Rodeo star Casey Tibbs brought the sport to prominence in the 1940s and '50s.

(Courtesy of Justin Koehler)

Casey Tibbs was a cool rodeo cowboy -- so cool he turned the nation on to the sport. In the drab days after World War II he wore a purple shirt and chaps, had Hollywood looks and rode the toughest horses in the arena. He left home at 14, won nine world championships and quit the business  at 26 -- full of confidence that he could become a movie star.

It didn't work quite that way, according to a new documentary that screens tomorrow at the DocuWest film festival in Denver. "Floating Horses: The Life of Casey Tibbs," chronicles the cowboy's life from a tough childhood through meteoric fame to the years when he partied so hard he lost almost everything.  Filmmaker Justin Koehler of Aurora tells Colorado Matters host Nathan Heffel that rodeo loyalists never stopped respecting Tibbs. A few months before he died they dedicated a massive statue of him that stands outside the ProRodeo Hall of Fame in Colorado Springs. It's called "The Champ."