Driftwood: Legend in Rodeo Horses

Nicknamed “Speedy,” Driftwood and his foals were known for their easygoing dispositions and their abilities in the rodeo arena.

In 1932, a bay colt was foaled near Silverton, Texas. By Miller Boy and out of a Lock’s Rondo-bred mare named The Comer Mare, the fleet bay colt became a winner at match races, winning from 220 yards to three-eighths of a mile and earning himself the name “Speedy.”

Legend has it the horse even beat the famous racehorse Clabber when the two were owned by Buck Nichols.

At age 9, Speedy was sold to Asbury Schell of Tempe, Arizona, and became a full-time roping horse. His match-race experience made him a bullet out of the box. At one rodeo in Payson, Arizona, the well-balanced bay earned folding money in tie-down roping, team tying, steer roping and steer wrestling – and then won a stock saddle race down the length of the rodeo arena for good measure.

Speedy stood up to the pressure of lots of runs, long hauls and different ropers using him until 1942, when Channing and Katy Peake of Lompoc, California, entered his life. The Peakes had bought a band of Waggoner and RO ranch mares in 1940 and were looking for a stallion to sire rope horses. It was a unique niche, and the Peakes had certain qualifications their chosen stallion had to fit. First, he had to be a rope horse himself. Second, he had to be attractive.

They had been looking for more than a year when they first saw Speedy at a rodeo in Hayward, California. He met their qualifications to a T, but Schell was still earning money on him and was reluctant to sell.

The Peakes talked Schell into breeding Speedy to seven of their mares, but he then returned to the rodeo circuit.

“If you ever want to sell him, let us have first chance,” Channing Peake told Schell.

In March 1943, World War II changed the course of American Quarter Horse history when gas rationing cut the rodeo season short. A $1,500 price tag for a horse might seem high for the times, but Speedy had earned more than that for Schell at one rodeo. Schell decided Speedy would have a good home with the Peakes and sold him for $1,500.

The horse moved to the Peakes’ Rancho Jabali for good. The name “Speedy” was already registered with AQHA, so when the Peakes researched Speedy’s pedigree, he got the name Driftwood. The Peakes’ rope horse program took off as they bred the handsome stallion to proven, easygoing mares. Driftwood’s get started making names for themselves – and for Driftwood – as fast, calm-natured, athletic horses with pretty heads that could handle themselves in rodeo arenas.

Included among them were such horses as ProRodeo Hall of Famer Poker Chip Peake and Henny Penny Peake, the Pacific Coast hackamore champion in 1953 and 1954.

“The conformation of Speedy’s get is variable,” said Katy Peake in 1955. “We have been careful of the mares we have bred to him, and by and large, they carry more Quarter Horse characteristics than he does himself. He passes on his intelligence, kindness, speed and way of moving with great fidelity.”

Driftwood’s good nature is probably best illustrated in the anecdote about the time another Rancho Jabali stallion, Booger H, got loose during the night and decided to pick a fight with Driftwood. Booger H kicked the lock off Driftwood’s stall and began biting, kicking and squealing. The fight moved into the stable yard. The Peakes’ young daughter, Catherine, drove off Booger H and called to Driftwood. He went over to her. She put a halter on him and led him to another stall.

Driftwood remained at Rancho Jabali until his death in 1960 at age 28. He sired 153 AQHA foals, with 20 of them earning Registers of Merit, including Cowboy Schell, Drift O Smoke, Driftwood II, Driftwood Ike, Driftwood Maid and Speedywood.

Today, Driftwood’s blood runs through the veins of some of rodeo’s elite equine athletes, including MP Meter My Hay (aka barrel racer Sherry Cervi’s “Stingray”), ProRodeo Hall of Famer French Flash Hawk (barrel racer Kristie Peterson’s “Bozo”), DM Sissy Hayday (aka barrel racer Hailey Kinsel-Lockwood’s “Sister”) and MP Right Back Atya (steer wrestler Todd Suhn’s “Maximus).

Driftwood was inducted into the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame in 2006.

Courtesy of American Quarter Horse Association