By Blanche Schaefer, originally published in the January 2018 BHN
Honor Last Chance capped a storied 17-year career with one final run to capture the 2017 National Barrel Horse Association Senior 2D World Championship for John Spencer—the pair’s second Senior 2D world title since clinching the 2015 honors.
“I knew this was the last run he and I had together,” Spencer said fondly of the 21-year-old gelding. “It was very emotional; I don’t want to part with the best friend I’ve ever hauled, but it was a storybook ending for a great horse. Any other run I’ll ever make could never compare to that.”
Prior to their final run, Spencer stopped “Chance” in the shadows of the streetlights to spend a moment alone.
“After I saddled him at the trailer in preparation for our run in the Senior finals, I stopped him in the shadows between the street lights. We were all alone—just he and I,” Spencer said. “I stood in front of him, placed my hands on each side of his bridle and lifted his head so I could look directly into his eyes. I told him, ‘Chance, this is your last show and your last big run of your career. I’m truly thankful for all you have done for me, and most importantly, for making me a better horseman. I will never forget our time together and I will never, ever, partner with a horse any better than you. We’ve done amazing things together but unfortunately, the time I’ve dreaded has finally come. However, we are not done yet! We are going to go up there and make one hell of a run and when it is over—good, bad or indifferent—you are retired and you will go home and rule the pasture for as long as you choose to do so. Of course, he did not answer me. But, he did not move when I released his head. Instead, he stood there with his nose sticking out, looking directly at me with those big and beautiful eyes as if to say, ‘What are we doing here, let’s get up there and do this.’ With that, we began our journey to the main arena.”
Going into the Senior finals, the pair already placed eighth in the 2D of the Senior first go with a 15.573 for $156. A 15.588 fell out of the money in the second go. Spencer knew he needed to distinguish his time from the many 15.5s posted in the finals, and Chance delivered with a 15.49 for the championship and $1,040.
“When I got him up about 20 horses before I ran, he was absolutely in my fingers. When he’s really agile to the touch, I know not to handle him,” Spencer said. “I got off and waited, and when we went in the holding pen he had a different feel to him, and I know the horse like the back of my hand. He was extremely focused. When we came out it not only changed the leaderboard, but it was good enough to be better than all those 15.5s. At the split second we broke the timer on our way out of the pen, I heard our time and knew this was the run I had discussed with him back in the shadows of the street lights. Once again, he delivered as only the great ones can.”
In 2016, Spencer and Chance ran exactly half a second off Senior 1D Champion Janelle Green, but a downed second barrel cost them the 2D title.
“My thought was that I’m not going to let this end like it did last year,” Spencer said. “I gave one slight tug on the outside rein going into the second barrel—I didn’t have to do it because he was not going to hit that barrel—and that extra tug caused him to run by the barrel just enough to where it caused him to set up and turn back, and I think that cut our time back a bit to put us at the 2D.”
Upon watching the video, Spencer says it was one the smoothest runs of Chance’s career.
“One run looks just like the others, and they have for the past 16 or 17 years,” Spencer said. “When you look at it in slow motion, the first barrel was one of his better first barrels. It was one of those runs where you look back and say, ‘I’m really proud of that one.’”
Spencer and Chance have much to be proud of in their time together. The Farmersville, Ohio, resident estimates the 1996 gelding by Jet Of Honor and out of Teezin Tara by Experteeser has won more than $47,000.
“I’ve kept all his stats, and a lot of the shows Equi-Stat doesn’t have record of,” Spencer said. “I’m going to guess $38,000 of [Chance’s lifetime earnings] is in the 2D. He’s the last crop of Jet Of Honor, and if I could turn back the hands of time, I’d have bought three or four of them. If I could have a bunch more like this one, it would be a wonderful life.”
Spencer purchased Chance from “the Jet Of Honor guy” Raymond Reynolds as an unbroke 2-year-old.
“There isn’t a person on this planet who has had more Jet Of Honor horses do well than Raymond,” Spencer said. “There were 16 Jet Of Honor 2-year-olds out in his pasture, and Chance walked over to my wife—none of the others came even close to us—and he stood right there in front of her. It was just one of those things; it was meant to be.”
Of all the pair has accomplished in the arena, Spencer says the most meaningful is the unexplainable partnership he shared with Chance.
“He taught me to be a better horseman, because my style of training was going to change for this horse. I was going to be a partner with him,” Spencer said. “When the big lights were bright, he always tried—always. That’s what’s rare about a horse like Chance. The bond Chance and I had, he knew we are going to give it our best, and he had that attitude and I had that attitude and it was just a good combination.”
This article was originally written as part of BHN‘s coverage of the 2017 National Barrel Horse Association Open and Senior World Championships, published in the January 2018 issue. Blanche Schaefer is associate editor of Barrel Horse News. Email comments on this article to [email protected].