Meet the horse that inspired the Scoti Flit Bar Rising Star Award.

Firewater Fiesta. Slick By Design. Fame Fling N Bling. Sadiefamouslastwords. These are just a handful of the horses that have received the Scoti Flit Bar Rising Star award at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo since the award’s inception in 2000. Given to a first-time NFR barrel horse each year, the award is voted on by the barrel racing competitors for the most-deserving equine athlete. It was created to honor Scoti Flit Bar, a talented, young, NFR barrel horse that died far too soon. His owner, Lana Merrick-Bailey, feels the award is a worthy way to remember the horse she still misses today.

The “It” Factor

Lana Merrick and Scoti Flit Bar shared a special connection. Photo by Kenneth Springer

Lana Merrick is the granddaughter of American Quarter Horse Association Hall of Fame member Walter Merrick, who bred horses including AQHA Hall of Famers Easy Jet and Easy Date. Lana Merrick is a seasoned breeder and competitor herself, and when she met Scoti Flit Bar, she felt he was special.

Foundation-bred Scoti Flit Bar was by Flit Bar Beggar, who carried Sugar Bars and Leo bloodlines, and out of Miss Siemon Lady by Wimpy grandson Showdown Hoss. The 1981 bay gelding possessed all the qualities Merrick was looking for. But he also had that extra, undefined element, an “it” factor that made him an incredible competitor. Merrick felt bonded to him from the start.

“There is just some innate ability you see in a horse or a connection you might feel, but it’s hard to put your finger on exactly what that is,” Merrick said. “He had a presence about him that just seemed like he was willing to please and work with you. Easy to teach. When you have that kind of feeling about a particular horse, that they have something extra special, I think you just have to go with it.”

“Scoti” was a bit quirky—Merrick feels many truly great competitors are—and she learned to appreciate his idiosyncrasies as part of what made him great. He never failed to give his all—Merrick said he was 100 percent, all the time.

“He didn’t care about being around other horses, but he loved having attention,” Merrick said. “He would stand by the door and nicker the moment I came into the barn. He was spooky, but I think he was just more aware—he was sensitive to what I tried to teach him.”

The pair competed in derbies during Scoti’s early years. In 1986, the fall of his derby year, they won the Lazy E Derby as well as the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association Open held during the Lazy E Derby. They were also reserve champions at the Barrel Futurities of America Champion of Champions.

“He was a tremendous derby horse for me,” Merrick said. “I felt like he was very capable of moving into the pro ranks at that point, because he was not only physically mature but also mentally mature.”

Rodeo Greatness

In 1987, Merrick took Scoti on the road to compete in professional rodeos. The pair started out slow, with no plans to try for the NFR, but the gelding was a natural fit.

“Before I knew it, we were in the standings,” Merrick said. “We made the NFR that first year. That was my most memorable accomplishment with him, because he was so young.”

Meet the horse that inspired the Scoti Flit Bar Rising Star Award.
Scoti Flit Bar made his NFR debut at the 1987 event at 6 years old. Photo by Kenneth Springer.

That year was Merrick’s rookie year. Taking on the NFR with a 6-year-old was a bold move, but Merrick had no doubt in her mount’s ability. Unfortunately, he chipped a sesamoid bone in his fetlock at the beginning of the NFR.

“I talked with my veterinarian, Marvin Beeman from Littleton, Colorado, and he told me running on it wouldn’t do any more damage, so he gave me the go-ahead,” Merrick said. “Of course, it was a bit painful for him, so he didn’t have quite the performances I would’ve hoped for. However, we did win one go and placed in several others, and we managed to hold onto the [WPRA] Rookie of the Year [title], which was incredible.”

After the NFR, Scoti had arthroscopic surgery to remove the bone chip. The veterinarian recommended time off, but Merrick was overly cautious and gave Scoti the first half of 1988 off.

In 1989, the pair was back on the road, and they once again qualified for the NFR—winning a go, placing in several others, and winning the average.

“He was just phenomenal,” Merrick said. “We had no barrels down, which led to a much better result by the end of the NFR.”

Losing A Great One

In 1989, Merrick and Scoti were on the road rodeoing. They returned home to Oklahoma at 2 a.m. on a Sunday, and Merrick gave Scoti that Sunday off. He seemed fine that afternoon and evening. Monday, when Merrick arrived to feed him, she noticed he was off his feed.

“Things progressed, and I knew something was wrong by about 9 a.m.,” Merrick said. “I knew something wasn’t quite right, so I called the veterinarian.”

At first, the veterinarian thought Scoti was tying up, but the symptoms didn’t match. After 12 hours, the problem was pin-pointed as the bacteria Clostridium perfringens, which forms toxins in the horse’s body, resulting in muscle problems, a loss of coordination, and a sudden buildup of gas in the body. Because it spread so rapidly, by the time it was correctly diagnosed, Scoti was too far advanced to treat successfully. With the gelding worsening quickly, Merrick made the decision to humanely euthanize Scoti that night.

“We had such a bond together, such camaraderie—it was a special thing—all the way up until the day he died, which was probably one of the most tragic days of my life,” Merrick said. “Losing a horse like that, that has become a part of you—there just aren’t words to describe the loss you feel. We were so connected, and my days were not complete without him in them. But I am so grateful for the things he taught me and gave me.”

Meet the horse that inspired the Scoti Flit Bar Rising Star Award.
Lana Merrick presents Mary Burger with the 2016 award. Photo by Kenneth Springer

Creating the Award

After a time of grief over losing Scoti, Merrick wanted to honor his memory in a meaningful way.

“I felt like he died at such a young age, and I kept thinking of the tragedy of the time I missed out, the things he could have done, had that not happened,” Merrick said. “I wanted to recognize other new rodeo horses. Sometimes they’re not in the public long enough to get a huge amount of recognition in the general public, for example Scamper, who was around a long time. Everybody got to know him and enjoy him and appreciate him. Some of these young horses don’t get to run that long to get that kind of recognition, but they’re tremendous horses.”

Merrick thought an award would be a great legacy for Scoti. She knew she wanted to include his name, but adding “Rising Star” to the title was also important.

Meet the horse that inspired the Scoti Flit Bar Rising Star Award.
Mary Burger’s gelding Sadielastfamouswords is the 2016 recipient of the Scoti Flit Bar rising Star Award. Photo by Kenneth Springer

“‘Rising Star’ denotes that these are, well, rising stars—not a horse the public might recognize because they are new to rodeo,” Merrick said. “It’s similar to the Rookie of the Year title—but for first-time NFR [barrel racing] competitors.”

Qualifying for the NFR proves a competitor has mettle, but Merrick wanted to give the newest horses a chance to set themselves apart.

“For a younger horse to make it to the NFR and compete against the seasoned horses that have already been there, they have to have something exceptional about them—stamina and grit to get there,” Merrick said. “I wanted to give that kind of horse an award for their ability to run with those great horses and make a name for themselves.”

In 2000, Merrick asked Carolynn Vietor, the WPRA president at the time, if there was a place for her idea.

“She agreed that she thought it was a great idea, and we just went forward with it from there,” Merrick said.

The top 15 qualifiers at the NFR vote on eligible mounts for the horse they feel is most deserving. The award is presented during a WPRA awards brunch with competitors, their families, and major-rodeo committee members in attendance during the NFR. This is also when competitors are presented with their trophy saddles and other prizes, while rodeo circuits are recognized for best-ground honors.

Today, the rider of the Scoti Flit Bar Rising Star award recipient is given a custom Clint Orms three-piece belt buckle with the horse’s name inscribed on the front.

“They can wear it with pride with their horse’s name on the buckle,” Merrick said. “Each one is custom-made for each horse.”

The Rising Star Legacy

The first year it was created, the Scoti Flit Bar Rising Star Award was presented to the stunning gray mare Firewater Fiesta, owned and trained by the legendary Kelly Yates.

“She was absolutely superior, and she did get to stick around for a long time to become an absolutely famous horse,” Merrick said. “After her barrel racing career was over, Kelly chose to take Firewater Fiesta to Royal Vista Southwest [in Purcell, Oklahoma,] for embryo transfers. In the mare’s later years, she lived at Royal Vista Southwest. I was so proud because she was the first recipient of the award, and she was so justified in getting it.”

The list of horses that have won this award are an exceptional crop of competitors. They carry on the legacy of Merrick’s late gelding as they gain well-deserved recognition of their own.

“Some really nice young horses have been chosen in the past—and some of them have gone on to do exceptionally good things,” Merrick said. “It makes me so proud to see that, and it seems like the riders are excited when their horse wins the award.”

This article was originally published in the October 2017 issue of Barrel Horse News.


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