postheadericon Rodeo week approaches in Guymon

Clayton Biglow, a two-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier from Clements, Calif., rides Pickett Pro Rodeo's Bar Code to win the 2017 edition of the Guymon Pioneer Days Rodeo. Rodeo action begins in a week and will feature some of the greatest stars in the game.

Clayton Biglow, a two-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier from Clements, Calif., rides Pickett Pro Rodeo’s Bar Code to win the 2017 edition of the Guymon Pioneer Days Rodeo. Rodeo action begins in a week and will feature some of the greatest stars in the game.

GUYMON, Okla. – The men, women and children who settled in this land more than a century ago were rugged. They needed to be.

The terrain can be rugged, and the climate tough on those hoping to grow crops and raise livestock. It’s because of those hearty folks and the lessons learned over the decade that this Oklahoma Panhandle community continues to thrive.

The legacy continues through the annual Pioneer Days celebration and the Pioneer Days Rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 4; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 5; and 2 p.m. Sunday, May 6, at Henry C. Hitch Pioneer Arena. It will be home to nearly 1,000 contestants over the week of competition a true indication of what this event means for the cowboys and cowgirls who make their living in the game.

“This is one of those rodeos that just kind of keeps the tradition alive,” said Trevor Brazile, a 23-time world champion from Decatur, Texas. “I love it.

He’s one of only two men to have qualified for the National Finals Rodeo in all four roping disciplines: heading, heeling, tie-down roping and steer roping. He has earned Montana Silversmiths gold buckles in all but heeling and owns the most all-around world titles with 13.

“This rodeo has always been good to me,” Brazile said of Pioneer Days Rodeo. “A lot of people don’t know I grew up 30 minutes from here in Gruver, Texas. I have a lot of ties to this area.”

A year ago, he earned the Guymon all-around title again, pocketing nearly $7,200. It’s just further proof that he and many others find Pioneer Days to be the perfect home the first weekend in May every year.

This year’s team roping will feature the return of hornless steers that are considered “fresh,” because they have never been through the chute system or pushed into an arena. They will come straight out of a pasture to the rodeo grounds. It makes for some wild action to an already wild rodeo.

“This is a cool rodeo,” said Charley Crawford, who won the title a year ago while competing with heeler Joseph Harrison. “We enjoy the long starts and the fresh steers. The committee does a great job.”

This will be the first time since 2007 that the team ropers will compete with the muleys. It just adds something else to this rodeo that has been around for 86 years. In addition, John Harrison, one of the most decorated clowns in the game, returns to entertain the Guymon crowd.

“John brings a ton of energy and real horsemanship to our rodeo,” said Ken Stonecipher, the production manager for the volunteer committee that produces Pioneer Days Rodeo. “He’s been here before, and we have a lot of people who have asked us to bring him back. We’re glad to have him back in Guymon this year.”

Part of that comes through Pete Carr Pro Rodeo, the Dallas-based livestock production company that not only features some of the greatest bucking stock in the game but also has been a staple for this rodeo for the last decade. Carr has been nominated for Stock Contractor of the Year five straight times.

“One thing the Pioneer Days Rodeo has been recognized for is having outstanding stock, no matter the event,” said Mitch Egger, the rodeo committee’s chairman. “We have multiple stock contractors who come in and bring their best stock. That makes it exciting.”

It’s not just the bucking stock that makes for an entertaining rodeo. The timed-event contestants come from all across the country to take their shot at winning the Guymon title.

“It would mean a lot to win the all-around here,” said JoJo LeMond, an eight-time NFR qualifier (heading and steer roping) from Andrews, Texas. “Anytime you can win the all-around at something like Guymon or Cheyenne (Wyo.) or Salinas (Calif.) – somewhere that it’s a cowboy event – that’s great. You’ve got to be mounted well.

“Plus, this is a really prestigious rodeo.”

postheadericon Harper excels at Weatherford

ALVA, Okla. – Maverick Harper readily admits that his rodeo legacy has helped him in the arena.

The Northwestern Oklahoma State University cowboy proved it this past weekend by winning the heading and all-around titles at the Southwestern Oklahoma State University rodeo in Weatherford. He also finished second in tie-down roping and placed in steer wrestling.

“My parents have been the biggest help of my life,” said Harper, a senior from Stephenville, Texas. “They’ve supplied me with what I need.

“Where I live in Alva, I live a mile from the practice arena. I will steer wrestle two or three times a week. My brother has moved here to help me with my calf roping; he is a (PRCA) Southeast Circuit finalist. He has really stepped up my calf roping this last year.”

Maverick Harper

Maverick Harper

His mother, Debra, is a Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier in barrel racing, while step-father, Gary Green, is a seven-time NFR qualifier in steer wrestling. His grandfather, James Morgan, also qualified in tie-down roping and was the co-owner of Harper & Morgan Rodeo Co.

“It was set up for me to rodeo the rest of my life,” Maverick Harper said.

He’s taking advantage of it at the college level. In Weatherford, he and partner Tanner Nall of Colcord, Okla., won the first round with a 6.5-second run. Their 7.2 in the final round was good enough for second, and their two-run cumulative time of 13.7 earned the tandem the victory.

Harper roped and tied his first-round calf in 9.2 seconds to finish fourth, then put together a 10.0 to finish second in the short round and average. He placed in a tie for fifth in the first round of steer wrestling with a 4.7-second run and ended up tied for sixth overall.

“After coming off a couple of bad rodeos, it felt really good to get back in the saddle, especially in not just one event,” he said. “It was good to come on strong in the outdoors and really get going in every event and move forward.”

The Weatherford rodeo marked the return to outdoor arenas. The Central Plains Region features four outdoor rodeos in the fall, followed by three indoor events to kick off the spring semester. The final three rodeos – Southwestern, Fort Hays (Kan.) State University and Oklahoma Panhandle State University – are all larger, outdoor pens.

“I think growing up in the South and liking some rodeos, I like the outdoors a lot better. (There is) a lot more room to set things up. Toward the end of the season, it shows who the real winners are, who can step up to the plate and win.”

Northwestern finished second in the men’s team race, helped by gathering key points in all three men’s timed events. In addition to Harper, six other Rangers picked up points. Heeler Sage Lamunyon of Enid, Okla., placed in the long round with his partner, Southwestern’s Layton Little.

Steer wrestler Talon Roseland of Marshalltown, Iowa, led all bulldoggers by finishing second overall, while Bridger Anderson of Carrington, N.D., placed third. Cody Devers of Perryton, Texas, won the first round and finished fourth overall.

In tie-down roping, Colton Brown of Nocona, Texas, was the highest finisher, earning third place in the short round and fourth overall. Cole Patterson of Pratt, Kan., placed in both rounds and finished fifth.

The Northwestern women finished fifth in Weatherford, led by barrel racer Sara Bynum of Beggs, Okla., who placed in both rounds and finished fourth in the average. Aundrea Dufrane placed in both rounds of goat-tying and finished fifth overall, while Melissa Couture of Springdale, Ark., stopped the clock in 8.2 seconds to finish sixth in the short round.

Both the Northwestern men’s and women’s team sit second in the region standings heading into the final two rodeos of the season. It’s vital to stay at the top of the game; only the top two teams and top three individuals in each event advance to the College National Finals Rodeo, set for June 10-16 in Casper, Wyo.

“When I came into the season, I wanted to make the college finals in all three events,” Harper said. “After Weatherford, I’ve given myself a way better chance. If I have another rodeo like Weatherford, I should be just fine.”

And his decision to compete in rodeo at Northwestern stands as one of the top decisions he has made in his young career.

“The school has been really helpful,” he said. “If it wasn’t for my scholarship, I probably wouldn’t have (gone) to college. Now I’m on the verge of graduating, which is a great opportunity for me.”

postheadericon Inman captures prestigious Ada title

Toby Inman cleared another hurdle this past weekend with his title at the BFO Ada Invitational. Inman leads the Pendleton Whisky World Standings with $24,500. (TODD BREWER PHOTO)

Toby Inman cleared another hurdle this past weekend with his title at the BFO Ada Invitational. Inman leads the Pendleton Whisky World Standings with $24,500. (TODD BREWER PHOTO)

ADA, Okla. – Toby Inman is having the most fun of his career as a freestyle bullfighter and it showed in his demeanor this past Saturday.

He earned the Bullfighters Only Ada Invitational championship through two wild bouts on Saturday night and walked away from the Pontotoc County Agri-Plex with $12,000.

“I’m flabbergasted,” said Inman, a bullfighting veteran from Davis Junction, Ill. “I’m stoked, and it hasn’t completely set in yet.

“Ada’s always been a big event. It is one of the biggest events I have ever been in, and it’s just getting better. You always have good bulls, and the fans that come are fantastic. When you go to Ada, you know the stands are going to be full with people who know bullfighting.”

Inman was the lone veteran to qualify for Saturday night’s Hooey Championship Round. He was joined by rookies Colt Oder, Tucker Lane and Justin Ward, three up-and-coming athletes who made their way to Saturday’s competition through Friday’s Qualifier Rounds.

“My first-round bull was just fun,” he said of his 85.5-point fight, the highest marked bout of the weekend. “Bulls like that are the whole reason to do it. When it’s not fun, that’ll be the time I hang up my hat. Even the short-go bull – the one that wanted to eat me – he made it fun because he made me work at it.

“In the short-go, I was the only veteran. That goes to show nothing’s a hand-out. You’ve got to go out and earn it.”

Inman posted the highest score to walk away with the lion’s share of the purse. A year ago, he finished second in the Pendleton Whisky World Standings with $26,983. Through just six events in 2018, he has earned two victories and $24,500 and leads the world standings by about $15,000. It’s the perfect example of how much money is available in the BFO already.

“The fun fact is that the season has just begun,” said Inman, who came out of retirement in 2016

to return to bullfighting. “The money is amazing. If you would have asked me a few years ago, I

would’ve never guessed I’d be fighting bulls again, much less be in a spot to compete for the world

championship. I have a chance to make a statement, and that is that I’ve still got it.”

In a surprising turn of events, rookies Colt Oder, Tucker Lane and Justin Ward all qualified for the championship in Ada. They bested a field that featured champions like the two-time reigning BFO world titlist, Weston Rutkowski, and Dusty Tuckness, who has been recognized for eight straight years as the best bullfighter in ProRodeo. There were also nine other veterans in the mix that didn’t make it to the final round.

“To get the call to be part of it was incredible,” said Oder, 20, of Moonpark, Calif. “That’s where the legendary Mr. Smooth (Rex Dunn) had bullfights for so many years. To make it back to the short round was mind-blowing. I felt like I was comfortable in the situation.”

Oder finished second in the championship round, just half a point behind Inman. He proved the quality of education that happens at the BFO Development Camps – he attended the camp last March in San Bernardino, Calif. In fact, he was one of nine young bullfighters at Ada that have been part of the D Camps.

“Last year was my rookie year, and I got my start at a D Camp,” he said. “That’s the first place where I stepped around Spanish fighting cattle. I got to go to a few events after that and got to be part of the Super Camp.

“I don’t think anybody can teach the way the Bullfighters Only D-Camps are taught. They break things down into such fine detail. It just makes it pretty plain and simple for what you’ve got to do out there.”

Even as one of the oldest guys on tour, Inman is seeing just how special those educational opportunities are for the up-and-coming bullfighters. It’s also going to make the bullfight game even better for years to come.

“There are just so many more opportunities now than there was when I first started,” Inman said. “I just got paid $12,000 for winning Ada. When I won it last, you might win a couple thousand dollars, but that’s it. Now the money is where we deserve it and, it helps with the name and recognition of what should be coming for a lot of years.

“The awesome thing about the D Camps is that we’re always bringing in the young guys that are hungry. It’s going to keep us on our toes, and you never know who is going to be the next big name. We need that in this sport.”

Qualifier Rounds results:
Round 1: Colt Oder, 82.5 points
Round 2: Justin Ward, 78.5 points
Round 3: Tanner Brantley, 82.5 points
Round 4: Tucker Lane, 83.5 points

Ada Invitational:
Round 1: 1. Colt Oder, 83 points, 2. Kris Furr, 81; 3. Dayton Spiel, 78.5; 4. Schell Apple, 0.
Round 2: 1. Tucker Lane, 83.5 points; 2. Dusty Tuckness, 81; 3. Zach Call, 80; 4. Tanner Zarnetski, 78.5.
Round 3: 1. Toby Inman, 85.5 points. 2. Jimmy Essary, 82; 3. Beau Scheuth, 81; 4. Tanner Brantley, 0.
Round 4: 1. Justin Ward, 84 points; 2. Weston Rutkowski, 82; 3. (tie) Noah Krepps and Justin Josey, 78 points Championship Round: 1. Toby Inman, 84 points; 2. Colt Oder, 83.5; 3. Tucker Lane, 82.5; 4. Justin Ward, 80.

postheadericon Freshman class stepping up

Ely Sharkey will compete for the second straight year at the Bullfighters Only Ada Invitational. He is part of the Friday's Qualifier Round and hopes to be one of four bullfighters to advance to Saturday's showcase featuring the top 12 in the BFO. (TODD BREWER PHOTO)

Ely Sharkey will compete for the second straight year at the Bullfighters Only Ada Invitational. He is part of the Friday’s Qualifier Round and hopes to be one of four bullfighters to advance to Saturday’s showcase featuring the top 12 in the BFO. (TODD BREWER PHOTO)

BFO-Ada will feature talented cast of bullfighters in Friday’s Qualifier Rounds

ADA, Okla. – Twelve emerging freestyle bullfighters will have a chance to make their presence known during the Qualifier Rounds for the Bullfighters Only Ada Invitational, set for 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Pontotoc County Agri-Plex.

“I’m on the hunt, and I’m not going to stop until I’ve accomplished what I want,” said Tori Ozane, 32, of Westlake, La. “That’s to be among the best in the BFO.”

Ozane is a bullfighter and has been for years, but he wants much more, and that’s what Bullfighters Only offers. He took part in the BFO Development Camp in Houston last month, where his impressive performance earned him an invite to this weekend’s battle.

In fact, nine former D-Camp attendees are set to compete this weekend: Dayton Spiel, Seth Wilson, Colt Oder, Caden Harper, Kris Buffalo, Chase Blythe, Brooks Forsythe and Justin Ward.

Friday’s competition features four rounds, with four bullfighters in each round. The winner of each round will advance to Saturday night to compete against the BFO’s top 12 athletes. It’s the first stand-alone event of the 2018 BFO season, and bullfighters are vying for valuable points toward the Pendleton Whisky World Standings.

“I want to go in and make a statement,” Ozane said. “I’m looking forward to it, and I’m actually relaxed; more relaxed than when I went to the D-Camp.”

Some of that has to do with the intensive training Ozane received, and he wants his fight to stand as a showcase to the work he’s put in since the combine.

“The one thing I learned most was to believe in myself and in my ability,” he said. “I got with (reigning world champion) Weston Rutkowski, and he’s been talking to me every day since I left camp.”

Brooks Forsythe – who grew up in South Carolina and now lives in Pueblo, Colo. – attended the D-Camp in San Bernardino, Calif., and said it was best experience he’s had since he started fighting bulls.

“I knew those guys could help me quite a bit,” said Forsythe, 24. “It was designed to where you were working on the things you need to be a good freestyle bullfighter. They could break down what I was doing before they even saw me fight.”

Now his name is in the hat with some of the top bulls in the game – The Unicorn, Cazador and Hurricane headline the list of the bull power to be provided by 2018 BFO Stock Contractor of the Year, Rockin’ B & Magnifica Fighting Bulls.

Bullfights are judged on a 100-point scale, with half the score coming from the bull and his willingness to stay in the fight. The other half comes from the bullfighter and his ability to maneuver around and jump over the bulls.

“Being able to fight in Ada means everything to me,” Forsythe said. “My goal is to quit my real job to fight bulls full time, and this is the first big opportunity to make that step.

“I’m nervous. It’s not just the atmosphere or the bulls. This is more of a make-it-or-break-it deal to me. I took my last two days of vacation to go to Ada and make this work.”

FRIDAY’S CONTESTANTS
Kris Buffalo
Knox Dunn
Colt Oder
Ely Sharkey
Justin Ward
Dakota Knight
Miles Jones
Kane Livingston
Chase Blythe
Tanner Brantley
Tori Ozane
Tate Rhoads
Seth Wilson
Caden Harper
Tucker Lane
Brooks Forsythe

postheadericon Hoffman finds comfort in Kansas

ALTUS, Okla. – Jenna Hoffman has been waiting for a moment like she experienced this past weekend.

Hoffman, a freshman at Western Oklahoma State College, has hoped to get in unison with her barrel racing horse, Cooper. After a year of working together, it happened at the Garden City (Kan.) Community College rodeo.

“It was a pretty good weekend,” said Hoffman of Sheridan, Wyo. “When I went into the first round, I had a goal to not tip any barrels and have a nice, clean run. Fortunately, we got into the short-go. Once I got there, I wanted to run a 14.8- (second) run, and I was 14.7.”

Jenna Hoffman

It was the first time all season she had earned a short-round spot in barrel racing, and her 14.76-second run on the final day pushed her to a third-place finish inn the round and fourth place overall.

“I had a lot of confidence, and I knew my horse was feeling good,” she said of Cooper, an 11-year-old buckskin gelding she acquired a year ago. “We didn’t have a very good first semester. I was dealing with a lot of health issues with him and couldn’t run him, but I think this is a very good indicator that he’s feeling good and back to where he was before.”

Of course, it helped to have a little help from coach Jess Tierney, a lifelong cowboy who has excelled in roping events. Being a solid horseman came in handy for Hoffman.

“For the past couple of weeks, Jess has been helping me tune up my barrel horse,” she said. “He actually got on Cooper and got him to listening better to what we needed to do.”

It paid off, but Hoffman was always expecting it to happen.

“We had an OK season my senior year of high school,” Hoffman said. “We didn’t fully click right away. When I got down here, we went to some open rodeos and started clicking pretty good before he had the health issues.

“When you send him into the arena, the harder you push him, the harder he is going to turn. Knowing his is going to go in and do his job makes it to where I don’t have to worry about his runs and just have to focus on riding well.”

Hoffman wasn’t the only Western athlete to find success in southwest Kansas. She was joined by a trio of tie-down ropers, led by Shane Smith of Wimborne, Alberta, who parlayed a 9.1-second first run (second in the round) and an 8.5-second short-round run (first) to win the average.

He was followed by Colton Kofoed of Evanston, Wyo., who won the opening round with an 8.5, was fourth in the short with a 9.5 and finished second overall. Teammate J.T. Adamson of Cody, Neb., was third in the opener, fifth in the finale and fourth overall.

It’s performances like that that helped each athlete realize just why they are attending college in Altus.

“To me, it just seemed like a good fit,” Hoffman said. “I didn’t meet Jess before I came down here, but I’m very happy I came down here. It’s been a great experience so far.”

That’s just what every student athlete hopes for when they get to college.

postheadericon Munsell moves to the region lead

ALVA, Okla. – Breakaway roper Taylor Munsell has a Monster of a story.

That’s because her horse, Monster, has been through quite a bit and was the driving force for her victory this past weekend at the Garden City (Kan.) Community College rodeo. The two put together two solid runs – 2.1 seconds to win the opening round and 2.8 seconds to win the championship round – to claim the title.

“I knew I had to do really good to move into first in the region, so I went in with the mindset of trying to win the first round,” said Munsell, a junior at Northwestern Oklahoma State University from Arnett, Okla. “I knew the calves were walking fresh, so I went at a little different angle than a lot off people, and I drew really good.”

Taylor Munsell

Taylor Munsell

It paid off, and she now sits atop the Central Plains Region standings. With just 65 points separating her from the No. 2 cowgirl, Munsell knows she needs to continue to ride her hot streak heading into the final three rodeos of the season if she wants to win the crown and advance to the College National Finals Rodeo – only the top three contestants in each event at the conclusion of the region season advance to the championship, set for June in Casper, Wyo.

“Now that I’m No. 1, I want to stay there,” she said. “I’m going to pick up more on it, focus more on my techniques, rope the dummy a lot, keep my horses legged up and working, hit the gym and have lot more mental toughness to stay on top, not safety up.

“I just plan to make the best run on what I get and go at it like I’m still chasing someone in front of me.”

That’s the right attitude, and it proves to be working, but there’s a bigger story in Monster. Munsell’s father purchased the horse for $200 several years ago with hopes it would work out well for her. Though broke, he was skinny. After 30 days of getting weight on him, a 13-year-old Munsell mounted him for the first time.

“All he (did) was lope and drag his butt, so I bought him from my dad for $200,” she said. “Nobody else could ride him because he was so little.

“I headed on him, heeled on him. He was my toy.”

He had a couple of life-threatening injuries along the way, but Munsell stayed with Monster and continued to reap the rewards.

“When I came to college my freshman year, the horse I was riding wasn’t nice enough, but I knew (Monster) was my next step,” she said. “I left my good horse at home and forced myself to ride him.

“He’s my blessing and my saving grace,” she said.

But those weren’t the only challenges she faced. Through high school, she had trouble with her right shoulder – while roping or playing basketball, her right hand would go numb. She was eventually diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome, a condition in which the nerves and blood vessels pinch off in between the top rib and pectoral muscle.

She has undergone extensive physical therapy – which she continues to maintain – and even surgery, but she’s found a winning combination. They were key in the Northwest women’s team finishing second overall in Garden City, but they weren’t the only ones getting points.

Munsell was joined in the breakaway points race by Melissa Couture of Springdale, Ark., who placed in both rounds and finished fourth in the average. Jennifer Massing of Ponoka, Alberta, placed in both rounds of goat-tying – sharing a short-round win – and finished tied for second overall; she was joined by Andrua Dufrane of Dawson, Minn., who placed fourth, and Meghan Carr finished fifth.

Barrel racer Kayla Copenhaver of St. James, Mo., finished third in the opening round but was unable to place in the final round or the average.

Ethan Price

Ethan Price

For the men, Ethan Price of Leedey, Okla., won both the all-around and heading titles in Garden City. In the latter, he roped with roped with his brother, Ean (of Garden City); they were 6.3 to finish tied for third in the opening round, then were 6.7 to share the short-round victory and claim the average. Ethan Price also placed fourth in tie-down roping.

Grayson Allred of Kanarraville, Utah, also scored points in multiple events. He placed in the first round of steer wrestling, then, roping with Sam Stamper of Oklahoma State University, finished third. Allred is second in the heading standings, and Ethan Price is third.

The team of header Maverick Harper of Stephenville, Texas, and Tanner Nall of Colcord, Okla., finished the first round tied for sixth, as did Northwestern header Kass Bittle of Kremlin, Okla. Tie-down roper Riley Wakefield of O’Neill, Neb., finished sixth overall.

Steer wrestler Cody Devers held on to his lead in the region standings. He placed in a tie for sixth in the opening round, then posted a 4.1-second run to win the final round. He finished second overall with a two-run cumulative time of 9.5 seconds. Devin Olson of Coldwater, Kan., finished sixth in the short round and sixth overall.

The Rangers close out the season with the final three rodeos in each of the coming weeks. Both teams are in contention of qualifying for the college finals – only the top two teams advance to Casper – and several other cowboys and cowgirls are in position to qualify.

“I think our women’s team is awesome,” Munsell said. “I think everybody’s pretty supportive. I try to be supportive of everybody because everybody on our team has a chance to (win). We have a very good team, (with) lots of nice horses. Lots of people working super hard. I don’t know how it is at other schools, but from what I hear, I think Alva is the place to be.”

postheadericon Harrison returns to Guymon rodeo

John Harrison, a three-time PRCA Comedy Act of the Year, returns to the Guymon Pioneer Days Rodeo, set for the first weekend in May. (PHOTO COURTESY OF JOHN HARRISON)

John Harrison, a three-time PRCA Comedy Act of the Year, returns to the Guymon Pioneer Days Rodeo, set for the first weekend in May. (PHOTO COURTESY OF JOHN HARRISON)

GUYMON, Okla. – It’s been two decades since John Harrison got his start as a rodeo entertainer.

Now he is one of the preeminent entertainers in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. He is a four-time winner of the PRCA Comedy Act of the year and is a three-time winner of the Coors Man in the Can, recognizing the top barrelman in the game each year.

Harrison returns to Texas County to showcase that talent at the Guymon Pioneer Days Rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 4; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 5; and 2 p.m. Sunday, May 6, at Henry C. Hitch Pioneer Arena.

Raised in Soper, Okla., to a rodeo family, Harrison began his entertaining career as a trick rider. He joined the PRCA in 1999, and within five years, he had transitioned to being a clown and barrelman. It provided greater opportunities and has allowed him the chance to showcase the funny side of his amazing abilities.

“Everything’s changed since I first started clowning,” said Harrison, 39, the grandson of 1962 world champion bull rider Freckles Brown. “I’m married and have a family and responsibilities. My whole life has changed.”

It’s been pretty good. When possible, his wife, Carla, and their three children travel the rodeo circuit with him. When it’s not possible, Harrison knows his rodeo family will be there in support and spirit.

When it’s all combined, that life is why he is one of the top entertainers in the game today. He knows the awards are nice, but it’s the story behind them that makes it all better. The awards are based on votes by PRCA members, so it’s his peers that make the awards so memorable.

“It’s the greatest honor that there is, and it’s very humbling because you know the amount of talent that there is in rodeo,” he said. “It makes you feel so good.”

But they are awards Harrison has earned.

“John is good, clean family fun,” said John Gwatney, the production supervisor for Pete Carr’s Classic Pro Rodeo, the primary livestock producer for the rodeo. “It’s his rodeo background, because he grew up in this sport.

“For us, he helps us with the timing of our production. When you know what needs to be done and have someone that doesn’t have a big ego, then he’s willing to do work and willing to do that for the production.”

That’s the key reaching fans with a variety of entertaining items. Whether it’s a trick riding display that will leave fans in awe or his parody of rodeo queens, Harrison has a lot of ammunition in his bag.

One of Harrison’s greatest attributes is finding the best ways to entertain the audience. Whether it’s engaging with fans through his humor or showcasing his incredibly athletic ability, smiles are his greatest reward.

“I like everybody to come to the rodeo and truly get away from the problems in their lives,” he said. “I want them to leave that stuff at home and come have fun. When they have fun, then it throws gas on the fire for me.”

postheadericon Muleys return to Guymon rodeo

For the first time in 11 years, muley team roping will return to the Guymon Pioneer Days Rodeo the first weekend in May. It will add a wild flavor to an already excellent rodeo. (DALE HIRSCHMAN PHOTO)

For the first time in 11 years, muley team roping will return to the Guymon Pioneer Days Rodeo the first weekend in May. It will add a wild flavor to an already excellent rodeo. (DALE HIRSCHMAN PHOTO)

GUYMON, Okla. – The Guymon Pioneer Days Rodeo has always been known as a true cowboy experience.

Nothing epitomized that more than when the rodeo featured hornless steers for team roping. The muleys added a wild experience for all involved. Like all timed-event cattle at Pioneer Days Rodeo, the animals had never been through the chutes or into the arena.

For the first time in 11 years, the wildness of muley team roping returns to Guymon’s rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, May 4; 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 5; and 2 p.m. Sunday, May 6, at Henry C. Hitch Pioneer Arena.

“This might be the most exciting thing going on in Guymon for Pioneer Days this year,” said Ken Stonecipher, a longtime member of the rodeo committee who serves as the production manager. “As one spectator put it, ‘Muley roping separates the real cowboys from the rest of the field.’ ”

That it does. Stonecipher said the return of hornless steers came together through a collaboration of volunteer Chuck Hoss and locals Jeremy Carman and Mike Ray. Now a longtime fan favorite returns to Hitch Arena.

“There’s something wild and unpredictable with these cattle,” Stonecipher said. “It’s truly our Western heritage. We’re bringing fresh steers in off the pasture and roping them for the first time.

“It’s going to be a test of athleticism for both the horses and the cowboys. I’m very excited about that.”

He should be. A number of the top players in the game are excited, too.

“I love the idea,” said Jhett Johnson, an Oklahoma Panhandle State University who won the heeling world championship in 2011. “Guymon was the first rodeo to really do it. It just makes Guymon different and sets it apart.

“Team roping has gotten so specialized that this breaks it back down to a cowboy technique. Anybody on a nice horse that can do a good job on a good on a fresh steer can do well there.”

Johnson is one of those cowboys. He’s earned multiple Pioneer Days Rodeo titles in his career and has one championship while roping muleys.

“What makes it wild is they’re fresh, and they’re so unpredictable,” he said. “I’ve had them do everything you could think of. I had one that walked out until my header roped him, and I’ve had another start running as soon as you start chasing them. You just never know what to expect, and that makes it fun.”

postheadericon Alpha Bull making a difference

Besplug’s events raising money, awareness for Ty Pozzobon Foundation

When Ty Pozzobon died 14 months ago, those closest to him decided quickly to honor him.

The Ty Pozzobon Foundation was created last March to “protect and support the health and well-being of rodeo competitors inside and outside the arena.” That’s the foundation’s mission, and those involved have been developing the ideas necessary to raise funds toward it.

“We are working toward funding the Canadian ProRodeo Sports Medicine team at all PBR Canada events,” said Tanner Byrne, a member of the foundation’s board. “We want to branch out to more rodeo events and into youth rodeos, Little Britches and Small Spurs, and having a sports medicine presence at those events.”

The key reason is raising awareness about self-care and the importance of rodeo athletes to understand how injuries not only can affect their ability to play the game but also live their lives. Pozzobon committed suicide in January 2017 after he had head injury-induced chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), an autopsy revealed.

That’s why those friends and family members are pushing for better education for other athletes and why funding is so important. Chad Besplug understands that. Like Byrne and Pozzobon, Besplug is a former bull rider who now produces events through his Alpha Bull brand.

“Ty was known for having way more best friends than most people,” said Besplug, who also serves on the foundation board. “Ty was one of my best friends, and we traveled together for years when we were both competing. We maintained a close relationship when I stopped.

“I’m very close with his family, and I consider them like a second family. When this happened, Tanner, me, Ty’s family and others close to Ty talked about the need to do something.”

Besplug is making that happen. At his most recent Alpha Bull events – the Chad Besplug Invitational in Claresholm, Alta., and the Teepee Creek (Alta.) PBR Classic – event-goers helped raise $10,500 toward the foundation. Part of that was through Ty Pozzobon Foundation merchandise sales, and a good portion came through a special auction.

“Cole Pozzobon (Ty’s cousin) got a bunch of dog tags made up, and they were really nice medallions,” Besplug said of the jewelry created by Troy Fischer Silverworks. “When he died, we ordered 10 for his close friends. Troy does all the buckles; he’s the guy here in Canada. We ordered from him, and without us knowing, he made five extra dog tags. They run about $250 each.”

Besplug has auctioned two of them at those events, and nearly half of the money raised came from the dog tags.

“We got great support in our communities,” he said. “In Claresholm, the dog tag sold for $2,200; the one in Teepee Creek sold for $2,700. It comes from the support of those communities. They’re bidding on them. People are realizing it’s going for a cause like that. To shell out that kind of money for the foundation says so much.”

It all goes back to the foundation, which then supports the foundation’s mission goals. If the PBRs and rodeos are interested in covering the cost of having the sports medicine in place, then it serves as another generous offer.

“If those events want to donate that amount and more, we graciously accept that,” Besplug said. “At the Alpha Bull events, I donate the full amount back. We will continue to sell merchandise at all our events. There will be other little things we will do from time to time as well.”

Besplug certainly believes in the process, and others involved with the foundation certainly appreciate all that Alpha Bull is doing.

“The Ty Pozzobon Foundation greatly appreciates the support we get from Alpha Bull events,” Byrne said. “Chad, his whole crew and the communities have been stepping up to the plate supporting our cause. We have big plans for the betterment of the athletes, but without their support, there is no way we can make this happen.”

This is much greater than having a sports medicine team in place at rodeos across Canada. The foundation is building a platform based on overall health and well-being, adding education and leadership to assist those during and after their careers by creating videos for athletes to help them take proper care of themselves. The foundation is striving to build an education platform to assist competitors with their careers and more.”

“We want them taking care of themselves when they’re alone,” Byrne said. “With the support of people like Chad and Alpha Bull, our goals are coming to fruition. It takes a lot of funding to make these things happen and to actually follow through with what we are doing.

“It’s important to us, because 100 percent of the proceeds raised are going back to the athletes and the betterment of the athletes in bull riding and rodeo.”

Besplug also hopes people gain a better understanding of how important mental health is in daily lives. His dear friend suffered numerous concussions over a short but distinguished bull riding career, and, cumulatively, they did damage. His concussion-induced depression – a symptom of CTE – led to his suicide and to friends and family mourning someone they loved.

“We want to lift the stigma on mental health,” Besplug said. “In the rodeo world, this is something that wasn’t talked about before. People may deal with mental health issues at some time in their lives. We want to give them the health they need.

“We want them to lead happier, healthier lives.”

postheadericon Meged finishes 2nd in Fort Scott

ALTUS, Okla. – Haven Meged has two goals in mind for the final four events of the Central Plains Region.

The primary goal is to qualify for the College National Finals Rodeo, which takes place at Casper, Wyo., in June. Only the top three contestants in each event advance out of the region, and Meged is tied for second after his run this past weekend at the Fort Scott (Kan.) Community College rodeo.

But every competitor thrives on being No. 1; winning the Central Plains would be a major step for Meged. He is tied with Northwestern Oklahoma State’s Riley Wakefield for the No. 2 spot with 385 points. They both earned big points in southeastern Kansas and moved to within 50 points of the leader, Jeremy Carney of Connor’s State College.

Haven Meged

Haven Meged

“This is going to be a very tight race,” said Meged, a sophomore at Western Oklahoma State College from Miles City, Mont. “We still have a lot of rodeos left, so I just have to keep chipping away at them.”

He did that in Fort Scott. He finished third in both the first and second rounds, with 9.6- and 9.4-second runs, respectively. His two-run cumulative time of 19.0 seconds pushed Meged to the No. 2 spot in the average.

“I just need to stay consistent, tie everything down and hope everything works.”

He secured 130 points and made up ground on the two men in front of him. Points are vital at each rodeo, because they add up to the season totals.

“Doing well this weekend helped a lot,” he said. “I missed my short-go calf in Manhattan (Kan., in February) to get some good points. I just made sure I roped my calf this weekend before I did anything else. Every point counts, because it helps to what we’ve been working for all year.

“This region is tough. There are a lot of guys that can tie them all fast. This is one of the tougher regions in college rodeo.”

Yes, it is. But Western has performed well this season. In Fort Scott, four other Western contestants earned points. Fellow tie-down roper Shane Smith was 9.3 seconds in the opening round to finish second but settled for a long time in the championship round.

The team roping tandem of Riley Morrow and Shayna VanDerLeast were third in the first round with a 7.6-second run, while goat-tier Makayla Mack finished sixth in the first round with a 7.6-second run.

“I’ve learned that nobody’s better than anybody else out here,” Meged said. “You’ve just got to go out and do the same job every time.”

It doesn’t hurt that he has a solid mentorship in coach Jess Tierney and assistant Jace Crabb. Meged also has been utilizing the expertise of an 11-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

“Jess has helped me by working on my mental game,” he said. “I’ve also been going to Brent Lewis’ place (near Amarillo), and he’s been helping me a bunch in calf roping.”

It’s paying off.

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