From his days as an Arizona cowpuncher to his career as a leading team roping trainer, Clay Logan has flourished with hard work, cowboy grit, and dependable crews that have helped him through tough times.
Since the couple started their business over 20 years ago, they’ve trained and/or shown over ten American Quarter Horse Association world and reserve champions, including their well-known heel horse Replay Blue Boon, but their success hasn’t come without challenges and setbacks. Clay’s journey had a meager beginning and was shaped by his solid work ethic and the skills learned on the ranches where he grew up.
His is the story of a young Arizona cowpuncher who went on to make his mark among the nation’s best roping horse trainers.
Catching wild cattle, working roundups and competing in rodeos: If Clay Logan wasn’t riding his pony, Bueno, he dreamed of such things growing up in the rugged ranch country of Arizona. His father, Cotton Logan, managed ranches in the area and was a professional roper in the 1950s. Clay followed suit, learning the cowboy’s ways on the range and in local arenas.
The storied Arizona Cowpunchers Reunion, held each June in Williams, was the rodeo the area’s ranching community coalesced around each year. Created for the region’s working cowboys and their families, the event included ranch bronc riding, wild cow milking, dally calf roping, ribbon roping, and a wild horse race. Team roping was important and organized for male and female, young and old, with divisions including mixed (male and female), 12 and under, and 60 and older. Clay relished the rodeo’s cowpuncher authenticity and placed in numerous events.
However, his favorite event was team tying, which is similar to team roping. In team tying the header’s rope is tied on the saddle horn and the header dismounts to tie the steer’s back legs after it has been heeled. Cowpuncher Reunion organizers featured the event because it was more closely associated with everyday ranch work than was standard rodeo team roping.
From his teenage years to young adulthood, Clay lived the life he imagined as a child. Besides working for his father, he frequently joined friends Tom Johnson, Steve Hampton and others who caught wild cattle on area ranches and on the San Carlos Indian Reservation. Johnson, who headed up the crew, had a faithful following among stockmen who had confidence in his ability to venture into rough country and catch the wild mavericks. Clay’s skills with horses and ropes made him a valued member of Johnson’s team.
Evasive cattle, seldom seen by humans, thrive in central Arizona’s rocky terrain. Making the challenge of catching them even more daunting, the area has an abundance of intimidating vegetation, including cholla, ocotillo and saguaro cactus, as well as mesquite, pine and juniper trees. The work is not for the faint of heart, but to a 21-year-old cowboy, getting a chance to rope and lead wild cattle to a ranch corral gets the heart pounding.
Gone to Texas
In 1996, Clay’s brother, Judd, introduced him to legendary horseman Don Dodge. The meeting opened doors for the young cowboy, most notably a life-changing road trip when Dodge, who by that time was advanced in years, asked Clay to drive him to Texas to check out some horses at the training facility of Matlock Rose and his son, Sam. After the trip, Clay returned to Texas to help Sam work horses, and the experience convinced Clay he had a future in the world of professional horse training.
Soon, Clay landed a job riding horses for National Cutting Horse Association Hall of Fame trainer Lindy Burch. It was there that he met an attractive, smart and hardworking young woman named Colleen Murphy. A longtime employee of Burch, Colleen grew up near Green Bay, Wisconsin. She had earned a bachelor’s degree in animal science from the University of Wisconsin and completed an internship with Quarter Horse breeders Jack and Mildred Janowitz in Franktown, Colorado, before making her way to Texas. There, she worked for Matlock and Carol Rose, as well as Tom Lyons, before joining Burch.
Before Clay turned 29, he and Colleen were making plans not only for marriage, but for their own training business.
“I left Lindy’s and went to work for [cutting horse trainer] Chris Benedict at DLR Stallion Station, then worked for [cutting horse trainer] Kobie Wood for about a year,” says Clay. “But Colleen
and I were on the fence as to what direction we wanted to take [with our training plans].”
Finding Their Way
Purchasing property near Granbury, Texas, for their training facility was an important early decision.
“We bought the place and it had the house and two covered loafing sheds,” says Clay. “We sold some colts for pretty good money and that’s how we built our barn. Colleen had some money left over, so we bought a tractor.”
Besides their savings, the Logan’s tapped other resources and talents to sustain the training operation in its early years.
“When we started here I had just two horses in training, so I was trimming broodmares and colts for [cutting horse trainer] Phil Rapp,” Clay says, referring to his skills as a farrier. “Back on the ranches in Arizona, you had to learn to shoe your own horses, so in Texas I shod horses and rode colts and did whatever it took. For a long time, I did all the shoeing here until we got big enough to where I didn’t have to anymore.”
While the cutting industry had been paying the bills, the couple believed there was more opportunity for them in team roping.
“Our place wasn’t big enough, at first, to have a cutting operation, and [cutting] cattle were expensive,” says Clay. “We knew we could go a lot faster in the roping.”
As with any new business, there were ups and downs, and while the Logan’s had early success, they also quickly admit to the “if I knew then what I know now” truism.
“We had some really nice horses in the early days that didn’t win as much, and I’d love to have those horses again because I’m sure I’d have won a lot more on them,” says Clay. “Hagans Play is one we trained that Robert Gifford bought. If it weren’t for Robert we wouldn’t have got started. His was the first horse I trained when we moved here. Pitching is another one that should have won a lot more. Wichita Ranch kept a stud named WR Wired Wichita with us for a long time, too.”
While Clay’s talents and work ethic served him well, the learning curve from Arizona cowpuncher to professional horse trainer proved to be steep. He credits his close friend and noted horseman J.D. Yates with giving him important advice and help in training horses for the somewhat diverse worlds of horse shows, jackpots
“There was a time when I wasn’t getting much better,” says Clay. “He came to help me and the things he showed me in one day—when I fully understood what he was telling me—I got it.”
Much of Yates’ advice centered on patience. Although rope horses are trained for a speed event, aggressiveness can be a detriment.
“I learned that the rider can be too aggressive,” Clay says. “You’ve got to help a horse keep his shoulders up and wait. Especially with heel horses, you’ve got to allow the horse to make the entrance to the steer upright and square.”
The combination of the mechanics of a team roping run, coupled with the patience of knowing when and how to let the horse present the roper with a proper shot at the heels, proved a pivotal moment for Clay.
“When I came to fully understand what J.D. was telling me, things came together and my training improved,” he says.
Heeling on Cutters
While Logan’s reputation extends to head horses—Nick Sartain headed on a Logan-trained horse owned by Pete Fanning at the 2015 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo—his niche is on the heel end. Being in the heart of cutting horse country gives the Logan’s an ample supply of heel horse prospects. Horses with a desire to run to a cow and get their hindquarters in the ground are well suited to heeling steers, and the cutting network Clay and Colleen have cultivated has paid off through the years.
Ideally, the horse’s cow instincts shouldn’t overpower the roper’s ability to make adjustments while running down an arena at full speed. Ropers who find themselves struggling to control their horses while riding to the proper position for a high percentage shot are at a disadvantage, according to Clay.
“A lot of these guys will keep ahold of their horse all the time,” says Clay. “I want that horse to be thinking for himself instead of me pulling on him, and I don’t want the horse pulling on me, either.”
A young trainer dreams of his or her breakout horse; the one that catches people’s attention and establishes him or her in a competitive business. Replay Blue Boon is that horse for Clay and Colleen Logan. Their friends Kobie and Paula Wood had a hunch “Replay” would be a good fit for the Logan’s and their program.
“Paula called and said they had a horse that she showed at the [NCHA] Futurity, but he really didn’t want to cut,” says Colleen. “She thought he would make us a great rope horse. Clay went to their place and loped him around in a few circles each way, stopped him and bought him.”
The 2002 gelding, by Duals Blue Boon (a son of Dual Pep) and out of a Freckles Playboy mare, was acquired by the Logan’s in 2006. The bay roan stands out not only because of his good looks, but his impressive track record of helping both NFR champions and amateurs reach the pay window. Pressure to make the three-second runs needed by today’s professionals make the majority of their horses too strong and quick for most amateur ropers. However, the Logan’s say that Replay can sense if his rider is a pro making an NFR run or an amateur needing to be put in position for an optimum shot.
Success with Replay came quick for the Logan’s. In 2007 he won his first AQHA world championship in junior heeling. Five years later he followed up by winning the senior heeling at the AQHA World Show. Along the way he’s carried Clay and other professionals like Michael Jones, Jonathan Torres, Britt Bockius and most recently Jim Ross Cooper to pay windows at major rodeos and jackpots alike. The horse’s versatility was never more on display than earlier this year.
“The special thing about Replay is that he can adapt to whoever is riding him,” Colleen says. “He can take care of me in the amateur, or speed everything up in the rodeos. This winter he rodeoed with Jim Ross and we had one day after the George Strait [Team Roping Classic] to get ready for the horse show at the Houston Livestock Show. I won the amateur heeling and Clay was reserve in the senior heeling on him. Rodeo horse, jackpot horse, show horse—Replay does it all.”
Above all, it may be Colleen’s success with Replay that has given the Logan’s special notoriety, and 2016 was a banner year for the duo. They placed fourth at the 2016 AQHA World Show and finished as the year-end high-point winners in amateur heeling. In 2019 Colleen and Reply took AQHA Reserve World Champion and Reserve World also in the Open with Cade Rice.
“He’s probably one of the most recognized horses that hasn’t been [consistently] rodeoed on,” says Clay. “He doesn’t owe us anything, and he’s our best advertisement. We’ve gotten a lot out of people seeing us rope on Replay.”
After Replay’s initial success, numerous additional AQHA world championships and titles followed. Stylish Rocky, a grandson of famed cutting stallion Docs Stylish Oak, was the 2012 AQHA Junior Heeling World Champion. MJ Razor Wire, by WR Wired Wichita, steadily climbed his way to a world championship for owner Rodney Green. The 2009 gelding was reserve champion in 2013 and placed third in 2014 in the AQHA World Show’s junior heeling, and was world champion senior heeling horse in 2015.
Old Faithful, a son of Dual Rey and owned by Dallan Jeppesen, was the 2016 world champion junior heeling horse. Uno Cheetah, now owned by Jud Little, was a multiple top-12 finisher in the AQHA world standings in both heading and heeling. The versatile mare, by Smart Little Uno and out of a Dual Pep daughter, was heeled on by Britt Botkiss at the NFR, and Charles Pogue headed on her at pro rodeos before she was retired as a broodmare.
Today, Clay might be the most sought-after team roping horse trainer in the United States. While the Logan’s’ clientele extends to the world’s most elite headers and heelers, the majority of their customers are in the novice and amateur echelons. Much of his success comes from having a thorough knowledge of the strengths and weaknesses of both his clients and their horses. Underneath his easygoing demeanor lies a passion for getting the most out of both.
“He’s as much about developing people’s talents as the horses,” says client Mary Margaret Richter, who lives near Fort Worth, Texas. “His approach is about helping me change little things at a time, but with a long-range goal. We’re all at Clay’s to win a world title, but his ego does not stop him from making the right decisions for me and the horse.”
Clay will quickly admit that he’s not a one-man show. With more than 30 horses in training, it takes us all to ensure every horse receives the attention that Clay expects. Each horse is exposed to roping a lot of live cattle, especially in the early stages of training.
“One of our clients recently said,
‘You guys rope more than any trainer we
know,’” says Clay. “We ride them and they get roped on a lot. At the same time, I might only run two steers on a horse if he’s doing good. You learn that there’s a time you ride them and there’s a time you don’t.”
As with Replay, the majority of Logan-
trained horses suit ropers of any skill level.
“Clay’s deal is he’s easy to follow,” says Colleen. “He gets them trained to where anyone can get on them and rope to the best of their ability.”
Written by: Matt Brockman