Arena All-Star Hot Shot
A little buckskin gelding nicknamed “Hot Shot” carried Janet Stover to her first WPRA World championship—and then kept running for two Oklahoma girls.
Most barrel racing enthusiasts can pick out this small buckskin before the announcer even calls out his name. Registered as Nate Shilabar, the 1987 gelding is better known to all as “Hot Shot,” and has won more than $540,000, according to Equi-Stat.
“Alan Moorhead announces a lot of rodeos and barrel races,” says Hot Shot’s owner, Garry Steinhoff. “He dubbed him ‘the most watched horse in barrel racing history.’ ”
It hasn’t all been red carpets and adoring fans for this little buckskin, though. Peyton Raney bought Hot Shot as a 3-year-old out of the “killer pen” at a weekly horse sale. The scrawny horse went on to become the winningest horse in barrel racing history, even though, according to Equi-Stat, he did not win any money until he was 9 years old.
The Steinhoff family, from Vinita, Oklahoma, has always barrel raced. Garry and Debbie Steinhoff mounted their daughters, Tanya and Tyrney, on good horses, but none had taken the girls to the level from which Hot Shot would launch them.
“We knew of him as the horse Peyton was [Women’s Professional Rodeo Association] rookie of the year on,” says Garry. “She called us the first part of December [of 2000], when the [Barrel Futurity of America] was going on and wanted Tanya to run him in the youth. Tanya had never been on him before, and she warmed him up, then ran him.”
Tanya Steinhoff, 10 years old at the time, unknowingly sent both she and Hot Shot into the spotlight. Hot Shot needed no encouragement to run the barrels and do his job, and Tanya’s only instructions were to keep her hands light.
“They led him all the way to the mouth of the alleyway. No spurs, no whip, nothing,” Tanya says. “They told me to sit there and hold on. I asked Peyton what to do, and she said ‘smooch and have tea.’ I looked at her like she was crazy. She said to raise my pinky up going around the barrel and I would be okay. I don’t know how many pictures we have of me going around barrels with my pinky raised ‘having tea.’ ”
That December, and into 2001, Tanya ran Hot Shot at National Barrel Horse Association races, the Josey Junior World, and several other barrel races around the country, ultimately winning the NBHA youth world championship and setting an arena record. Peyton Raney still owned the then-13-year-old gelding, but that soon changed.
In the fall of 2001, the Steinhoffs bought Hot Shot on a handshake, with the stipulation that the horse was sound when he returned from running at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, Nevada. Janet Stover, a WPRA professional barrel racer in contention to win the world title that year, had contracted to run Hot Shot at the NFR.
After carrying Stover to her first WPRA world championship and helping her set a season earnings record of $126,934, Hot Shot returned to Oklahoma and the Steinhoff girls, where his legend as a barrel horse took root.
In 2002, Hot Shot carried Tanya to another NBHA youth world title, as well as the open and sweepstakes world titles. The duo won the Josey Junior World title, the BFA youth world title, and the first Mega Barrel Race in Jackson, Mississippi. It was a truly memorable year.
“Winning the youth world the second time was amazing,” says Tanya, now 20. “The first time was really, really exciting, but the second time, I showed myself I could do it two years in a row. We owned him that year, and that was part of it, too. I won it on my horse. I also won the open world that year. No one had won both in the same year before.”
It was then that the Steinhoffs noticed Hot Shot was not running the same as before.
“In the spring of 2003, he came up with a strained suspensory, and was out for 16 months,” Garry says. “A couple of the specialists said he was done and would never run again.”
The decision was made to put a younger, lighter Steinhoff on the gelding, who was then 18 years old, in hopes that less weight would not aggravate his now-healed ligament injury.
“I got him August 31, and that Friday was the Drysdale Super Show at Tulsa,” Tyrney Steinhoff says. “That was my first run on him. Second time to be on him, first time to run him. I got second behind Tanya and [her horse] Rooster.”
Tyrney and Hot Shot kept the winning tradition alive, capturing the 2004 NBHA open world title, the 2006 NBHA youth and sweepstakes world titles, the 2005 and 2006 BFA world titles, and winning the Mega Barrel Race in 2005 and 2007. Hot Shot remains the only horse to have won the Mega three times.
“The very first time I ran him, I got total whiplash coming out of the alleyway,” says Tyrney, now 17. “He will fire out of there. Then, I have to sit up and ride him past the first barrel. You push him the whole way, but he knows his job.”
No one in the Steinhoff house is allowed to call Hot Shot, now 23, old. He still has his quirks, such as an intolerance of men, but loves the Steinhoff girls. When asked if the legendary horse, who was memorialized as a Breyer model in 2007, would be retired soon, Garry Stein-hoff laughed.
“It’s his plan,” Garry says. “As long as he wants to go and craves it like he does, performs like he does, we will take him somewhere. Every year he goes a little bit less. Out of respect for him, you might say.
“He deserves whatever he wants. He’s won more barrel races, more world titles in different associations than any horse. There’s no plan to sell him. There’s no amount of money that could buy him. You don’t sell a member of the family.”
Send comments to email@example.com.