Benjamin Might…and Benjamin Might Not
How one horse touched and changed the lives of three different individuals and colored each of their worlds.
By Bonnie Wheatley
On April 9, 2009, I received word from Jack Reddick, who bred and raised Benjamin Might, that the horse had been humanely euthanized. Jack had won the Indiana and the Tri State Futurities in 1982 with “Benny” before the gelding was sold to Janet Stover, with whom he earned fame as a National Finals Rodeo qualifying mount. This is Benjamin Might’s story, as told by Jack Reddick, Janet Stover and Laura Spencer—the three people who knew him best during the course of his lengthy and infamous life.
Benjamin Might was by Double Devil out of a daughter of Bar Money, who also produced another top barrel horse, ES Curve by Joe Tee. His second dam was a full sister to Otoe. His third dam was Juleo, a full sister to Flit.
Janet Stover and Benjamin Might at the National Finals Rodeo. (Kenneth Springer)
Benny was always was a tough guy from day one. When he was a colt, I would come home, clean his stall and turn him out in the pasture. There was a post out there, and he would run out and turn it. He did it every night until he wore a groove into the ground.
When Benny was a 2 year old, I had a friend out in the pasture mowing the grass with his tractor. When he went to lunch, he left the tractor out there. I turned Benny out, and he walked out there, walked around the tractor and kicked the headlight out like he was going to show it who’s boss.
He was a barrel horse from day one. When I broke him, the first time I ever rode him, he could take his leads both ways, stop and back up. The first time I ever showed him barrels, he knew exactly what to do.
His first barrel race was in my hometown of Slippery Rock, Pa. I was running an aged horse. It was a barrel race where all the good horses in the area showed up, and there were 70 entered. I hauled Benny with the intention of just practicing. The horse I brought to run knocked over a barrel. I had all my friends there watching me, so I went back to the trailer and saddled up Benny. I said, “Benny, I’m sending you,” because I was upset that I’d hit a barrel and decided to run him. The first time I ever ran him, he won second by one hundredth of a second.
After that, he won many open barrel races as a 3 year old. I never ran futurities before, so since I’d entered him already, it made us ineligible to compete at most futurities. The Tri State and Indiana futurities were the only ones I could run him at. He ended up winning them both. He was a once-in-a-lifetime horse. If I ever have another one like him, I won’t let it go.
In the early ‘80s, I was competing at the barrel futurities. In Denton, Texas, I was sitting in the stands behind John Read Foster and Bob Hamilton. They were talking about a horse at the Indiana Futurity. They commented how they had never seen a horse cross to the second barrel as hard as this one.
I had always wanted a horse capable of winning first, so I looked up the results from the Indiana Futurity and Jack Reddick from Slippery Rock, Pa., owned Benjamin Might. I called and was informed that Benny had “ducked off” at the Congress, and Jack said he would sell him.
I had won an airline ticket earlier in the season, so I used it and convinced Bob Hamilton to take me over to Jack’s house. They cross-tied Benny in a stock trailer, and we headed to the arena. I rode him, and how he worked would’ve taken your breath away. He felt like a runaway, and when he ran home, the thought of slowing down wasn’t on his mind.
I had sold my colts, so I bought him.
John Read Foster hauled him to Josey’s, and I went to pick him up. He had kicked the back end of John Read’s trailer out on the way there. I got him home, and he was so wild, I wondered how I would get him unloaded. He had never seen a cow, so during week one, he ran off.
He had the strongest neck of any horse I had ever ridden. He could pick me up and carry me anywhere he decided to go. His first and second barrels were pretty automatic, but the third left a lot to be desired. I had to put kick chains on him to haul him and get him there with my trailer in one piece. He was such a mess nobody tried to buy him.
When he was 5, I hauled him to the Texas Rodeo Association and Cowboy’s Regional Rodeo Association events. One rodeo, I thought I had totally ruined him, and the next one, he would win. At age 6, I would work him all week, then go to the Mesquite Championship Rodeo on the weekend. I finally decided to stick with buildings because he won more indoors.
At 7, he qualified for the National Finals Rodeo. He won the average, placed in nine rounds and ran the fastest time. He had distemper at the NFR, and the night he ran the fastest time, he was running a high fever. Benny is one tough horse and pain didn’t stop him. We competed at the NFR in 1985 and 1986. He won second in the average at the Texas Circuit Finals.
He won the Sweepstakes in Abilene, Texas. Someone pulled their truck too close to him, so he kicked in both doors causing $1,400 worth of damage. Luckily, the paycheck from Abilene just happened to amount to $1,400.
In 1987, one night while heading home from a rodeo, a drunk driver hit us head on as we drove across a bridge. The wreck overturned my trailer, and it caught on fire. Benny caught on fire with it, but was extinguished by the firefighters as he crawled out. It took over 500 stitches to put him back together.
Janet Stover and Benjamin Might. (Courtesy Janet Stover)
After he healed, he returned to competition for me—scars and all. In the spring, a tornado came through our place and a piece of tin was torn off one of the barns and shot down and lodged in Benny’s front foot breaking his coffin bone in three places. He was the only horse on the place that was hurt. Again, he healed. We went on to compete, and he won the Horse with the Most Heart distinction in the Texas Circuit.
There was never a dull moment with Benny. I used to tell my mom, “Benjamin Might, and Benjamin Might Not!” I do believe that God tells us to give, and that we are to give it everything wholeheartedly. Benny did that. I love and respect him.
I first had the experience of riding “Benny” in early 1989, when Janet Stover was blessed to have him. He and I “clicked.” We held an understanding of respect and admiration for each other. At the end of 1989, Benny and I became teammates in the world of barrel racing, which marked the beginning of a lifelong relationship.
We competed locally around Kaufman County and surrounding areas, including Mesquite and North Side in Fort Worth, which was Benny’s favorite. He loved that arena and came out a winner each time we competed. Back then, if you were a contestant, you were required to carry a flag in the grand entry. I had no other horse to carry a flag on, so Benny was it. The first time this took place, I saw my life pass before my eyes about 10 times. I’m really not sure how many other horses and riders we ran into or over, just trying to make it through the serpentine alive.
Benny could snort and snap his teeth like an alligator, and folks would scatter. He had his own custom kick chains for trailer rides. I had a mare, Shasta, I hauled with Benny just to keep him calm.
I remember one day while at work, a big storm blew up, opening the main gate of the pasture. With little or no imagination, you know what happened next. It wasn’t until I returned from work that I found the horses missing. I began calling around and searching everywhere. I finally called the sheriff’s department to report them missing. I was told a deputy had come out and picked them up because, with Benny as ringleader, they had been terrorizing the neighborhood.
They wouldn’t allow me to retrieve them that night, since it had been storming and was after dark. I begged them to please pen them separately from anything else they had. I explained I could not be responsible if Benny were to hurt any of the other horses that didn’t belong to me. Benny was very mean and had a bad reputation. After all, his daddy was Double Devil.
At one point in our career, I went through a divorce. I received in the settlement our spare truck and trailer—which consisted of a flat bed, a one-ton truck that was four different colors and a rickety stock trailer—but it was paid for. One night, I pulled up to a barrel race and was, to say the least, looked way down upon. I was sitting out back waiting my turn to run when I heard some other barrel racers gossiping about “that horrible rig that pulled in.” They couldn’t wait to take my money. I didn’t say a word. When they called for us to run, I just let Benny work his magic. When we smoked them big time, I rode up calmly and said, “You know that ugly rig out there? It’s mine. It’s not what you drive, it’s what you unload.” You could’ve heard a pin drop! I rode off and collected our winnings.
We had moved to a new house and thought everything was securely situated in the barn, including a 400-pound pet pig named “Siouxy.” It was Super Bowl Sunday, and we settled in to watch the game in our new neighborhood. Much to our dismay, a great commotion arose outside. Benny did it again. A chain and snap was left off of his gate. He let himself out and proceeded to let all other livestock out of their stalls, including our pet pig. No wonder none of our new neighbors showed up the next day with cake and pie welcoming us.
One of the last times we competed at the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo, Benny had developed an abscess in his left front foot. We made our run, but not one of our fastest. We were leaving the rodeo and headed to the vet clinic. We decided to stop in Arlington for a quick bite, since we’d not eaten all day. We decided against setting the alarm on the truck. We knew Benny would probably set it off by moving around in the trailer. We ran in, sat at the bar and ordered food to go.
About 20 minutes later, when we came out to leave, there was no truck, no trailer, no Benny. The entire rig had been stolen. I freaked out. I couldn’t believe it. It took the police 30 minutes to get there. They took a report, but that’s about all they could do. I called the Cattleman’s Association to alert them. They gave me some other numbers and advice of who else I could call for help. Needless to say, it was a long night. We called some friends to bring us a vehicle so we could make it home.
In the days to come, my nerves were frazzled. This happened on Monday. On Thursday, I received a call from an apartment complex in Arlington. The manager told me she received my name and number from the police when she called in to report an abandoned horse and trailer in the complex parking lot. This was my trailer and my beloved Benny.
He had been standing in that trailer for three days with no food or water and running a temperature with his abscessed foot. The manager told me she went out to check on him once it became obvious that no one was caring for him. She opened the gate to give him some water, and he laid his head on her shoulder. Probably for the first time in Benny’s life, he was truly glad to see someone.
After Benny spent time at the vet clinic recuperating, we went on to win several more awards. He had severe arthritis in his knees [when he retired], but remained happy and content until his last days, but I know he wished he could still run barrels.
Although there are more stories, a person can’t put 18 years of barrel racing with one horse down in just a few paragraphs. Benny was difficult, but fun. The more difficult, the more he won.
I know there are “one of a kind” barrel horses still out there, but there will never be another quite like Benny to have overcome the injuries and obstacles that he endured over and over again and return to the winner’s circle. If I never win another barrel race in my life, I will be happy because of Benny. I have ridden the best. He was incredible. I am very blessed to have ever had him as my teammate.
Bonnie Wheatley is editor of Barrel Horse News. E-mail comments on this article to