The remarkable partnership between Quincy (Freeman) Eldridge’s Kiss Me Rosita and up-and-coming barrel horse trainer Kay Cochran has been serendipitous, but there’s a whole lot of back story to prove that the 2014 bay mare’s ability is no accident.
Sired by the Dash Ta Fame son Woodbridge and out of the Colonel Pic daughter Fairleas Montana Gal, the regally bred “Rosita” is a product of the favored bloodlines selected by Quincy’s mother, Sally Marvel-Freeman. While the matriarch of a family highly regarded in rodeo circles as cowboy-to-the-core rodeo royalty passed away in April 2020, before she left this world for the next Marvel Freeman passed along the ultimate gift to “her girls.”
“Kiss Me Rosita is out of my mom’s greatest horse, Fairleas Montana Gal. Fairleas Montana Gal is out of the Montana Doc mare Montana Minnie,” said Eldridge. “Mom called the mare ‘Wilma’ after my dad’s mom. Wilma was a cutter, and mom knew how great she was. I even showed Wilma in cutting in high school rodeo. When my mom decided to breed her, she bred for a barrel horse for ‘one of her girls,’ me or Billie (Holman), or Lily (Tillery).
It’s sometimes said that horses mirror the human soul. If such is the case, then Kiss Me Rosita is a shining example of the human who was responsible for breeding and subsequently training her. Stunningly beautiful with a heart and wit to match, anyone acquainted with Sally Marvel Freeman, aka “Mustang Sally,” knew an authentic western original, a competitive cowgirl and accomplished horsewoman with a style uniquely her own. The native Nevadan grew up on the Martin Ranch and The 25 Ranch immersed in rich ranching culture and the Catholic faith of her mother, Rosita Marvel.
“When mom named the mare ‘Rosita,’ there was a lot of pressure for her to live up to that name,” said Eldridge. “And here she is living up to it to be a superstar. Everybody knows this mare. She’s carrying on my mom’s dream and my nana’s name.”
Kiss Me Rosita is as gritty and talented as her namesake, which is working out exceedingly well for her current rider, up-and-coming California professional barrel racer Kay Cochran.
“Ironically, timing-wise my mom’s daughters and granddaughters are all in the midst of pursuing career and family goals right now,” said Eldridge. “If I was older or back in college, I’d say I would run her, if I could stay on her! The thing about my mom was that she was a competitor, no matter it what it was. She rode cutting horses at a high level, but her goal was to breed for a superstar barrel horse ‘for my girls,’ she said, and that’s what she did.”
Eldridge says Kiss Me Rosita was capably started by Blaine Ketscher in Squaw Valley, California, and benefitted from a lot of outside miles.
“Blaine cowboyed on her for about two years,” said Eldridge. “Mom put her on a cow, she loves a cow. My mom said she was tougher than nails, but she believed in her ability from the start.”
A Winning Partnership
When it came time for Kiss Me Rosita to get serious on the barrel pattern, the mare was put in training with Kelsey Hayden who started her on the pattern as a 5-year-old and took her to some futurities early on.
Kay Cochran, who was working for Hayden at the time, began running Kiss Me Rosita as a 6-year-old and the partnership has proven to be a fruitful one.
“Kay has awesome timing and the two of them together are just a dream team,” said Eldridge. “I think she’s placed at every single rodeo she’s been to except the one or two where she’s drug a barrel over.”
Cochran describes the mare’s style as quick as a cat but super responsive in a run and says the success she’s had with Kiss Me Rosita has blessed her exponentially.
“She’s a one-of-a-kind horse. She can bring tears to my eyes when I run her,” said Cochran. “Like Sally, the thing I’ve heard about her is that she would always help people, she would give someone a hand up. This mare has done that for me.”
Cochran added that while the mare is extremely fast footed, she’s savvy about ground and never gives up.
“She never sticks anywhere in the ground. She’s so quick and she commits so hard to a turn that you just can’t quit riding her, ever,” said Cochran. “And she’s so broke, she goes top speed and is still listening in a run, she’s very in tune and you can place her anywhere. So, with that, you have to be careful because you can’t make a mistake because she’s always listening.”
Beyond possessing the toughness and tenacity that it takes to make it on the rodeo road, Kiss Me Rosita has a stylish way of working that captivates her admirers.
“She has a presence about her, a swagger that other people notice and comment on,” said Cochran. “She’s about 15 hands tall with a long black mane. She’s very opinionated and sassy, but she’s the sweetest thing. She has one mare that she loves, that’s ‘her horse’ and that’s the horse she lives with.”
Cochran, who is a Rookie cardholder in the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association this year, teamed up with Kiss Me Rosita to fill her permit at the Lake Havasu Stampede Rodeo
in Arizona this past winter. The team cashed win checks from Lake Havasu in March, then at California rodeos in Stonyford and Redding in the spring before going home for a little break and for Kiss Me Rosita to undergo some reproductive work at a breeding farm. Following embryo work and a little conditioning time with Jody Reese, Kiss Me Rosita came back in August for Cochran to place at another California Circuit rodeo in Tehachapi.
“Prior to her success at those California rodeos, we had gone to Belle Fourche (South Dakota) and Mandan (North Dakota) and a few other big rodeos last summer when I was on my permit and she was green to the rodeos at that time, but she still ran really strong considering how tough it was out there,” said Cochran. “Then she got a break in the fall. She came back and was just out of placing in the average at Red Bluff and advanced at Clovis and Redding.”
Considering the robust start the young mare has had, Cochran and Eldridge agree that their goals for Kiss Me Rosita are to take a measured approach and to enter smart.
Cochran expressed her excitement at the prospect of attending events like RFD-TV’s The American qualifier in King City, California, and other lucrative races like those offered by the Xtreme Million and Royal Crown, with a trip to Texas in the winter not out of the question.
“Rosita is the first horse I’ve entered rodeos on that I felt I had a shot,” said Cochran. “Rosita gave me my shot.”
The first weekend in October, Rosita carried Cochran to the rodeo win in Industry, California, to earn $1,038 and rank among the top of the 2022 California Circuit standings.
And to prove she’s not a one-person pony, this fall Kiss Me Rosita also gave Shali Lord a ride after Lord experienced the heartbreak of Freckles Ta Fame (“Can Man”) sustaining an injury at the rodeo in in Filer, Idaho, at the end of August.
“She hopped on Rosita cold turkey and would have pulled a check on her but hit a barrel,” said Eldridge, adding that Lord had never made a run on the mare and only trotted her in a few circles prior to the rodeo.
Beyond campaigning Kiss Me Rosita at select events, the two-fold benefit of her being a mare and a standout equine athlete is not lost on Eldridge.
“We got Rosita flushed this year and will have a baby by The Goodbye Lane coming to keep my mom’s favorite bloodline alive,” said Eldridge. “It’s very special. This mare is special. Also, me and Dakota (Eldridge, Quincy’s husband and multiple NFR-qualifying steer wrestler) got to meet The Goodbye Lane when we were at Spanish Fork. He was nearby and we really didn’t know it but happened to get a call from Jodie Hale and ended up going out there to see him, which was pretty neat.”
Beyond exciting prospects to look forward to in the future, perhaps the most significant aspect of Kiss Me Rosita’s career is the unbreakable bond she reinforces between Eldridge and her mom.
“The week after my mom passed away Rosita set an arena record at a big race. Then a few weeks later she won second at DW Performance Horses Fiesta Race Derby in Porterville, California. First place won a saddle and second won a buckle.”
Turns out, it wasn’t just any buckle.
“The buckle opened up and had an inscription inside that just proved to us that the mare definitely won it for a reason,” Eldridge said.
The inscription inside the unique trophy buckle read:
“Those we love don’t go away
They walk beside us everyday
Unseen, unheard, but always near
Still loved, still missed and very dear.”
Kiss Me Rosita not only lives up to her beloved name, but keeps the heritage born by Sally Marvel Freeman alive and well, a blessing — literally from heaven above — to those who cherish her memory.