AQHA World Champion The Darkk Side Got His Start at the Wellborn 2R Ranch
PRCA World Champion Trevor Brazile riding AQHA Champion The Darkk Side. Photo Courtesy Solo Select Performance Horses
We want to wish a big congratulations to Solo Select Performance Horses and The Darkk Side Syndicate on their newly crowned champion. The Darkk Side, a stallion registered with the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA), was crowned the 2023 World Champion Junior Head Horse on November 1, 2023. This means he performed at the AQHA World Show and was judged to be the best head horse in the world for horses aged 5 and under. 26-time Pro Rodeo Cowboy Trevor Brazile was roping on The Darkk Side for the win.
PRCA World Champion Trevor Brazile riding AQHA Champion The Darkk Side (Left). (Photo Courtesy AQHA and Solo Select Performance Horses)
The Darkk Side has taken the rope horse world by storm in 2023. And he is ONLY FOUR YEARS OLD! This incredibly talented horse has quickly become an industry phenomenon. In 2023 he was entered in 8 rope horse shows in both head and heeling. He placed high or won every time he was entered and already has $75,000 in earnings to his credit. He was entered into a syndicate earlier this year with shares totaling $3.5 million, and they were sold out in less than 24 hours! He is truly a phenomenon, the likes of which the rope horse industry has never seen. But behind every great horse is a great team of people and a great story. "The Rest of the Story" behind The Darkk Side is one even Paul Harvey would be proud of.
Chris Littlefield riding The Darkk Side at the Wellborn 2R Ranch working cattle in a pen.
Wellborn 2R Ranch cowboy Chris Littlefield is also an AQHA World Champion and an elite horse trainer for the roping industry's standout stars like Trevor Brazile and Miles Baker, with Relentless Remuda. Melanie Smith, owner of leading horse industry company Solo Select Performance Horses, LLC, has also had horses in training with Chris for many years. When The Darkk Side (sired by stallion Once in a Blue Boon, with his mare mom being DT Sugar Chex Whiz) came along, Melanie and her partner, Ty Smith, brought him to Chris to train in July of his 2 year old year.
The Darkk Side getting ready for a early morning cattle work at the Wellborn 2R Ranch.
Within just a few weeks of riding him, Chris new The Darkk Side was special. He was smart, he was athletic, he wanted to please and he just wanted to be your partner in everything he did. "This horse reminds me more of Real Gun than any horse I have ever ridden," Chris said of the 2-year-old at the time. Chris rode Real Gun to AQHA Super Horse fame when they bested all the horses in the world in all events at the 2004 AQHA World Champion Show.
Being in a small pen with a lot of cattle helps horses learn how to use their shoulders and feet in big and small ways.
Chris put in a lot of work on The Darkk Side in the arena and riding him outside checking cows and wheat pasture cattle. Chris worked cattle on him on many occasions at the Wellborn 2R Ranch throughout his 3 year-old year. Although he is a stallion, you would never have known it because of how quiet the Darkk Side worked side by side with mares and geldings.
The Darrk Side and Chris Littlefield making an early morning gather at the Wellborn 2R Ranch.
It was clear early on that The Darkk Side liked to work hard. He would hit the trail early in the mornings and would work hard all day to get the job done. Chris used him on the ranch to make big cattle drives, to sort though cattle in pens and drag calves to the crew for their identification tags. He loved it all.
Chris riding The Darkk Side in the wide-open pastures at the Wellborn 2R Ranch helps the horse learn how to navigate various terrain.
Chris has long maintained that getting a horse outside to do ranch work helps them understand and put to use the skills you have been working on in the training pen. "When I get a young horse in, the first things we work on are fundamentals. They need to know how to go and how to stop. They need to learn how to use their shoulders to shape and use their entire body more effectively," he explains. "We work on those things really hard in the training pen and then I take them to do ranch work and they get to put those key things they have learned to work. They find out why I taught them that and how to put them to use and you can see it just be a very rewarding process for them. It really does a lot to build their confidence."
Chris was roping calves on The Darkk Side at the ranch before Trevor and Miles were roping on him in the show pen.
"The Darkk Side was a fast learner," Chris says. "Doing ranch work was a reward for him. He enjoyed it a lot. And he was good at it. When you are working cattle you want a horse that is quiet around the herd and he doesn't make any sudden moves. That was The Darkk Side. He was fun to ride and made it easy to work cattle."
Chris and the Darkk Side get a sunrise start at the ranch.
We know The Darkk Side's future is bright even at just four years old. We are super proud Chris rode him at the ranch during the 18 months he had him in training. We'd like to think we helped give him a good start and are sure proud he is part of our ranch history. We will keep cheering him on to even more success.