An equipment failure during a critical point of Tyree Swales's cow work didn't stop the Canadian teen from completing the World's Greatest Youth Horseman competition. • Photo by Primo Morales

One-Rein Wonder: Equipment Failure Can’t Stop 14-Year-Old Tyree Swales

When hurtling down the fence with a couple thousand pounds of livestock, the last thing a rider wants is for gear to fail. That’s exactly what happened with Tyree Swales and CD Shiner during the Mars Equestrian World’s Greatest Youth Horseman.

As Swales and CD Shiner, known as “Flex,” boxed their cow at the end of the arena, the clip attaching his left romal rein to the bridle opened and fell off during the final run on Saturday, Feb. 20, in Will Rogers Memorial Center. 

Just like that, Swales was down to one rein. The other dangled uselessly at his side, detached from the bridle by the faulty clip.

“I lost control of that cow and he took off. I was trying to steer Flex in there with that rein. When that rein broke, I knew right away. I thought, ‘Oh well.’ Because I knew I could adjust him, he’s a really good fence horse,” Swales said.

Swales and Flex promptly stopped their cow down the fence, and then chased it in a circle to reorient themselves before running the bovine down the arena fence the other way to perform the required stopping maneuver.

According to Swales, pulling up never crossed his mind. 

“Flex knew exactly what to do, so that was real helpful. I just tried to help him steer around as much as I could,” Swales. 

The duo ended the run with a score of 133.5, adding to their 572 composite. They finished in seventh place in the youth competition, good for $587.

For Swales’ father, trainer and 2020 World’s Greatest Horseman Champion John Swales, the decision to keep showing was a no-brainer. 

“I knew it would be a little difficult to steer [Flex] in the bridle, but I would hope he would keep going,” said the elder Swales, who was watching the run from the back gate. “That horse is pretty good down the fence.”

Perhaps its’ the chill of their Canadian residence that keeps both Swales and his father so cool under pressure. And the lengthy drive to Texas from the province of Alberta that makes them even more determined to finish a run.

For the 14-year-old youth, the trip to Texas was full of firsts. He had never competed in the World’s Greatest Youth Horseman competition and had never shown in the legendary Will Rogers Coliseum. 

“I was really excited about showing there. A little nervous after I made the finals, but Clay Volmer helped me a ton, explaining how the cows went down the fence. I just kept telling myself whatever happens, happens. Because it’s my first time showing in this,” Swales said.

Swales’ partner, Flex, is a 2006 gelding by Equi-Stat Elite $17 Million Sire CD Olena and out of Shining Spark mare Shiners Little Oak. Flex has shown successfully in both the reining and the reined cow horse, boasting lifetime earnings of $26,250. Swales and Flex have shown together for two years, and won more than $4,000. 

“I didn’t have a horse to show a few years ago. So, my dad talked to the owner Colleen Penner and asked me if I wanted to show him. I was really excited because I had seen him show and he was a really good horse. He is fairly grouchy but has a huge heart and anything you throw at him, he’ll try his best to get it done,” Swales said.

Now that Swales has gotten a taste of the Worlds Greatest Horseman competition, he says he can’t wait to come back next year.