Madonna. Garth. Beyonce. Superstars only need one name.
It was like that in the cutting pen for one horse’s fans, because even though the draw sheet said Woody Be Lucky, the gelding was known to the masses more by his nickname — “Freak.”
The strapping sorrel Quarter Horse — his longtime rider Dan Hansen said the horse he owned with his wife, Karen, towered to 15.2 hands, the stratosphere for a cutting horse — cut for an incredible 12 years, retiring as one of the sport’s all-time leading earners with an Equi-Stat record of $705,740.
He left this world in February with his name still in the record books. Freak was humanely euthanized at age 20 in Arizona on Feb. 16 due to complications from Cushing’s disease. He was buried on the Hansens’ property in the Phoenix area.
“For me, it’s a one-of-a-kind [horse],” Hansen said. “His barn name was Freak, and he was truly a freak of nature.”
A member of the National Cutting Horse Association (NCHA) Horse Hall of Fame, Freak joined forces with Hansen for two NCHA Non-Pro World Championship runs. Born in 2000, the horse was a son of the late Equi-Stat Elite $6 Million Sire Nitas Wood and out of Playboys Ladyluck (by Freckles Playboy).
Bred by Craig and Janet Crumpler of Wichita Falls, Texas, the horse known then only as Woody Be Lucky was shipped off as a youngster to be a ranch gelding, but he was sent back to the Crumplers because the rancher felt the horse had talent and deserved a shot at cutting.
He took that shot, and lived up to his new nickname.
“He earned the name Freak, because for that big of a horse to get as small as he could get in front of a cow was pretty freakish,” Hansen said. “It was, you know, [a] not-supposed-to-happen kind of thing.”
Freak had a personality befitting of his large size. He was quirky, Hansen said, once eating a bowl of peach cobbler and ice cream given to his rider by the show committee in Houston. He also was a lifelong bucker.
“I think he truly could’ve had a career as a bucking horse,” said Hansen, noting the horse would still find the energy try to buck him off even at the tail-end of a multi-day show. “He would buck until the final time I rode him. I’d just ride him to kind of keep him legged up a little bit and exercised, and he’d try to buck you off.”
World Series Star
The horse was incredibly consistent in the show pen over the years, and nothing exemplified that better than the path he and Hansen blazed through the former Mercuria/NCHA World Series of Cutting. They won at least six championships in the now-defunct series, were reserve champions twice and frequently pulled big checks in the finals.
“He always gave you everything he had, and he earned the $700,000 the hard way,” said Hansen, who also won the NCHA World Finals Show Championship two times with Freak. “A lot of smaller checks, but he was always at the pay window it seemed like.”
It was only fitting that Freak, at age 15, scored his last big wins at back-to-back stops in the World Series of Cutting. He and Dan won at the San Antonio Stock Show and then, about two weeks later, won the series leg at the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo. An injury at Houston ended his show career but didn’t take away from his performance that night.
“It was a really hard run in Houston in the finals,” Hansen recalled. “We drew last in the finals, and I got a really tough cow that he worked as hard as he ever worked in his life for me.”
As of his death, Woody Be Lucky ranked No. 7 on the list of Equi-Stat Lifetime Cutting Horses, coming in between three-time NCHA Open World Champion Meradas Little Sue ($730,552) and the venerable Gun Smokes Wimpy ($682,474), a 1984 gelding who partnered with Debbie Patterson for two NCHA Non-Pro World Championship campaigns.
His $565,900 in Non-Pro earnings ($449,812 with Hansen and $116,088 with Karen Hansen) ranks him as the third-winningest non-pro horse of all time, behind only Gun Smokes Wimpy’s $637,139 and Red White And Boon’s $580,016 in divisional earnings.
For Hansen, the cutting community’s response to news of Freak’s death spoke volumes about his place in the sport’s history.
“I’ve had such an overwhelming response, both Karen and I, just an outpouring from the whole NCHA community,” he said, clearly touched. “It’s just a real testament to the horse he was and what people thought of him.”
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