Horse named to ND Cowboy Hall of Fame
MEDORA — There’s no set formula for what makes a good rodeo horse: some combination of breeding, buck, personality and prize-money potential.
Whatever it is, Skoal’s Centennial had it.
The three-time North Dakota Rodeo Association Horse of the Year was inducted into the Cowboy Hall of Fame Saturday, the ninth horse to be honored.
He joined a roster of nine other inductees, including Wayne Herman and Jerry Weinberger, who were honored in the Modern-Era Rodeo category.
The late Centennial’s one-time owner Lynn Linseth — the horse died in 2009 at the age of 35 — and Linseth’s sister-in-law Shirley Meyer accepted the award before a crowd of about 200 rodeo enthusiasts and fellow honorees.
Centennial, who stood 14 ½ hands tall and weighed 1200 pounds, “just loved to rodeo,” Meyer said.
“He knew he was good,” Meyer added.
Linseth, himself a 2013 Modern-Day Rodeo Hall of Fame inductee, bought Centennial in the late 1970s when the horse was about two years old from breeder David Hermanson, who told the family he had recently purchased a registered quarter horse “with a little buck in him,” Meyer said.
That “little buck” would go on to best cowboys from bareback champion Doug Johnston to twelve-time National Finals Rodeo qualifier Larry Sandvick, who grew up just five miles from Centennial near Killdeer and drew him at the 1998 National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.
The ride is one of Linseth and Meyer’s favorite memories of the horse, and a memory for all North Dakotans, Meyer said.
“A small-town cowboy, and a small-town horse from Killdeer, North Dakota,” Meyer said. “Larry was making the ride of his life.”
The National Finals Rodeo was perhaps the pinnacle of Centennial’s long career. He went out of the shoot 90 times, according to the Cowboy Hall of Fame, and just four qualified rides were made on him.
“He was strong, hard to ride,” said Lee Dunford, bareback riding director with the North Dakota Rodeo Association. “He bucked off a lot of guys. Hit the ground hard when he bucked.”
His reputation as a difficult horse to ride made him a lucrative draw for cowboys looking for a big paycheck — if they could ride him.
“But most guys couldn’t ride him,” Dunford said.
Centennial’s pedigree made him a bit of an anomaly on the bucking circuit.
“He wasn’t bred to buck,” said horse breeder Steve Waagen, of Wildman Rodeo, “but he turned out that way.”
Waagen has known Linseth for about thirty years and said he remembers Centennial from the horse’s days “15, 20 years ago when he was bucking strong in North Dakota.”
“He was an outstanding horse,” he said, noting that Linseth took very good care of him.
Centennial wasn’t Linseth’s only champion horse; the Figure Four Rodeo Co. that Linseth worked for for 40 years also owned 2006 Hall of Fame inductee Anchors Aweigh.
Linseth “purchased some amazing horses,” Meyer said. “He just had an eye.”
But Centennial still stood out from the herd, as it were.
“We didn’t have many like him,” Meyer said. “We knew right away he was something special.”
Others knew it, too: after years on the amateur circuit in North Dakota, Centennial caught the attention of Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association stock contractor Scott Lovelace.
Lovelace told Meyer and Linseth that Centennial was ready for the big time. Lovelace bought Centennial — adding on the “Skoal’s” to the horses moniker, to reflect a sponsor of the PRCA — at the Oklahoma Bucking Horse sale in 1997, and moved him down to join the Texas circuit.
Centennial was the top horse at the Oklahoma sale that year. Linseth still wears his Top Horse belt buckle proudly and brandished it at Saturday’s induction ceremony in Medora.
Linseth wrote in a statement that Centennial was “quiet, gentle and a pet to be around. He had a quirky personality as most great horses do.”
Other than that, though, Linseth said he didn’t have much more to say about the horse he owned for 15 years.
“That horse spoke for himself,” he said.