The Golden Celebrity: Wonders Guy Keeps Winning at 22

"He's a kid-toting son of a buck." — Sabra O'Quinn
Wonders Guy barrel horse
Hadley Hernon, now 15, was Wonders Guy's middle child. Here the 20-year-old gelding is placing at the 2022 Elite Youth Extravaganza. | Courtesy Salyer Family

Every horse deserves to be loved by a little girl is often a sentimental saying, but for Wonders Guy, it’s the absolute truth. The gelding, better known as “Bentley,” is a south Texas youth rodeo sensation that is currently enjoying the love of his third little girl.

“That makes my heart so happy!” said Bentley’s trainer Sabra O’Quinn, a multiple Southeastern Circuit Champion. “He’s a kid-toting son of buck! Just point him in the vicinity of the right direction! He’s just the bomb!”

Baylee Burleson, now 20, was Wonders Guy’s first youth rider. They placed at the Josey Jr World Champion Barrel Race twice, making the Top 10 in the 1D in 2017 and placing in the 2D in 2019. | Courtesy Baylee Burleson

Sabra trained Bentley in Florida for his breeder Se’Belle Dymmek, who also bred AQHA/WPRA Horse of the Year Wonders Cowboy Dan and many other open, youth and pro rodeo winners. His sire is the legendary Frenchmans Guy, and his dam was the Dymmek-bred mare Wonders Jotoe Belle, by Wonder Otoe out of a daughter of WPRA World Champion Sire Joak.

As a 4-year-old, Bentley caught the eye of world champion barrel racer Brittany Tonozzi after placing at the Old Fort Days Futurity

“Brittany was the one who started calling him Bentley,” Sabra explained. “We just called him Guy and Brittany thought he was too fancy for the name Guy, so she started calling him Bentley.”

While under Tonozzi’s ownership, Bentley won the 2006 5-State Breeders Futurity with Sabra in the saddle. Tonozzi took over his reins as a 5-year-old and placed at a few derbies before she decided to sell the gelding. 

Wonders Guy

Sabra found Bentley his next home with Piper Underbrink before she got him back to sell again. In the meantime, Sabra and Bentley won ProRodeo checks at Davie and Arcadia, Florida, as well as Rodeo Houston before he sold to Brenna Byler—now Smidt, wife of World Champion Calf Roper Caleb Smidt.

Bentley had been turned out for a couple of years before being sold to Scott and Heather Burleson for their daughter Baylee. They stumbled across Bentley while looking at other horses in Stephenville, Texas.

“We tried a different horse, and he did not pass the vet check,” Heather explained. “Baylee was devastated and bawling, so we went over to Alicia (Bird’s) and tried two or three she had there.”

Scott was actually who picked Bentley, noted Baylee.

“My dad kept asking about the yellow horse tied to the fence,” Baylee explained. “He was covered in mud and had hair two inches long. They finally said, ‘We’re legging him up. You can try him if you want to.’”

It did not go well at all.

“He was an idiot when Baylee rode him,” her mother recalled. “She was not sure about him at all. She ran him at Glen Rose and hit two barrels. I told Alicia I needed to go home and think about it because that was a lot of money for my 12-year-old kid.”

They made it 30 minutes down the road to Hico, Texas, when Scott told Heather to buy the horse.

“Scott said, ‘Forget it. Just call her back and tell her we’ll take the horse!”

Within two months, Baylee and Bentley were a team to be reckoned with.

“He was as solid as could be,” said Baylee. “It just took us a little to figure him out. To this day, he’s a wild man at home, so we did a lot of ponying and swimming with him. He’s one of those that will go until he’s 40. He’s got that much energy.”

At a rodeo, Bentley is completely opposite.

“The biggest thing he taught me was to have patience,” laughed Baylee, now a 20-year-old student at Sam Houston State University. “For the longest time I wasn’t a fan of his because he was a wild man at home. When you got to a rodeo, he was calm, and he knew his job. You could run him backwards with your eyes closed and he was going to make the same run every time!”

They set arena records, ran in the Top 10 at the Josey Jr World Barrel Race, placed at the Jr Patriot, qualified for the Jr NFR in Las Vegas, won their region in both junior high and high school and so much more.

When Baylee was a junior in high school, Bentley was sold to Clegg and Shannon Herndon for their daughter Hadley.

The longtime friends lived just down the road—the Burlesons in Hempstead, Texas, and the Herndons in Waller—and ran in the same youth rodeo circle.

“I begged Heather to sell him to us because we needed a step-up horse,” said Shannon. “We tried several horses and were tired of trying them and not finding the unicorn you want for your kid. Nothing was consistent as good ole’ Bentley. Finally I wore her down and she agreed!”

Hadley was 12 turning 13 when she got Bentley, whom she knew well before she ever called him her own.

“When they first bought Bentley, Baylee entered The Patriot and I went with them to watch,” recalled Hadley. “When I was in the third grade, my horse got hurt and they let me run Bentley.”

Bentley showed Hadley the same success as he did Baylee. Along with numerous youth rodeo wins, they nearly qualified for the National Jr High Finals Rodeo and qualified for youth rodeos held in Las Vegas during the National Finals Rodeo.

“He was just such a cool horse,” said Hadley, now a high school freshman. “He had such a cool personality and was fun to be around.”

But Bentley was still a pickle at home.

“At home, he’s so excited, but at the rodeo, he’s perfectly fine!” she laughed “He just lopes around. It’s funny.”

At the Vegas Tuff Jr Rodeo in 2022, Dean Salyer whose daughter Daniella competed in the youngest division at the same youth rodeos as Hadley jokingly asked her when she would be ready to sell him Bentley.

“She was like, ‘Well, I don’t know,’” said Dean, who lives a couple of hours west in New Berlin, Texas. “I told Clegg just let us know when she’s ready. Clegg said, ‘You know. I’ll dang sure let you know because it might be sooner than you think.’ I really didn’t know anything about Bentley. I just knew Hadley had a lot of luck with him.”

Not too much later, Dean got the call— “Clegg said, ‘I think Hadley really wants Daniella to have Bentley’. I said, ‘Are you serious!’” 

Hadley said it was hard to make the decision to sell Bentley.

Daniella and Bentley recently won the 3D Big Spender at the Dinosaur Classic for $2339.

“But it was easy too because Dean and Daniella are such good people,” she said. “I knew he would have a good home.”

Dean said Daniella, 10, was a little imitated at first by Bentley but the horse has really put the competitive fire in his daughter.

“Daniella was a little scared the first couple of times she rode him but after a handful of runs she realized he wasn’t going to hurt her,” he said. “She realized, ‘I can trust him, and I just got to ride him.’ Then she went to winning.”

Bentley is one of three horses in Daniella’s string of old campaigners that she rotates through to keep their mileage down to increase their longevity.

“I’ll be down in the alley with her just holding the rein to keep him from spinning around, and he’s the only one that she’s like, ‘Ok, daddy, let go! Let me go!’”

Since Bentley has remained in the same youth rodeo circle, all of his previous junior riders have kept up with the gelding.

“He loves little kids that stay out of this way and let him do his thing!” said Baylee “He’ll work his butt off for them forever! It’s awesome to see a horse that was futuritied and ran his whole life, still going and winning the 1D at 22. That’s just so rare. I don’t ever think he’ll calm down enough to be a leadline horse for a little-little, but right now, he’s in his golden spot with Daniella.”

Sabra has enjoyed following his career from family to family, and she said she’d gladly take him back to care for him in his retirement if that ever happens. Unfortunately for her, the line for that job ahead of her is three families deep.