By Janis Blackwell
One formidable Gator happens to reside in Oklahoma—Burneyville, Okla., to be exact. “Shameon U” (barn name Gator) is a nine-year-old AQHA gelding owned by Cayla Melby Small. The Melby family moved to Oklahoma from Minnesota in 2012. When asked what prompted the move, Cayla’s mother, Jane Melby, two-time NFR qualifier, responded that everyone had told her that once she made the finals, she would move south. Sure enough, after qualifying for the finals in 2011, the family moved to Oklahoma in 2012 where they now train futurity and rodeo horses and rodeo out of their home near Burneyville.
Jane had been the one to initially spot Gator as a potentially outstanding barrel horse. She saw him in a line of 200 horses with no saddles on at the Buckeye Futurity in Arizona his five-year-old year and picked him to be the best one there, which he was. She said that he was a grandson of “Dash to Fame” on the top side and “Gay Bar King” on the bottom. She went on to say he was built a little thicker than most and just looked like a turning machine.
Well, all of what Jane thought about him has proven to be true. She had wanted to purchase him at that time, but he had actually been sold to Mr. Duperier for Callie Duperier. But Jane was undaunted in her pursuit to own him and followed his career and ownership until he eventually was for sale by Annesa Self, who purchased him from Callie. In February of 2016, Cayla purchased Gator. Apparently a match made in heaven because the duo not only qualified for The American semi-finals, won Spanish Fork, Utah, and six other large, notable PRCA rodeos, qualified for the NFR where they placed in three rounds, but also seized for Cayla the WPRA “Rookie of the Year” title. Not bad for their first year together.
In 2017 Gator suffered a quarter crack and resulting infection, which necessitated his being laid off for time to heal. Cayla gave Gator plenty of time off to recover, and recover he did. They came back and placed in both rounds at Denver and made the short go. Then on to Fort Worth where they also made the short go.
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