LAS VEGAS - This is the tale of how Shepherd Hills Tested rocketed into a molten-lava-hot PBR meteorite on hooves, becoming this year's ABBI Classic Champion and claiming the $250,000 that comes along with the title.
H.D. Page and his father, Dillon, own one of the most decorated, enterprising and famed bull-breeding businesses in the world: D&H Cattle Company in Ardmore, Okla.
Tom Teague, Page and Don Kish hammered out a deal for a 4-year old bull named Smooth Move. Kish owned him; Teague and Page coveted him.
"He was as impressive as any young bull I'd ever seen," said Page. "We gave too much money for Smooth Move, but we had to have him for a breeding bull. He broke loose off the ground and threw his front end up high in the air. This was one athletic bull.
"He didn't do very well during his (ABBI) Classic years. We won only about a third of our money back. He passed away this past summer, but we got quite a few calves and daughters out of him that we are very high on. It feels like we're gonna make that money back and then some."
Smooth Moves put his moniker into practical use on a daughter of the late great Hotel California, and Shepherd Hills Tested was born.
Shepherd Hills Tested flung the first 13 Built Ford Tough Series buzzer-seekers who yanked their ropes; J.B. Mauney snapped that string Sept. 15 in Springfield, Mo., with a flashy 92.5-point spin - to the left as usual - the only time Tested has been ridden.
"Honestly, I was tickled for J.B.," Page said. "It's nice to have one that's unridden, but I've been around long enough to know they don't stay that way. I can't say the bull had a bad day. He bucked; J.B. just rode him. Stock contractors always think a bull looks ranker when he's bouncing someone on his head, but it was a good trip.
"It was a win-win deal for me. I was hoping J.B. would pick that bull, because I needed a left-hander for that bull to show his skills."
Right-handers have serious issues staying on Shepherd Hills Tested longer than two seconds.
"I like everything about that bull," Page said. "He's been special since day one. The really cool thing about him is his disposition. He has plenty of life, but he's quiet enough that he's not gonna kill himself in pens or kill you when you're handling him. He'd make a good steer if he weren't such a good bucking bull. He's an easy doer.
"I've never been disappointed in him one time. His quick buckoffs kill his bull score a lot of times, but those are his rankest days. When he leaves there and drops his right shoulder, and his front end is already off the ground, it's almost impossible for a right-hander to get to the corner. It's a judged event. It's a show. Everything's gotta come together to get a good score. It's not a good show when it lasts one second."
PBR Livestock Director Cody Lambert watched Shepherd Hills Tested buck during the 2011 World Finals. As he settled into his seat two months later for the National Finals Rodeo, Lambert had no recollection of the bull. But Tested didn't take long to catch his attention.
"I thought he was the best bull there and the judges scored him the highest," Lambert said, "but the stock contractors didn't vote him the top bull. As a fan, I thought he was the absolute best."
In 2012, Lambert used Shepherd Hills Tested in Built Ford Tough Championship rounds when no ABBI events conflicted.
"This is a bull that gets stronger as the ride goes on, and you have to see him past four seconds to see his true brilliance," said Lambert, who rates Tested among the best 20 current PBR bulls. "He's more impressive between five and eight seconds than he is between one and four."
"It's a judged event. It's a show. Everything's gotta come together to get a good score. It's not a good show when it lasts one second."
After his first out at the World Finals, Tested sat fifth in the ABBI Classic standings, but his rematch against Mauney in Round 4 gave Tested the edge over Mickey Mouse, and helped him win the title by 2.25 points.
"That's a bull that takes you that first time to know how he feels," said Austin Meier, who was sent flying by Tested in 5.18 seconds Feb. 10 in Oklahoma City. "That bull's really got some different timing. That first round, he's definitely underneath himself trying to pull you over the front. The next, he's moving forward and trying to get you on the end of your arm. He pulls you over and then he stretches you out. It's tough to battle the in-between.
"He gets a lot of guys on that second move. I like him for the fact that he's not a dirty bull. He just flat out bucks. I'd sure like to get on him again, because I think he's my style of bull. J.B. needed a second time to figure him out. It's one thing to tell a rider what a bull does, but there's no substitute for actually feeling him underneath you."
Unlike Meier, Guilherme Marchi, the 2008 PBR World Champion, said he doesn't care about making adjustments, because he has no interest in being tested by Tested again.
"No, no, no," Marchi said. "That bull is very strong. He is one of the best bulls in the PBR. If you ride him, you'll score many points, say 92 to 95.
"But that bull doesn't fit me very good. I (don't) like him because he is so strong and away from my hand. If I get him again, I'll move my rope to the middle a little bit more. He's very fast. He's a good bull for someone else."
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