The 2020 steer roping horse of the year is Lena Joe Ichi, aka “Professor,” who was owned and ridden by Martin Poindexter when he won the award, and has since been sold to fellow Texan Neil Wood.

Named for his intelligence, Professor proved that the great ones are game-changers. “Professor is by far the best horse I’ve ever started and ridden, and I’ve had some really nice ones,” Martin says of the 10-year old AQHA Ranching Heritage-bred gelding, who’s by Cat Ichi by High Brow Cat and out of Lacy Jo Lena by Doc O’Lena. “This caliber of horse really is a game changer. His quickness and ability are so head and shoulders above anything else I’ve ever had. This horse is just a blessing.”


Martin, who trains rope horses and has for 30 years starred as a rugged horseback cowboy in print advertising for a company out of Chicago, bought Professor from Junior Livingston as a 7-year-old.

“Professor was a really nice broke ranch horse when I got him,” says Martin, who with Professors help has his best year yet at 60 and finished an impressive 18th in the world. “He hadn’t been to the arena or in the box when I got him. He was too big to rope calves on, but a great size for steer roping at 15 hands, 1,290 pounds. I started him in steer roping, and he just went right on. This was his third year out there at the rodeos, and he was seasoned up and solid.”


“I always ask a horse’s name when I buy one. I’m superstitious about it and don’t like to change names. Junior said ‘I call him Professor, because this horse is highly intelligent.’ And he was right. Professor is so smart. He understands what’s going on. He’s not that tall, but he’s huge. And yet he has so much athletic ability. He’s quick and strong and moves like a little horse. You can wind him up like a watch, and he’ll go, go, go, then you can just turn him off. When you back him in the corner, he’s all business. When he’s not working, he just eases around. He has such a big motor and still has a great mind and amazing consistency.”


Several cowboys were clamoring to buy Professor. Martin finished out the season on him, then sold him to Neil.


“Professor is so special that I think about anybody could have gone on with him. I was very tickled to have him, and letting him go is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done,” Martin says.


Perhaps the most heartwarming aspect of these awards is that your horse got the nod from people who know how hard it is to come up with a great one.


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