The Story of Rodeo Legend Charmayne James

Rodeo's Legendary Scamper and His Rider

Charmayne James and Scamper
Charmayne James and Scamper complete a run, bridleless, during the National Finals Rodeo. Photo © Kenneth Springer

While the name "Scamper" may not be significant to most people, to those in the world of barrel racing, it is synonymous with greatness. Scamper and his owner, Charmayne James, are arguably the most famous pair to ever hit the arena. A perfect match for horse and rider, the two sped their way to nearly a dozen world championships. As famous as they are, though, some are still unfamiliar with this incredible pair.

A Rough Start to the Relationship

James's foray into the world of rodeo began in the dry, dusty plains of Clayton, N.M. A preteen with nothing more than open space and a few faded practice barrels, James honed her skills, learning how to maneuver around the barrels and make picture-perfect pockets to shave seconds off her time. She and her father realized she needed a good horse to become a fierce competitor, although no one would guess the scraggly bay gelding they picked up at the feedlot would be her soul mate.

Gills Bay Boy, or Scamper as he was affectionately known, had a proclivity for bucking at a lope and unseated James many times. However, she never let the stubborn gelding get the best of her and would climb back on and guide the gelding through his paces. A mere two years later, at the age of 14, James qualified for her first National Finals Rodeo.

A Career on Fire

James and Scamper burst onto the barrel racing scene, winning the Rookie of the Year award in 1984. Her success didn't stop there, and she and Scamper won the Women's Professional Barrel Racing World Championship title every year from 1984 through 1993. James earned her way into the National Finals Rodeo for 19 consecutive seasons, a feat unmatched by any man or woman in professional rodeo. James also held the coveted #1 back number during the 1987 National Finals Rodeo, making her the first woman to ever earn that accomplishment.

Scamper was retired after their 10th win, and James went on to win her 11th world championship aboard another horse, Cruiser. She is barrel racing's all-time leading money earner, and she is also the sport's first-ever million-dollar earner. James has more world championship titles than any competitor in the history of barrel racing, and she has won more individual world championships than any other woman in any professional sport.

Scamper's Legacy

Most cowgirls and cowboys will tell you that the blessing of an incredible horse comes along once in a lifetime, and for James, that magical horse was Scamper. While the pair had a rough start, they eventually synced and were virtually flawless.

One of the most magical feats ever in the sport of rodeo occurred on Friday the 13th of December during the seventh round of the 1985 National Finals Rodeo. Scamper and James charged into the arena, but not all was well with the pair. Scamper's bridle broke loose during their run, rendering James's reins useless. The powerful horse held onto the bit until he approached the third barrel, then spit it out and finished his run. Despite malfunctioning equipment, the pair had the fastest time of the night.

James retired from competition in 2003, although she still hosts clinics to hone the skills of up-and-coming barrel racers. Scamper passed away peacefully on James's farm in 2012 at the age of 35. However, his death didn't stop him from living on outside the arena. James opted to have Scamper cloned with the assistance of Viagen animal sciences. The resulting stallion, Clayton, was born in 2006 and displays Scamper's intelligence and determination. James is offering Clayton for limited public breedings, so while the world may never see another Scamper, his legacy will live on.