Wrangler National Finals Rodeo header Kaleb Driggers lost his great horse Champ to an inoperable case of colic just after midnight on July 15.
As Driggers and his partner, Jade Corkill, pulled into Rock Springs, Wyo., for an autograph-signing layover between rodeos on July 14, they felt a commotion in the horse trailer. When they unloaded the horses, Champ was clearly uncomfortable, so they rushed him to Dr. Paul Zancanella, the father of NFR heeler Matt Zancanella, in Rock Springs. They hurried to have him there in 10 minutes. Dr. Zancanella drew blood, administered pain medication and took Champ’s vital signs.
“It wasn’t good that he was collicking, but all the indicators they check for were normal,” Corkill said. Still, Champ couldn’t seem to get comfortable and kept wanting to lay down, which in colic cases is not a good sign. Driggers and Corkill took turns hand-walking Champ, IV pole and bag in tow, for an hour and a half.
When his condition failed to improve, Dr. Zancanella sent them to the South Valley Large Animal Clinic in West Jordan, Utah. Champ was taken into surgery shortly before midnight, but surgeons found a twisted gut that, due to lack of circulation, had caused irreparable damage to his colon. Champ was humanely euthanized just after midnight on July 15.
“We did everything possible to save him, but we did not want him to suffer,”
Corkill said. “Champ was one of the great ones, and he fit Kaleb perfectly. Champ was great in all conditions, which is rare. This is definitely a devastating loss both personally and professionally for us. It’s like a team losing its MVP. And Kaleb lost his best friend.”
Driggers and Corkill won Champ’s last rodeo – the Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo in Colorado Springs, Colo. – on July 14. It was a result, ironically, that lifted Driggers into first place in the world standings ahead of Trevor Brazile.