Scamper (horse)

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Breed American Quarter Horse
Discipline Barrel racing
Sire Gills Sunny Boy
Grandsire Sonny Gill
Dam Draper's Jay
Maternal grandsire Headed West
Sex Gelding
Foaled 1977
Country United States
Color Bay
Breeder Walter Merrick
1992 AQHA Silver Spur Award
1996 Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame
Last updated on: April 30, 2017.

Gills Bay Boy (1977 – July 4, 2012), nicknamed "Scamper", was a ProRodeo Hall of Fame timed-event horse notable for his success in barrel racing. His owner, Charmayne James, rode Scamper from 1984 to 1993 in the National Finals Rodeo (NFR). They won the Women's Professional Rodeo Association (WPRA) World Championship consecutively from 1984 through 1993. They won the NFR in 1984, 1986-87, 1989-90, and 1993. He is also the recipient of the 1992 American Quarter Horse Association Silver Spur Award. Both Scamper and James won many other championships, awards, and honors. After being retired from competition after last competing in 1993, he was cloned six years later. The clone, nicknamed "Clayton", has been kept a stallion and stands at stud. Scamper died on July 4, 2012, at the age of 35.


Scamper was a bay American Quarter Horse gelding foaled in 1977 and given the registered name Gills Bay Boy. Walter "Buddy" Draper raised Scamper in Wetmore, Colorado. The gelding could be tracked to Three Bars on his sire's side.[1] When Scamper bucked Buddy off, sending him to the hospital, he sent the horse to an auction. Scamper was resold several times via auction before landing in the James family's feedlot in Clayton, New Mexico. Charmayne's father picked up the gelding from a cowboy who worked there, paying $1,100.[1] One of the cowboys in the James' feedlot, Ron Holland, expertly and patiently retrained the horse so there were no issues with him any longer. They used Scamper to sort cattle; the horse was so nimble he excelled at it. However, Charmayne, had been searching quite some time for a replacement for her last barrel racing horse, Bardo, who had broken his leg, and appealed to her father for help. Her father then mentioned the little horse in his feedlot. He said the horse was cold backed, so "do not lope him right off." Nonetheless, 12 year old Charmayne took the horse where no could see him and loped him. The horse bucked a little, and she laughed. The horse looked at her, and Charmayne later stated that she knew that he loved her. Somehow, she felt the horse would never hurt her. When she first started him running him around the barrels, he took right to it. When her father was watching, he commented, “He sure wants to scamper around those barrels”. That was how he got his nickname. Scamper was 4 years old when he started barrel racing.[2] A couple weeks after James started running Scamper, they took their first win at a small playday.[1]

Professional career[edit]

In professional rodeo, there is only one women's event, and it is barrel racing. The most popular rodeo event is bull riding, but the second most popular is barrel racing. It is a fast paced and action filled sport where horse and rider run a cloverleaf pattern around thee preset barrels and then run across the finish line in the fastest time. The best times are obtained by running around each barrel as close as possible without touching it or knocking it over. There is a penalty of 5 seconds per barrel knocked over. Winning times average between 13 to 15 seconds per round.[3]

There are two things a rodeo contestant must do to become a WPRA card member (also referred to as filling your permit). First, purchase a permit. Second, earn a minimum dollar amount at sanctioned rodeos.[4] In 1983, after running some local barrel races, James filled her permit for the WPRA after winning the barrel race at Dodge City, Kansas.[2]

James believes Scamper hit his peak as a barrel racing horse around 1986–87. According to James, all horses peak and during that peak, they run their best. She has stated that Scamper was unbeatable at his peak. She viewed him as always great and unfailing. But in his peak years, she said, "he dominated". [2]

The first championships[edit]

In 1984, horse and rider were both striving to break into the professional rodeo circuit. James was 14 years old, and Scamper was 7 years old. Her bankroll was low, and her prize winnings were not yet enough to support her. What was worse, her father had decided she should be able to support herself in rodeo, or she would have to give it up. She managed to hit her stride at the San Antonio Stock Show & Rodeo. While first in the Joe Freeman Coliseum, she was taunted by some other racers to "go home". When experiencing this at previous rodeos, she had let these girls' remarks affect her motivation. That night, however, she was filled with determination. Scamper ran his best race, and they won. It was their first professional competition and the start of a decade of amazing feats. “I knew how he was going to run every day,” James said. “He knew he was loved, but he wasn't spoiled. He knew he had a purpose.”[5] So in 1984, James and Scamper won their first WPRA World Championship[2] and their first NFR.[1]

The bridleless win[edit]

In 1985 Scamper and James won the WPRA World Championship again. They also qualified for the NFR. Scamper won five go-rounds. They won a go-round They placed in some more go-rounds. This was the year that Scamper's bridle fell off. Not only did the bridle fall off, but it did so on a "Friday the 13th" amidst the 7th go-round.[2] James later explained there had been a concrete wall Scamper hit with his head, and the wall hit the top of a Chicago screw that held the headstall to the bit loosening it. The headstall came off and hit James below the eye before dropping to hang between Scamper's legs and the bit was loose in his mouth. Because Scamper had already started running, and she didn't see any way of stopping him at that point, they finished the pattern.[6]

Photographer Kenneth Springer witnessed the moment when Scamper's bride fell off. There were no digital cameras at the time, so when he saw it happen, he stated that he had to capture the moment with one shot. He related that James' focus was on keeping the bit in the horse's mouth. When Scamper did spit the bit out, instead of worrying about how to stop him, as most riders would, she took quick action to keep him going for the finish, and they won the round. He also added that it took around a decade for the rodeo industry to actually realize what an tremendous athletic feat it was.[2] In 1986, they won the average. Winning the average that year paid $11,484.[2] Winning the average is when the contestant has the best aggregate score when they have competed in more than one round.[7]


James has related what made Scamper so extraordinary. He could make tight turns around the barrels, yet could also sprint between barrels, and he was extremely sturdy. Scamper demonstrated his speed, once for example, when he bypassed the first barrel by a stride. He had to recover the stride to win the rodeo. Not only did he make up for the strike, but he did it by two tenths of a second. One rodeo in Molalla, Oregon, they went a bit farther past the first barrel than they should have. On the second barrel they came out at a strange angle. Then on the third barrel, made a large sweep and overshot, with added mistakes. They still won the round by three tenths of a second.[2]

Scamper was both "ratey"—able to regulate his speed when asked—and a free runner. Usually horses are one or the other. Scamper had the perfect blend of both. If Scamper ran with all of his energy, he still was able to turn and make the barrels tight. James would not have to wonder if Scamper would pull out all the stops or not. Scamper was in top form in big arenas and hard ground, which are prevalent at rodeos, so that was another point in his favor.[2]

The last championships [edit]

There were other notable horses riding the barrels during Scamper's competition years, such as McRae's Dutch Watch and Deb Mohon's Brown. Occasionally Scamper started off a bit slow. Other horses could put pressure on them. However, Scamper always pulled though the win. Part of it was his consistency. In 1989, as the NFR was starting, Scamper had a cut on his coronet band. The cut was pretty foul and had kept Scamper from his normal conditioning routine. It was taking Scamper some go-rounds to warmed up. Rodeo announcer Bob Tallman approached James and said, “Well darlin’, we all knew this day would come." Obviously, he was referring to their consecutive world titles. James kept her thoughts to herself, but was determined the streak was not over yet. They went out, tried their hardest, and won the championship.[2]

In 1993, James and Scamper qualified for the NFR again and had a 10th WPRA World Championship title they were shooting for. James was feeling anxious with the pressure of that title. She wanted it to turn out right for Scamper's sake, so she could retire Scamper undefeated and still at his best. After the NFR was over, James felt a great deal of relief. Scamper had established himself as one of the greatest rodeo horses ever and many people had been waiting to discover if he could accomplish it. James just didn't want to have Scamper or the ones who loved him see him go out getting beat in his last year. James was glad to retire him with the knowledge he didn't owe her anything.[2]


Scamper wasn't always the perfect horse. He had times when he struggled. He didn't always keep his leads easily. He had circumstances he dealt with that the public didn't know about. Conditioning and physical therapy were key to his success. A few times he had respiratory issues and oxygen was used. There was no truth to the rumors about him being drugged when oxygen was used. Drug testing was used in that period of time. Scamper was just naturally talented. Springer asserts that Scamper would have been just as strong a competitor today as he was then. Scamper still ran spectacularly during his "non-peak" years. When they ran their last world championship, which was in 1993, and won it, Scamper was still running vigorously. And that was despite having some arthritis.[2]

With Scamper's assistance, James became the first $1 million professional cowgirl in 1990. [2] The two ended up winning the WPRA World Championship every year from 1984 to 1993. They won a record 10 straight WPRA World Championships. They won multiple NFR World Championships. Scamper was semi-retired from competition in 1993 before being fully retired a few years later.[8] For example, he competed at one of his favorite rodeos, Rodeo Houston, in March 1996 where he won $8,000.[9] Scamper died on July 4, 2012, at the age of 35 and was laid to rest at James' ranch in Boerne, Texas.[8]

Scamper was honored in 1992 with the AQHA Silver Spur Award which is only awarded to quarter horses who bring attention and recognition to the breed. Scamper is the first barrel horse inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in 1996.[9] In 2017, the ProRodeo Hall of Fame announced its inductees for the year and they included another timed-event horse, barrel racing horse, Star Plaudit (Red), so Scamper will no longer be the sole barrel racing horse in the hall.[10]

Awards and honors[edit]


  • 1984-89, 1991-93 Rodeo Houston champion
  • 1992 Calgary Stampede champion
  • 1992-93 Crown Royal season winner
  • 1988 Calgary Olympics, Gold Medal Team
  • 1987 Coors Barrel Racing champion
  • 1986 Turquoise Circuit champion
  • 1985-091 Coors Chute Out champion
  • 1986 Winston Series champion
  • 1985-86 Winston Pro Tour champion
  • 1984-87, 90 Wrangler Series champion
  • 1984-86 1988-91, 93 Dodge Series champion
  • 1991 Crown Royal season winner
  • 1991 Wrangler World of Rodeo champion
  • 1989-91 AQHA Horse of the Year
  • 1989, 91 Sierra Circuit champion
  • 1990 Copenhagen/Skoal Series champion
  • 1984, 86-87 89-90, 93 NFR champion
  • 1984-93 WPRA World Champion

All awards come from this source.[2]


  • 1996 ProRodeo Hall of Fame
  • 1992 AQHA Silver Spur Award
  • WPRA’s Horse With the Most Heart in 1986, 1988-93

All honors come from this source.[2]

Endorsements and Clayton[edit]

A feed company once endorsed James and Scamper, renaming a feed after the horse.[11] Because he was a gelding and as such cannot reproduce, James made the decision to clone Scamper. James researched cloning for about six years prior to making a decision.[12] She chose ViaGen, an animal genetics corporation based in Austin, Texas.[12] ViaGen is a commercial cloning company who charged $150,000 to perform the procedure.[12]

The ensuing foal, nicknamed Clayton, was born in 2006. He was kept a stallion and now stands at stud.[13] Because the AQHA does not accept cloned animals for registry, Clayton and his offspring cannot be registered. However, breed registration is not required for horses to compete in barrel racing or other rodeo events.[13]


  1. ^ a b c d "AQHA: The Originals". Retrieved 30 April 2017. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o News, Barrel Horse. "Scamper's Stats with Charmayne James - Barrel Horse News". Retrieved 30 March 2017. 
  3. ^ Anderson, Bruce. "Having a barrel of fun Only 16, Charmayne James is a three-time world barrel-racing champion". Retrieved 7 May 2017. 
  4. ^ "Tip Sheet Permit" (PDF). 15 May 2016. Retrieved 9 May 2017. 
  5. ^ "Legendary horse, once a barrel racing champ, dies at 35". San Antonio Express-News. Retrieved 3 May 2017. 
  6. ^ "CHarmayne James and Scamper brideless". YouTube. 8 July 2009. Retrieved 2 May 2017. 
  7. ^ "Rodeo Terminology". Retrieved 9 May 2017. 
  8. ^ a b "CharmayneJames - Scamper". Retrieved 17 April 2017. 
  9. ^ a b "Scamper - Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame". Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame. Retrieved 28 April 2017. 
  10. ^ "ProRodeo Hall of Fame announces 2017 induction class". Retrieved 30 April 2017. 
  11. ^ "New Scamper's Choice Is Better than Ever! ~ EquestrianMag". Retrieved 30 April 2017. 
  12. ^ a b c "World Champion Barrel Horse Gelding Cloned". Retrieved 30 April 2017. 
  13. ^ a b Brown, Liz. "Scamper Clone Offered for Commercial Breeding" The Horse, online edition, November 15, 2008
  • James, Charmayne. Charmayne James on Barrel Racing. Western Horseman Books, 1st Ed. 2005, ISBN 978-0-911647-76-1.

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