Variable ground conditions and long trailer rides have cut many a ProRodeo barrel racing horse’s career short, but gritty campaigners like Nicole Yost’s Red Hot Peso just keep rolling.
“I wish I could afford to clone him,” said his owner and rider for nearly 16 years, Nicole Yost.
Peso, a breeding stock Paint gelding, was bred in Florida by Linda Capozzoli, who owned his sire Red Hot Pursuit, a son of the legendary On The Money Red, out of the Paint mare Indian Passion, by Indians Image.
Yost first crossed paths with the now 21-year-old gelding when he was a 5-year-old in the barn of barrel horse trainer Michelle Hicks.
“I had bought another horse off of her and was having trouble,” Yost recalled. “I saw him, and she said, ‘Go ahead and run him and see what you think.’ I ran him and placed on him at the jackpot and fell in love with him.”
Their success was hit and miss for several years, thanks to an occasional first barrel issue.
“Sometimes I wanted to sell him and just give up,” Yost said. “But then, when he was 8 years old, everything started clicking.”
Yost, a New England native who was residing in Texas at the time, asked multiple National Finals Rodeo qualifier Molly Powell where she should go to fill her WPRA permit.
“She said, ‘Not in Texas,’” Yost recalled with a chuckle. “That was when the PRCA had the barrels, so I stayed in Texas. That didn’t work out very well. The next year I went back home (to the Northeast) for two weeks, thinking that I was going to stay there for the summer and fill it. He won all three of the rodeos I went to up there, so I got to come back early.”
After filling her permit, Peso carried Yost to rodeo checks from coast to coast. He won $10,000 on his first foray into California for the spring run, he made the short round at the Greeley Stampede and traversed the beaches of Cheyenne, Wyoming, at the Frontier Days.
During this time, Yost moved from Texas, back to the Northeast and currently resides in Citra, Florida. Peso was a winner everywhere. He carried Yost to First Frontier Circuit Championships in 2013 and 2015. At the 2014 Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeo in Guthrie, Oklahoma, Yost and Peso just missed making the Top 4 after tipping a barrel in the Round of 8.
Peso also won for others. In 2016, he won money for Yost’s friend Ashley Kilgus at the famed Cowtown Rodeo in New Jersey to help her qualify for the First Frontier Circuit Finals, and he carried Yost to her first Southeastern Circuit Finals. He even made a few runs at RodeoHouston with NFR qualifier, Sheena Robbins.
“It seemed like every time the stage was set really big, he came through for me,” Yost said. “He could do good anywhere. He could do small pens; he could do big pens. He loved performances. I think he really enjoyed the loud music and hype of the crowd.”
Although she had offers to sell the gelding, Yost just couldn’t part with him.
“My husband, Justin, thought I was crazy,” she said. “I just couldn’t. At that point, he was family. I told him he’s probably the only horse that will die on our property. He doesn’t owe me anything.”
Yost said the secret to Peso’s longevity was his strong conformation, a good maintenance schedule and the willingness on her part to turnout when it was in his best interests.
“He’s built pretty darn decent,” she said. “I kept him injected when he needed it. Mainly, I just picked and chose where I ran him. If I saw that the ground wasn’t great and it wasn’t worth it, I just didn’t run him. I’d walk up to the judge and turn out.”
In 2023, he placed at several rodeos including Arcadia, Florida, which he also won back in 2015.
“I wish everyone could have a million-dollar horse like him,” said Yost. “He’s ‘The Man,’ in my eyes.”
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