Scamper's Stats

In 1984 a lot of things were different—Ronald Reagan won election to the highest office in the land, the mullet and acid wash jeans were both cool, and in the world of rodeo Gills Bay Boy was on his way to making the names of “Scamper” and Charmayne synonymous with world championships.

Scamper and Charmayne James
Scamper and Charmayne. Credit: Megan Parks
Although many things were different then, Scamper and Charmayne remained a constant atop the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association barrel racing standings for 10 consecutive years. They teamed up to make her the first million dollar professional cowgirl while he was named the WPRA’s Horse With the Most Heart in 1986 and 1988-1993, AQHA Barrel Horse of the Year from 1990-1993, AQHA’s coveted Silver Spur Award winner in 1992 and the first and only barrel horse inducted into the Professional Rodeo Cowboy’s Association Hall of Fame. Some have speculated if Scamper could do what he did in the ’80s and early ‘90s in today’s era of smart phones, skype, satellite TV and of course very fast barrel horses. Without a doubt if you ask Charmayne and others, Scamper would more than hold his own. In her words, Charmayne talks about the early days of she and Scamper’s illustrious journey together.

I’ve come to realize that while many people know the story of Scamper and how he and I won 10 world championships together, there are a lot of people new to the barrel racing industry that don’t know the whole story or they might only have heard some of the rumors.

As a kid I had been running barrels at amateur rodeos for about two years and doing well when my horse Bardo broke his leg. As a young girl, and even now just thinking about it, it was a very devastating experience. My horse was my best friend and although we tried to save him and hauled him to a vet in Fort Collins, Colo., from Clayton, N.M., the bone was shattered and there was nothing that could be done so he was put down.

A Perfect Little Horse

Of course I wanted a horse to replace Bardo and my family looked at prospects at the racetrack and various places, but anytime we found anything that might work something would happen, like the horse wouldn’t be very broke or sound. So time went by and I kept nagging my parents about another horse. Then one day my dad mentioned a little bay horse in his feedlot that I could try. I remembered seeing him there in the pen and thinking even then that he was a perfect looking little horse.

My dad told me I could ride him, but warned me that he was cold backed. He said “do not lope him right off, he’ll buck.” My sisters and I were fearless kids and rode all the time so I saddled him up and took him out behind the barn where no one could see me and kicked him into a lope, because my dad had said not to, so of course I did. Scamper dropped his head and bucked a little, but I just kind of giggled because I didn’t really know any better. He just looked at me, and right then it was apparent that he loved little girls and he loved me. He was always a little “humpy” but I ignored it and just went on with it and he never really bucked hard. I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that I didn’t take the threat of it too seriously and was never really scared and tensed up thinking about it when I rode him. Looking back I probably should have been a little more fearful, but I knew that he would never hurt me.

Scamper was so broke. He had an amazing handle on him and was very light from the beginning. He had been ridden on my dad’s feedlot and had sorted a lot cattle and was very agile.

When I began taking him around the barrels he was so broke and athletic that I could lope him around the barrels almost immediately. His conformation was so perfectly balanced and suited to it that he took right to the pattern. That’s how he got his name. My dad was watching him and commented, “He sure wants to Scamper around those barrels.”

Not too long after he started winning at some local barrel races, he got kicked. I went out in the pasture to catch him and found that another horse had kicked him so we hauled him to Truman Smith, a veterinarian in Raton, N.M. He said to blister it and turn him out for the winter and he gave him a 50/50 chance of coming back sound. So we treated him and turned him out that winter in what turned out to be a very hard winter. There was a foot of snow on the ground for what seemed like all winter long. When we got Scamper in the next spring he was wild with a capitol W! After riding him and discovering that he recovered well that winter, we hauled to the Josey Junior World where he strained a ligament in his stifle and I had to get off of him again for a while. I also wrecked my 4-wheeler after the rodeo at Greely that year and had to take a break. That was in 1983, the year I got my WPRA card after winning the rodeo at Dodge City, Kans., and filling my permit. While we were at Martha’s she saw what a good horse Scamper was and offered to buy him, but to my family that wasn’t an option, it was never about the money. We all loved Scamper.

Scamper hit his peak I’d say in 1986-87. He was always good, solid and consistent, but in those years he was unstoppable. He dominated. I believe that every good horse peaks at some point and runs the very best of their entire career during that time period. Even during Scamper’s “non-peak” years he was still awesome. Even when he earned the last world championship in 1993 he was running strong despite some arthritis.

In 1985 Scamper won five go rounds at the NFR (in 2007 those five go rounds would have been worth $66,970). We hit two barrels, one of them to win the go round, and we placed in every other go round. In 1986 Scamper and I won the average, which paid $11,484 that year. It was in 1985 or ’86 when my bridle fell off on Friday the 13th during the seventh go round and we still won the round. Scamper and I hit two barrels at the NFR in 1985 and I don’t recall ever hitting another barrel at the Finals.

“Scamper had it all”

Scamper had a great style coupled with great speed. He had the speed and the turn. He was so smooth, but he proved his speed to me at times when he would get by the first barrel a stride and have to make up for it, and still win the rodeo by two tenths. I remember one year at the rodeo in Molalla, Ore., we got by the first barrel a little, came out of the second at a really funny angle and made a big swoop going to the third barrel and with tons of mistakes he won it by three tenths. He could turn, he was very fast between the barrels and he was very, very, very solid. The cool thing with Scamper is that some horses are ratey and some are free runners, but he had the perfect combination of both styles. Even when he ran all out, he always turned and worked. I never had to second-guess or worry if he was going to work or not. He also excelled in big arenas and harder type ground, which made him awesome at the rodeos.

There were horses of his era that were great horses like Marlene McRae’s Dutch Watch and Deb Mohon’s Brown. Sometimes Scamper kicked off a little slow at the NFR and those great horses put pressure on us, but Scamper always came through in the end. He was so consistent run after run after run. I remember in about 1989 right before the NFR Scamper had gotten a cut on his coronet band and it was pretty bad, so he hadn’t been on his normal conditioning program. It took him a few go rounds to start firing. Bob Tallman came up to me and said, “Well darlin’ we all knew this day would come,” meaning an end to our streak of world titles. I thought to myself, “No, it hasn’t ended yet…” Everyone had written us off that year but we went out and did our best and kept trying our hardest and came away with the championship.

There were years when Scamper struggled to keep his lead and there were extenuating circumstances that people didn’t see or know about, but he always came through. A major factor to his success was keeping him conditioned and sound with a lot of physical therapy. I breezed him quite a bit and at times when he had respiratory issues from hauling we used oxygen to overcome it. One myth about Scamper is that people assumed when I gave him oxygen treatments that he was being drugged instead. The ironic thing is that drug testing in rodeo was implemented when Scamper was running. He was just good.

The day after I won Houston for about the seventh time we made the decision to operate to repair the slab fracture in his knee. It wasn’t just a chip; it was an actual slab that had to be removed. The thing that made that decision so tough was that he was running fine and winning but if that slab were to have moved it would have irritated the joint and if it would have broken off it would have finished his career. The chances for him to come back from that surgery were very low, but I did a lot of physical therapy following the surgery. During his recovery I flexed his knee each day and sweated it a lot. He was off for three months but in 1991 he came back very strong.

By the Numbers

At the 2007 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo a go round win paid $16,394 and the average awarded $42,043. The total payout at the NFR is $211,529. In 2007, Lindsay Sears earned $119,255 in NFR money while Brittany Pozzi-Pharr left Las Vegas $95,192 richer for a grand total of $259,712 in season earnings and her first World Championship. While it’s impossible to say how Scamper would have run in comparison to Sears’ Sugar Moon Express or Pozzi-Pharr’s Stitch, he earned a career high of $151,969 in 1986 before equal money at the NFR. Many of the regular season rodeos of two decades ago have also upped their payouts since Scamper’s prime. Scamper earned NFR average titles in 1984, 1986, 1987, 1989, 1990 and 1993. They posted fast times at the Finals in 1984 and 1987.

Scamper and Charmayne’s Achievements

1984 - $53,499

Rodeo Houston champion

WPRA Rookie of the Year

Wrangler Series champion

Dodge Series champion

NFR champion

WPRA World Champion

 

1985 - $93,847

Rodeo Houston champion

Coors Chute Out champion

Winston Pro Tour champion

Wrangler Series champion

Dodge Series champion

WPRA World Champion

 

1986 - $151,969

Rodeo Houston champion

Turquoise Circuit champion

Leading Money Earner in Professional Rodeo

Coors Chute Out champion

Winston Series champion

Winston Pro Tour champion

Wrangler Series champion

Dodge Series champion

NFR champion

WPRA World Champion

 

1987 - $120,002

Rodeo Houston champion

James became the first woman to wear back No. 1 into the NFR

Coors Barrel Racing champion

Coors Chute Out champion

Wrangler Series champion

NFR champion

WPRA World Champion

 

1988 - $130,540

Rodeo Houston champion

1988 Calgary Olympics, Gold Medal Team

Coors Chute Out champion

Dodge Series champion

WPRA World Champion

 

1989 - $96,651

Rodeo Houston champion

Coors Chute Out champion

Dodge Series champion

AQHA Horse of the Year

Sierra Circuit champion

NFR champion

WPRA World Champion

 

1990 - $130,328

Charmayne crosses the million-dollar milestone

Coors Chute Out champion

Dodge Series champion

AQHA Horse of the Year

Wrangler Series champion

Copenhagen/Skoal Series champion

NFR champion

WPRA World Champion

 

1991 - $92,403

Rodeo Houston champion

Coors Chute Out champion

Dodge Series champion

Crown Royal season winner

Wrangler World of Rodeo champion

Sierra Circuit champion

AQHA Horse of the Year

WPRA World Champion

 

1992 - $110,867

Rodeo Houston champion

Charmayne inducted to National Cowgirl Hall of Fame

Calgary Stampede champion

Crown Royal season winner

WPRA World Champion

 

1993 - $103,609

Rodeo Houston champion

Crown Royal season winner

Dodge Series champion

NFR champion

WPRA World Champ