’s first national competition set the stage for the stallion’s illustrious professional team roping career.
As Bunny continued to mature into his once-awkward frame, the Stipeses turned the stallion’s talents to the other end of the steer. Jesse, a full-time header, took charge of Bunny’s training and tweaked him into a heading horse. Jesse seasoned Bunny over the next few years at local jackpots and used him as a practice horse before employing Bunny as his main mount for the 2008 International Professional Rodeo Association season.
Bunny proved himself a solid pro-rodeo mount, skilled enough to win in any situation and conquer ever-varying rodeo conditions. Bunny qualified Jesse for the 2008 International Finals Rodeo; the pair teamed up with Jesse’s younger brother, Casey, as heeler and placed in two of four go-rounds and the average. The team finished the 2008 season among the top-five IPRA money-earners, but remained hungry for a championship.
After a standout 2009 season, the Stipes brothers were sitting in the top three heading into the IFR that fall. The duo started off hot and never backed down, winning the first go-round and placing in the next three rounds. Jesse and Casey handily took the final round to win the average and claim the prestigious IPRA Team Roping World Championship with home-trained Bunny at the helm of the team.
The entire Stipes family rejoiced in the victory and still cherishes the memories made together that week in Oklahoma City. Since 2009, Bunny has won IPRA Heading Horse of the Year, American Cowboys Rodeo Association Heading Horse of the Year, and has competed successfully at the PRCA level with renowned team ropers including Nick Sartain, who was featured in the Spring 2016 issue of Chrome.
The talented, colorful stallion has come a long way since Melvin spotted the awkward colt. Bunny possesses many positive attributes, including his quietness in the box, ability to score and his huge heart. However, the Stipeses agree that Bunny’s most admirable trait is his ability to help each of his riders win. Many aspects of Bunny’s character can’t be trained, duplicated or even described, they say; the Stipes family is grateful for the many accolades he’s brought them and the legacy Bunny has yet to leave with the next generation of Stipes ropers.
Special thanks to the Stipes family for sharing Bunny’s story!