Verily Six Bugs — The Horse of the Summer in East-Coast Rodeo

Laura Lee Thomas made her mark on rodeo long before she was paired with Verily Six Bugs, but it’s been “Tanner” that’s reminded people that Thomas is a training force to be reckoned with.

What about Tanner sets him apart?

He’s extremely fast but has lots of natural rate; a great combination of what every barrel racer dreams of!  I think that is what helps make him do so well.  He’s very consistent and LOVES running barrels.  Honestly he likes the poles just as much or more…I’m not so fond of pole bending; besides there’s no money in it where I live so we don’t run poles much anymore.  I have run quite a few 20.0’s on him when we have competed.

As a stud, have you ever had to worry about him acting up?

I was nervous when Rita Gambino of Outlaw Acres first contacted me about taking Tanner.  I thought it won’t be so bad but then she said she wanted someone to show him too.  My family had different stallions over the years which I handled and showed.  My mom had her own brood mares and always had a stallion to use of our own.  At one point we had 4 or 5 at the same time, most of which were young.  Honestly stallions can be a REAL pain!  I figured I’d take him and get him started and see what he’d become before I worried about showing him.  Well he was sure too nice to leave home!

I told Rita that I’d prefer to show him one season before she used him for breeding.  I wanted him to know what his job was in the arena.  I also wanted him to have manners away from home before he bred mares.  My idea seemed to work pretty well, however I’m still a firm believer that good stallions aren’t made (by us) they are born that way, we can help form them a little but that’s it.

During Tanner’s first breeding season we hauled him to shows and rodeos.  He was pretty well behaved for the most part.  He can get cocky in the spring but usually by June he’s all barrel racing business.  He usually runs very well during breeding season too.  We still continued to haul him during breeding season, except for the 2008 season when he was injured anyway and a good part of 2009 while he was in Kentucky standing for the Breeder’s Incentive Fund.

Most people don’t even know Tanner is a stallion.  I haul friends whenever I can and Tanner behaves well, in fact, I’ve hauled with Teresa Quay and her stallion before and they both behave well.  We even have hauled him with mares.  I tie him to the trailer next to one of my geldings and he is just one of the boys.

What’s Tanner’s style… pocket, straight at it, etc.?

Tanner likes a wider pocket to the 1st than what Three used to like.  This can get us into trouble on the race track type pens I run at in Ohio and Indiana some, especially if the gate is narrow too.  On the 2nd and 3rd I just run him to a pocket about 3 feet from the side of the barrel and he just sweeps around them nicely.

What’s Tanner’s cue to turn?

I mostly just stop kicking and sit while dropping my outside hand.  He doesn’t need a lot of help by me pulling on the reins.  He naturally wants to rate and turn!  I use a lot of leg and body language that works well for him.  I find this style of horse easiest for me to ride and most of my really good ones end up running a lot like this, however each horse is a bit different.

How hard do you have to push him?

I can push him pretty much as hard as I want to.  He really likes the bigger pens since he likes to run so much.

What kind of ground does Tanner like?

I feel like I keep bragging on this horse but honestly he runs on most anything!  He handles the ground well almost always but would probably like it best when it’s only about 6” deep and soft.  He does really take to rodeo in the fact that he can handle most pens and runs almost as good if he doesn’t even get to go in the arena.

Talk about Tanner’s training. How was he to break, and how fast did he come along?

I got him in the fall (about November) of his 3-year-old year. Someone that worked for Rita had him riding.  I don’t have an indoor but DO ride outdoors in PA (yes it’s true); we have really nice ground.  I also can haul most anytime I want to my mom’s which is about 6 miles away to her indoor.   By April I took Tanner to a QH show in NJ and he ended up doing super well!  If I remember right we got 3rd the first day and won it the 2nd day! (QH only places 1D)  I had hauled him a couple of times prior for some seasoning and to see how he’d do around other horses, manners wise.  This was the year he earned the AQHA High Point Stallion Award in just 3 shows!  NJ was getting a lot of entries at the time and Tanner had to run against the Senior horses because they always put them together.  They had some tough competitors at the time too!

How do you exercise/school a finished horse like Tanner? Does he need tuning?

I mostly exercise Tanner out in the field and any other finished horse like him.  I don’t ride them in the arena much.  He really doesn’t get tuned and neither did Three.  They both were pretty much a done deal.  I think two times this year Tanner went around barrels at home.  In the summer if you rodeo much they don’t need ridden a lot at home either, depending on how much you’re gone.

Check out this video of Tanner in 2007.

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