Going Strong At 29, Quarter Horse Mare ‘Rio’ Takes Several Families, Generations To Rodeo Honors
Great horses just keep going and going and going.
“Rio is a horse of a lifetime. She’s absolutely the perfect horse if there ever was one,” exclaimed Leah Tenpenny Wilson of Reading.
“I rode and won at rodeos on Rio when I was in junior high, and now our six-year-old daughter Laynie is riding Rio, and winning at rodeos, too,” continued Mrs. Wilson, who along with her husband, Adam, have been lifelong accomplished rodeo contestants.
The 29-year-old gray Quarter Horses mare, registered as Miss Flaming Rio, is well known throughout rodeo circuits of the Midwest. That’s not just from one cowgirl, but for several families, and even more riders, all taking their share of the winners’ pot on her back.
“Rio is an exceptional horse. She does whatever anybody ever asked her to do. There has never been a problem with anything whatsoever. Rio has always been easy to handle in every situation, completely sound, and healthy in every regard,” confirmed owner Tad Larson of the Diamond L Ranch at Dwight.
Prior to the Larson family taking the outstanding mare’s ownership reins, Rio had been owned by the Jeff and Jackie Van Petten family of Meriden. “I sold Rio to the Van Petten family after I acquired another horse when I started going to high school rodeos,” Wilson said.
“The Van Petten children Jerek and especially Jolie competed everywhere and won everywhere on Rio, too. We were really fortunate to acquire the mare from them for our children to compete on at the rodeos,” Larson admitted.
“She has always been such a wonderful mare, that we just couldn’t sell Rio. But, in reality Rio still likes to run and can win in certain divisions.
“That’s another thing about her; anybody who knows how to ride can take a piece of the pot on Rio in both barrels and poles. So, we decided what better opportunity for us, the mare and the Wilson family than to let them have her to use,” Larson said.
“It is really a shame that Rio is unable to have foals. We’d sure like to have several of her offspring to continue her great winning heritage and successes,” Larson commented. “We were so fortunate to have had Rio. She truly is a One-Of-A-Kind,” insisted wife Gayle Larson. “Our kids’ safety was highly important to us, and Rio was a sound investment. We bought her when she was 18 in 2004.
“Ty initially rode Rio in the Kansas Junior Rodeo Association as well as the Eastern Kansas Horseman’s Association shows. Rio is an all-around horse. We used her for goats, poles, barrels, Horsemanship, and those fun events at the horse shows like lead back race, flag race, rescue race, keyhole race and jumping.
“Cheyenne also loved to carry the American Flag on Rio in the rodeo grand entries. On top of that, Rio and Cheyenne were in many Homecoming parades at White City, decked out in red and white Huskie colors.
“Cheyenne and I still get to see Rio when we go to the Kansas Barrel Racing Association competitions and other barrel races when the Wilsons are there. I am so glad that Rio is back with Leah and her family and has a great home,” Gayle emphasized.
“Well, Laynie is really excited to have Rio, all of us are, and it makes it so much more meaningful, because I had her in junior high, and now our daughter rides the same horse,” Mrs. Wilson reiterated.
Daughter of Eric and Carol Tenpenny, Valley Falls, and granddaughter of Taylor Tenpenny, Topeka, Wilson, as a junior high student in 1994, acquired Rio from Van Manley in Ohio.
Born March 1, 1986, Rio was sired by Rio Wind by Windchester by Tailwind, and out of Bound To Scat by Bound To Flame by Flaming Jet. Skychief Bar and Tiger’s Music are other known sires on the registration papers.
Bred by Edwin Conatser of Jamestown, Tennessee, Rio changed hands twice as a yearling and two-year-old to Tennessee buyers, and then went to Linda Stillwell of Hedgesville, West Virginia, in 1992, before being transferred to Leah Tenpenny on June 6, 1994. The Van Petten family acquired Rio in August, 1996, and the Larson family bought the great mare in November 2004.
“Rio was already a finished barrel and pole horse when I got her. We picked her up in Ada, Oklahoma, and I just started going to competitions and winning,” Wilson recalled the Kansas story’s beginning.
Fast forward; riding since she was two-years-old, Laynie Wilson got Rio about two years ago. “Laynie started out trotting around the patterns, but it didn’t take her long to start running. Now, she wants to run all of the time, it seems. We keep telling her, ‘Now, Laynie walk Rio; she can’t run all of the time,’” Mom said.
Competing in barrel racing and pole bending on Rio, Laynie also is a contender in the goat tail tying.
“It’s a long ways to the ground, but Laynie just jumps right off Rio and grabs the goat. She’s young and really doesn’t have any problems. Of course, again Rio knows how to take care of Laynie, stops, and lets her get off,” Wilson said.
Already the Rio-Laynie team has collected many awards. “She has a trophy buckle, headstall, breast collar. They’ve won a lot in the local shodeos and events in Emporia, at Olpe and around, but also in the Kansas Barrel Racing Association and placed high in the pee wee division of the National Barrel Horse Association,” Wilson credited.
“Rio is just so smart. She knows her job, but just an important, she knows her riders, and takes care of them. That’s as important as winning, really,” Wilson said.
“She’s white and did have skin cancer last summer, but that cleared right up, when we treated it. We do give Rio medicine daily to prevent any more cancer issues, and so far it has worked,” Wilson noted.
“Other than that, Rio absolutely requires no special care. She grazes the pasture, eats regular feed, is completely sound in every way, and is even ridden barefoot,” Wilson credited.
“We’re really lucky,” she quickly added again.
“I think with her condition, and such a big heart, Rio will keep going for a long time. When Laynie needs a faster horse, Rio will probably become her little brother’s mount. Coy is two-years-old, rides a little bit with us, enjoys it, and he’ll really like to ride Rio,” Mom insisted.
There’s seldom a slack moment around the Adam and Leah Wilson homestead. Both former rodeo team members and graduates of Kansas State University, Adam, son of Don and Denise Wilson of Emporia, in animal science, and Leah in elementary education; he’s a ranch fence builder, and she’s employed by Frontier Farm Credit.
“All of our spare time is spent training and tuning our horses, practicing and competing at jackpots and in rodeos. Adam ropes quite well, and I barrel race and rope, too,” Leah said.
“Our children have been going to rodeos all of their lives, and it looks like they’ll love it as much as we do. It’s really important to have good horses for them to ride. Rio is the kind that makes them better and always wanting to go,” Leah said.
There’s no keeping a great horse out of the winner’s circle. Even longer live Miss Flaming Rio.