Reliance Second Career Horses

Evolving the Reliance Ranches horse operation from a strictly racing program to include performance horses was a natural step for owner Gary McKinney.

"Gary was a team roper first," said Bobby Mote, who heads the Ranch's Second Career Program. "He bought his first racehorse and, like everything he does, he went first class with it."

The very successful Reliance Ranches race program is based out of the Lazy E Ranch in Guthrie, Oklahoma and raises about 35 to 40 foals a year; the move to expand it is based on a basic love and connection with the horses.

"They found they had horses they were never going to sell, like Rock You," Mote said of the 2011 gelding by Foose who earned nearly $800,000 on the track. "He was near and dear to everyone."

Whether they'd never raced or were finished with their careers, McKinney wanted more for the horses in his program and Mote was hired on in 2017.

Though used to performance horses, particularly cutters, Mote found the race bred horses a little different but soon implemented some of his cutting training into the program. Rock You became one of the early success stories along with Feature Hero.

Today, Reliance Ranches is churning out performance horses and has enrolled five of their stallions in the Riata Buckle incentive program for rope horses: Big Lew, Coronado Cartel, Bucks Hancock Dude, Zan Parr Jack (possibly), and Hez Our Secret.

"The theory is that these horses were too good not to have a second chance at doing something really well," Mote said. Over the past few years, the Ranch has started to make some adjustments with their breeding program too.

"We've identified things we like in the genetics and things to improve on and changed up the breeding program some," he said. The purchase of Bucks Hancock Dude, a known performance stallion, was one of those moves.

They've also purchased some performance-bred fillies to eventually cross with their race studs.

Both Big Lew and Coronado Cartel are by Corona Cartel, the AQHA's No. 2 all-time leading sire. Though bred with an eye more for the track, both stallions are part of the Riata Buckle and Mote expects good things for the progeny in the arena.

"Big Lew's first crop hit the track in 2021 so they're not old enough yet," Mote said. "He was an amazing individual, just the picture of a horse that could do it all. I got to watch his last race and the pony horse was jigging more than he was."

Similarly, Coronado Cartel also just has progeny getting old enough to compete.

"The genetics certainly suggest they will have success," he said. "It seems like they mature early—most two year olds have such a short attention span but these colts are really focused."

Though the price associated with breeding to Corona Cartel has limited the number of progeny competing in rodeo, Reliance has had one, a gelding named Flinty who came through their program and eventually found his way to Clay Smith's trailer by way of Trevor Brazile. Smith will use the gelding when he competes at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (NFR) in December.

In addition, while waiting for Big Lew and Coronado Cartel's progeny to hit the arena, Reliance is adding more Corona Cartel on the dam side of their playbook.

"Gary's theory, and I think the results back it up, is he knows what crosses on the Corona Cartel fillies and that mare power can really make the difference," Mote said.

"Just like they didn't start the racing program by paying top dollar to buy horses, they bought fillies and proved them out and then bred them to get their program established, that's the thinking here too."

The Second Career Program is based out of Llano, Texas, where Mote now splits time in the saddle with wife, Kate and daughter, Laura. The ladies focus on barrel racing while Mote trains for roping.

The Second Career Program has had its share of success stories already. Along with Rock You, Feature Hero and Flinty, Jubilant Version and Reb Hot Redbull have carried their jockeys to many wins. The latter took Laura to a win at The American Semi-Finals in the barrels. Jubilant Version raced for Reliance, trained to rope under Mote and ended up with Clint Summers via Brazile. Summers rode JV all the way to the 2021 Wrangler NFR.

Whatever He Wants has won money with Mote at the Royal Crown futurity as a rope horse and has barrel racing earnings as well with Laura.

Mote usually has about 15-20 in training at any one time and, though shoulder surgery may prevent him from competing at the Riata Buckle event in November, the plan is to be there in the future.

"We're gearing up and should be there every year after this," Mote said. The Riata Buckle appeals to Reliance due to its commitment to improve the quality of the horses and the potential to increase horses' values overall.

"I like the idea of competing for money that represents all the horses in the program, and it gives a target date for each horse; we know we have to be ready by November."

Although they're working to build the competitive side, the end goal is not to compete on everything they breed.

"We don't go to the track with all 35 race colts every year. We sell solid racing prospects, and we also sell some very good, sound performance horses that we expect to do well. This policy continues to enhance our breeding programs. The breeding programs will be successful if buyers have the confidence they can buy well bred healthy horses from us that have the opportunity to be great performers. We will continue to make Reliance the brand you can rely on."