postheadericon Local cowgirl ready for finale

DUNCAN, Okla. – For years, Shy-Anne Jarrett stood in the background as the rodeo world shined its light on her husband, 2005 all-around world champion Ryan Jarrett.

The spotlight will beam brightly on the Comanche, Okla., cowgirl during the Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 15-Saturday, Oct. 17, at the Stephens County Arena in Duncan.

For the second straight year, the former Shy-Anne Bowden has qualified for the regional finale, which features only the top 12 contestants in each event from cowboys, cowgirls and events primarily in Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska.

Shy-Anne Jarrett

Shy-Anne Jarrett

“I’ve rodeoed, but I never went that much,” she said, noting that she’s competed in barrel racing in ProRodeo for several years. “I’d just go to a handful of circuit rodeos. I’d get a little money won, and I’d usually take off with him. I wouldn’t go as much as I have the last two years.”

Ryan Jarrett has now qualified for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo nine times, eight in tie-down roping. In 2005, he earned the trip to Las Vegas in both tie-down roping and steer wrestling, and he walked away from the Nevada desert with the most coveted prize in the game, the gold buckle awarded to the world champion all-around cowboy.

In fact, since 2002, he is the only man outside of 21-time champ Trevor Brazile to have earned that championship – Brazile owns 12 all-around titles, five in steer roping, three in tie-down roping and one in heading.

But Ryan failed to qualify for the Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo in 2015, so all eyes will be on the local girl. Shy-Anne, the daughter of Billy Bob and Sandy Bowden, grew up in a rodeo family. Dad roped calves and has trained tie-down roping horses for years, while mom was a professional barrel racer, much like her daughter.

“She actually missed the finals in the late ’70s,” said Shy-Anne, who was raised in and still lives in Comanche, just eight miles from the Stephens County Arena. “After she had me, she trained futurity horses.

“Rodeo is just a way of life.”

Ryan Jarrett

Ryan Jarrett

That’s still the case. Shy-Anne has been riding horses since she was a toddler and began competing at about 5 years of age. It engrained a passion a deep passion for the sport, and she’s competed in most female-based disciplines over her lifetime.

“I did them all in high school,” she said of barrel racing, pole bending, breakaway roping and goat tying. “I really do like to breakaway rope. I don’t do very much of it anymore, but it’s right up there on the list.”

Her focus these days is in barrel racing, primarily because the financial opportunities in rodeo are greater in that event than in the roping. Of course, it helps to have a solid partner, and she does in Cuatro Snow, an 11-year-old bay/brown gelding she calls Cuatro.

“I got him when he was 5 years old,” Shy-Anne said. “He had been on the track a little but not in any races. He’d been worked out. I’ve done all the legwork myself; I started him completely. When I got him, he was track broke, but he was not the brokest thing. I spent a lot of time getting that done.

“I knew right away when I started him on the barrels that he had enough potential.”

She seasoned Cuatro, meaning exposing him to all the things that can happen in barrel racing and rodeo. From crowds to added noise to traveling, it’s all part of conditioning the animal to perform at its best. Now she will enter the circuit finals as the eighth-ranked cowgirl in the standings.

“I always knew he had the talent to do it, so I stuck with him,” she said. “The last three years has been fun.

“Going a little more is my goal for next year. The past two summers, I’ve gone to my circuit rodeos. Next year, I’d like to go a little bit more.”

Even though Ryan won’t be in the competition in Duncan, he will be around to lend a hand and plenty of support. The two have been together since the fall of 2005, just a few months prior to his most celebrated moment, and married in December 2010.

“I was there at his first NFR and his first gold buckle,” Shy-Anne said.

Ryan not only returns to the NFR this December, but he also has qualified for the Canadian Finals Rodeo, which will take place in November in Edmonton, Alberta. That means through the 2015 campaign, the couple spent more time apart than they had in years as she worked to make her way into the circuit finale.

“It’s hard, because you put your normal wife things, the normal activities, on hold a little bit,” she said. “I think we make it work because we have good communication, and we help each other even though we’re not right there together.”

The good news is they’ll be together in mid-October while competing close to home.

“It’s really neat being this close to home,” Shy-Anne said. “That’s another reason I wanted to pursue making the circuit finals the last couple of years. It’s a good place to have it. I know the Prairie Circuit has struggled to have a place to call it home. To me, that makes a difference when you’re trying to qualify for the circuit finals.

“You want to have a good rodeo and a good committee to work with.”

She may be a little biased, but that’s OK. Both Billy Bob and Sandy Bowden are instrumental in planning the annual championship in Duncan. But as a cowgirl that competes for a living, there’s much more that goes into her quest for rodeo titles.

“I rodeo because I love it,” she said. “I don’t think I ever could’ve been one who sat in a cubicle from 9 to 5. I have to have a challenge. I crave the work. It’s living on the edge, from one day to the next. That’s the way with rodeo and with training horses.”

It’s also the heart and soul of a champion.

postheadericon Rangers still finding success

ALVA, Okla. – Goals and aspirations are one thing; accomplishing them oftentimes is another.

For the Northwestern Oklahoma State University rodeo teams, reaching goals is all about the preparation involved. With just two events under their belts, the men’s and women’s squads are reaching for championships for the 2015-16 season.

Austin Graham

Austin Graham

“As a team, I think we have all the talent to win the region,” said Austin Graham, a bareback rider from Jay, Okla. “The way I look at it, it looks like we have the talent to compete for a national title.”

Each step taken by the Rangers is one more toward that ultimate prize. The first happens in the practice arena, where cowboys and cowgirls hone their skills and their mindsets in order to compete in the Central Plains Region, annually recognized as one of the top circuit’s in the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association.

From there, it’s competing well at each of the 10 rodeos, and the Rangers have done that so far. In fact, Graham won the bareback riding championship this past weekend in Woodward, Okla., finishing second in both rounds and winning the two-ride aggregate. He was joined in the winner’s circle by Jacob Edler, a steer wrestler from State Center, Iowa.

Jacob Edler

Jacob Edler

“We’ve talked about this, and it’s never happened, but we want to be the men’s and women’s team champions,” said Edler, who finished third in the first round, then won the championship round to claim the title in Woodward. “We’ve got the best athletes we’ve ever had. We’re going to try to win first all the way around.”

So far, it’s working quite well. Besides both Rangers teams being near the top of the standings, Graham, Edler and tie-down roper Bryson Seachrist of Apache, Okla., are atop the list in their events. In Woodward, Seachrist won the first round and placed in the short go-round to finish fourth overall.

“I’ve been rodeoing since high school, and the key to winning at rodeos is about 20 percent talent, and the other 80 percent is being mentally strong,” said Edler, noting that the teams gain a lot of understanding from coach Stockton Graves, a steer wrestler who has played on the biggest stages in the sport.

“I think Stockton does a great job of teaching mental toughness. We have a tournament-style match for every event we do. The kids that haven’t competed much or haven’t learned how to win learn how to do approach the mental aspect of competition. It teaches you how to win.”

In fact, that oftentimes is the driving force for cowboys and cowgirls in deciding on Northwestern to further their college education and rodeo training.

“Stockton has been to the NFR seven times,” Graham said. “He can teach you the things you need to do to go rodeo: Working on my attitude, staying positive, learning how to enter and learning how to win.”

Those lessons are paying off for the Rangers. While Edler won the steer wrestling title this past weekend, he was joined in the final round by four teammates: Layne Livermont, Ty Battie, Tyrell Cline and Maverick Harper. Battie finished sixth overall, while Cline (fourth) and Harper (third) placed even higher.

The women were paced by breakaway ropers Elli Price, who finished second in both the short round and the aggregate race, and Ashton Johnson, who finished third in both rounds and the average. Laremi Allred paved the way in goat-tying, winning the final round and finishing third overall. She was joined in the short round by Shayna Miller, who placed second in the first round, and Tearnee Nelson, who finished in a tie for third in the opening round.

“The first weekend, I won second, and the win in Woodward is helping in the points,” Edler said. “I’m able to take the lead in the standings for the year, but I know with these rodeos it’s dang sure a marathon and not a sprint.

“I’ve been awful fortunate to go to school at Northwestern. We have a great group of bulldoggers, and our coach, Stockton Graves, couldn’t be a better mentor or coach. He makes sure we’re staying sharp in the classroom and in the arena.”

postheadericon Lunak is Outa Sight in Hempstead

HEMPSTEAD, Texas – The last time Buck Lunak competed at the Waller County Fair and Rodeo, things didn’t go so well.

“I came here two years ago, and they threw me off,” said Lunak, a bareback rider from Cut Bank, Mont. “I’m glad to come back and do good. It means a lot. It’ll help me get my qualifications up for this year, so I’ll be able to go to some bigger winter rodeos and get my shot to end up in the top 15.”

WallerCountyLOGOHe posted an 84-point ride on Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s Outa Sight on Saturday night to win the title and $1,951. That should be the perfect kick-start to the new season, which began Oct. 1 in Hempstead.

He’ll have a solid calendar year to maintain his spot among the very best in order to qualify for 2016 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, the sport’s grand finale that features only the top 15 contestants from each regular season. It would be a first for the eight-year pro from the Blackfeet Nation.

“I went out a little bit last year, but I was hurt for about four years in a row,” he said. “I’m a Native American and a cowboy, and if I can make a living off a horse, then that’s the greatest thing in the world. I love bareback riding. It’s wild and control; it’s everything. If you can make a job out if, that’s what I want to do. I want to do this great.”

He was pretty great on the final night of the Waller County Fair and Rodeo, and so was his dance partner, Outa Sight, which has been selected to buck at the NFR four times.

“I know that everybody here wanted that horse, so I was pretty happy to have her by my name,” Lunak said. “I just knew it was supposed to be good to ride. She’s bred out big and has the looks you want, so I was pretty excited.

“That’s the type of horse you want to get on. She’s big and showy. She’s got the reputation, so all you’ve got to do is show up and do your job.”

It worked out just fine for Lunak.

Waller County Fair and Rodeo
Oct. 1-3
Hempstead, Texas
Bareback riding:
1. Buck Lunak, 84 points on Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s Outa Sight, $1,951; 2. Bill Tutor, 83.5, $1,496; 3. Winn Ratliff, 82.5, $1,105; 4. Jake Brown, 81, $716; 5. (tie) Matt Bright, Evan Jayne and Heath Ford, 80, $347 each; 8. Richmond Champion, 78, $195.

Steer wrestling: 1. Stan Branco, 4.1 seconds, $2,011; 2. Cody Doescher, 4.2, $1,748; 3. Ryan Bothum, 4.3, $1,486; 4. Logan Glendhill, 4.4, $1,224; 5. (tie) Josh Clark and Tyler Gibson, 4.5, $830 each; 7. Clayton Hass, 5.0, $437; 8. Wade Steffen, 5.1, $175.

Team roping: 1. Wes Kent/Scott Webster, 4.3 seconds, $3,204 each; 2. Rowdy Riekan/Justin Price, 4.5, $2,866; 3. Will Clark/Kolby Miller, 4.7, $2,529; 4. Shane Philipp/John Philipp, 4.8, $2,192; 5. Luke Brown/Martin Lucero, 4.9, $1,855; 6. Cord Crowell/Trey Carter III and Kelsey Parchman/Matt Kasner, 5.2, $1,349 each; 8. Tyler Wade/Kinney Harrell, 5.3, $843; 8. (tie) Tee Luttrell/Clay Sieber, Logan Olson/Jordan Olson and Jake Orman/James Arnold, 5.4, $225 each.

Saddle bronc riding: 1. (tie) Nick LaDuke, on Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s Ginger Snap, and Bradley Harter, on Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s Fiesta Savy, 79 points, $1,823 each; 3. Sam Spreadborough, 77, $1,170; 4. (tie) Justin Caylor, Jacobs Crawley and Sterling Crawley, 76, $528 each; 7. (tie) Isaac Diaz, Alex Wright and CoBurn Bradshaw, 73, $161 each.

Tie-down roping leaders: 1. Timber Moore, 8.0 seconds, $2,248; 2. Houston Hutto, 8.2, $1,955; 3. (tie) Dennis Luetge and Cimarron Boardman, 9.0, $1,515 each; 5. Robert Mathis, 9.2, $1,075; 6. Josh Eirikson, 9.7, $782; 7. (tie) Ace Slone, Bradley Bynum and Clint Singleton, 10.0, $228 each.

Barrel racing leaders: 1. Benette Little, 14.90 seconds, $2,666; 2. Jackie Jatzlau, 14.93, $2,266; 3. Mary Burger, 15.05, $1,866; 4. Andrea Cline, 15.09, $1,600; 5. Kelly Bruner, 15.12, $1,333; 6. Jaime Hinton, 15.14, $933; 7. Kelly Clifton, 15.21, $666; 8. Ahnna Peterson, 15.22, $533; 9. Martha Wright, 15.23, $467; 10. Raylene Cox, 15.31, $400; 11. Jenna Beaver, 15.33, $333; 12. Janet Staton, 15.35, $267.

Steer roping: First round: 1. (tie) Vin Fisher Jr., and Trey Sheets, 9.9 seconds, $897 each; 3. Scott Snedecor, 10.0, $643; 4. Ralph Williams, 10.6, $474; 5. Chet Herren, 11.0, $305; 6. Leo Campbell, 11.2, $169. Second round: 1. Lawson Plemons, 9.9 seconds, $981; 2. Tony Reina, 10.4, $812; 3. Guy Allen, 10.6, $643; 4. Corey Ross, 10.7, $474; 5. Coy Thompson, 11.3, $305; 6. J. Tom Fisher, 11.4, $169. Third round: 1. Roger Branch, 9.8 seconds, $981; 2. JB Whatley, 10.1, $812; 3. J. Tom Fisher, 10.2, $643; 4. Brian Garr, 10.4, $474; 5. C.A. Lauer, 10.6, $305; 6. Dan Fisher, 11.0, $169. Average: 1. Scott Snedecor, 33.8 seconds on three head, $1,472; 2. Trey Sheets, 35.2, $1,218; 3. Cody Lee, 36.4, $964; 4. Chet Herren, 38.2, $711; 5. John Bland, 39.0, $457; 6. Tony Reina, 39.1, $254.

Bull riding: 1. Jeffrey Joseph Ramagos, 85 points on Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s Red One, $2,200; 2. Tim Bingham, 83.5, $1,686; 3. Eli Vastbinder, 81, $1,246; 4. (tie) Troy Garcia, 79.5, $807; 5. (tie) Ardie Maier, Bayle Worden and Dustin Boquet, 79, $391 each; 8. (tie) Lucas Guilbeau and Reagan Avery, 71, $110 each.

postheadericon Brothers love winning together

HEMPSTEAD, Texas – There’s only one thing better than competing together for saddle bronc riding brothers Jacobs and Sterling Crawling: Winning together.

“It’s great that we both ride broncs because we have two chances, and the rest just have one,” said Sterling Crawley, a two-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier from Stephenville, Texas.

Sterling Crawley

Sterling Crawley

The two cowboys moved toward the top of the leaderboard on Friday night during the second performance of the Waller County Fair and Rodeo. Sterling rode Pete Carr’s Northern Spy, while Jacobs matched moves with Carr’s Disco, both scoring 76 points to move into a three-way tie for second place with Justin Caylor of Sulphur Springs, Texas.

“I want the best for him and to have success,” Jacobs Crawley said of his younger brother. “Anytime we can split like that, I like seeing him win. I just want to catch him.”

Jacobs Crawley is a five-time NFR qualifier now living in Burney, Texas. He won the coveted average championship at ProRodeo’s grand finale in 2013 and has proven to be one of the elite bronc riders in the game for several years.

Jacobs Crawley

Jacobs Crawley

Both Crawleys have seen past success at the Waller County Fairgrounds in Hempstead, which is a big reason why they return every October. But there are other reasons.

“I love this rodeo,” Sterling said. “I’ve watched it improve every year, and the way you’re treated here is phenomenal.”

For men who make a living on the rodeo trail, being able to compete close to home is big.

“Hempstead is a great rodeo and a Texas rodeo,” Jacobs said. “We’re from Texas, so it’s good for our circuit, plus Pete’s got good horses for us to get on. They have great crowds, and they love the rodeo here.

“I also love this rodeo because we’ve just come off some of the highest pressure rodeos at the end of the year. This is nice because it’s a new season; it’s a new page. We’re all starting from scratch, and there are a lot of rodeos to be had. You get to enjoy bronc riding in the most organic form.”

Of course, doing well at a big-money rodeo to kick start the 2016 season is important, too.

“It means a whole bunch, because things have been rough this year after I came back from my groin injury,” Sterling said. “It’s nice to come to the first rodeo of the year and do good.”

Waller County Fair and Rodeo
Oct. 1-3
Hempstead, Texas
Bareback riding:
1. Winn Ratliff, 82.5 points on Pete Carr’s Classic Pro Rodeo’s Touched By An Angel; 2. Jake Brown, 81; 3. (tie) Matt Bright and Evan Jayne, 80; 5. Richmond Champion, 78.5; 6. Scotty NeSmith, 78; 7. Kody Lamb, 77.5; 8. David Clapp, 76.

Steer wrestling: 1. Stan Branco, 4.1 seconds; 2. Cody Doescher, 4.2; 3. Ryan Bothum, 4.3; 4. Logan Glendhill, 4.4; 5. (tie) Josh Clark and Tyler Gibson, 4.5; 7. Clayton Hass, 5.0; 8. Wade Steffen, 5.1.

Team roping: 1. Wes Kent/Scott Webster, 4.3 seconds; 2. Will Clark/Kolby Miller, 4.7; 3. Shane Philipp/John Philipp, 4.8; 4. Luke Brown/Martin Lucero, 4.9; 5. Cord Crowell/Trey Carter III, 5.2; 6. Tyler Wade/Kinney Harrell, 5.3; 7. (tie) Tee Luttrell/Clay Sieber and Jake Orman/James Arnold, 5.4; 9. Clayton Hass/Cody Doescher, 5.5; 10. Tyler Waters/Steve Northcott, 5.6.

Saddle bronc riding: 1. Sam Spreadborough, 77 points on Pete Carr’s Classic Pro Rodeo’s Sky Bow; 2. (tie) Justin Caylor, Jacobs Crawley and Sterling Crawley, 76; 5. (tie) Isaac Diaz, Alex Wright and CoBurn Bradshaw, 73; 8. (tie) Kobyn Williams and Joe Harper, 70.

Tie-down roping leaders: 1. Timber Moore, 8.0 seconds; 2. Houston Hutto, 8.2; 3. Cimarron Boardman, 9.0; 4. Josh Eirikson, 9.7; 5. (tie) Ace Slone, Bradley Bynum and Clint Singleton, 10.0; 8. Cooper Raley, 11.7.

Barrel racing leaders: 1. Benette Little, 14.90 seconds; 2. Jackie Jatzlau, 14.93; 3. Mary Burger, 15.05; 4. Andrea Cline, 15.09; 5. Kelly Bruner, 15.12; 6. Jaime Hinton, 15.14; 7. Kelly Clifton, 15.21; 8. Ahnna Peterson, 15.22; 9. Martha Wright, 15.23; 10. Jenna Beaver, 15.33; 11. Janet Staton, 15.35; 12. Holly Fenoglio, 15.37.

Bull riding: 1. Jeffrey Joseph Ramagos, 85 points on Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s Red One; 2. Tim Bingham, 83.5; 3. Eli Vastbinder, 81; 4. Troy Garcia, 79.5; 5. (tie) Ardie Maier and Dustin Boquet, 79; 7. (tie) Lucas Guilbeau and Reagan Avery, 71.

postheadericon Branco wrestles to the lead

HEMPSTEAD, Texas – Stan Branco makes no bones about his 2015 ProRodeo season.

“I just wasn’t bulldogging good enough,” said Branco, a 29-year-old steer wrestler from Chowchilla, Calif.

He kicked off his 2016 season on the right foot Thursday night with a 4.1-second run to take the early lead at the Waller County Fair and Rodeo in Hempstead.

Stan Branco

Stan Branco

“I rodeoed most of ’15 and came home early,” he said. I wasn’t winning like I needed to. If I start off winning now, it’ll hopefully start the year off right and I won’t be home in December next year.”

Each regular season runs Oct. 1-Sept. 30, and only the top 15 on the money list in each event advance to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas in December. It’s not only the cream of the crop in the sport, but it also features the biggest purse in rodeo.

“That’s where you make money,” said Branco, who earned a spot among the elite steer wrestlers at the NFR in 2013 and finished the season ninth in the final world standings. “It took a lot of money to make it to the NFR this year. The money is really spread out, and a lot of guys can dang sure bulldog.”

In fact, steer wrestling might be one of the toughest events in which to qualify for the finale, so getting an early start is key. Of course, competing in top form is also a must in the discipline, where proper technique often is matched with powerful men.

“Bulldogging used to be the place to get the aggression out,” he said. “I’m trying to get some of that back. I roped calves and team roped my whole life, and bulldogging is something more like football.”

Standing 6-foot-4, Branco weighs in at 260 pounds, and he looks like he could easily fit into an NFL lineup.

“The biggest thing for me before was the fight of it,” he said. “I need to get some of that back.”

It seems as though he’s well on his way.

Waller County Fair and Rodeo
Oct. 1-3
Hempstead, Texas
Bareback riding:
1. Winn Ratliff, 82.5 points on Pete Carr’s Classic Pro Rodeo’s Touched By An Angel; 2. Matt Bright, 80; 3. Richmond Champion, 78.5; 4. Scotty NeSmith, 78; 5. Kody Lamb, 77.5; 6. Anthony Thomas, 74.

Steer wrestling: 1. Stan Branco, 4.1 seconds; 2. Cody Doescher, 4.2; 3. Logan Glendhill, 4.4; 4. Clayton Hass, 5.0; 5. Wade Steffen, 5.1; 6. Shayde Tree Etherton, 5.5; 7. Wyatt Carney, 6.3; 8. Daryl Joe Elliott, 7.0.

Team roping: 1. Cord Crowell/Trey Carter III, 5.2 seconds; 2. Clayton Hass/Cody Doescher, 5.5; 3. Tyler Waters/Steve Northcott, 5.6; no other qualified times.

Saddle bronc riding: 1. Sam Spreadborough, 77 points on Pete Carr’s Classic Pro Rodeo’s Sky Bow; 2. (tie) Isaac Diaz, Alex Wright and CoBurn Bradshaw, 73; no other qualified rides.

Tie-down roping leaders: 1. Ace Slone, 10.0 seconds; 2. Trent Walls, 16.0; 3. Riley Lambert, 26.4; no other qualified times.

Barrel racing leaders: 1. Brittany Grant, 15.40 seconds; 2. Tiffani Sonnier, 15.44; 3. Shelby Garcia, 15.68; 4. Jennifer Epps, 15.71; 5. Jill Tanner, 15.74; 6. Susan Liggitt, 15.88; 7. Lauren Davang, 20.63; 8. Sydni Blanchard, 21.21; 9. Sherrylynn Johnson, 22.24.

Bull riding: 1. Tim Bingham, 83.5 points on Lancaster & Pickett Rodeo’s Cash Daddy; 2. Ardie Maier, 79; no other qualified rides.

postheadericon Hodges is in the business of funny

DUNCAN, Okla. – Robbie Hodges takes his job seriously, even though it’s a bit of an oxymoron for a rodeo clown.

“I love to look up and see the contestants watching my acts,” said Hodges, who will be funnyman/barrelman during the Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 15-Saturday, Oct. 17, at the Stephens County Arena in Duncan.

Robbie Hodges

Robbie Hodges

“I love for them guys to like what I’m doing. That’s my meter of what I judge my performance by, the guys that go to 120 rodeos a year. I try to bring something different. Every performance to me is different. My (attention deficit disorder) is so bad that I couldn’t handle it if I did it any other way or if I tried to go by a certain script every time.”

When rodeo regulars like Hodges’ work, then there’s a good indication the crowd will, too. That’s the main reason the Georgia man has long been considered one of the very best entertainers in ProRodeo. He’s been nominated as the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association’s clown of the year, entertainer of the year and the Coors Man in the Can, which recognizes the best barrelmen in the business.

“I love to work the barrel,” said Hodges, who was selected as the barrelman for the 2010 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. “That’s the most important aspect of being a barrelman, not necessarily the comedy but being there to help protect the bull riders and the bullfighters. If you’re going to be a barrelman, go get those guys. That’s been my reputation.”

It’s one that was forged in rodeos in the Southeastern United States, where Hodges got his start in the late 1990s. His strong Georgia accent is an avenue of pride, but so is the work he does inside the arena.

“I worked a lot of (Florida) rodeos in Okeechobee and Kissimmee, and that was a very mean place to learn,” he said. “When you leave there, you’d better be ready. Them bulls will just keep coming at you.”

But being inside the specialized barrel isn’t the only thing Hodges has done in rodeo. In fact, he rode bareback horses for 16 years before he started wearing greasepaint and making crowds laugh at his antics.

“I was always the guy who played tricks on everybody around me, doing things to make everybody else laugh,” Hodges said. “Everybody told me I needed to do it.

“I called a local stock contractor in Georgia about working some rodeos. The next thing I know I was doing five rodeos, then the next year, 20. I’m very lucky.”

He also is very talented, and a key ingredient in his work is how he interacts with the crowd.

“I tried to back off a lot of the traditional stuff,” he said. “A lot of my stuff is audience participation.”

That aspect of his performance allows Hodges to showcase a natural talent of being funny in a moment’s notice. Through observances and being keenly aware of what’s going on during each performance, he not only celebrates rodeo, he helps engage fans into the game with his humor.

It’s a trait he’s held tightly since a youngster. In addition to sharing his life with the crowd while in the arena, he also realizes he can provide a special gift with individualized attention.

“What would it have been like if you were a kid and one of the great sports heroes came up and talked to you at the game?” he asked. “I try to do that. I want at least one person to come up and say, ‘Hey, that guy came up and talked to me.’

“When I’m in the arena, I am larger than life. I’m the attention. I love to take that and give that back to someone. When I was a kid in about the fourth or fifth grade, I was bullied pretty bad. I try to pick out a kid and sit with them. I always think that it would’ve been great if that had happened to me when I was a kid, so I want to give that to someone.”

That’s a fascinating part about how Hodges goes about his business. He understands his role as part of the rodeo production, and he wants to add to it. He wants fans to be part of the rodeo experience and to go home after each of the three performances in Duncan knowing they enjoyed the show.

Rodeo is a unique mix of family-friendly entertainment and world-class competition. Hodges has lived both sides of it, and he sees each show through the audience’s eyes. He also knows how special it is to work the Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo.

“That is the Prairie Circuit, and those are real cowboys out there,” he said, recognizing the fact that a number of qualifiers for the finale also are NFR regulars. “You get to work with the best, and that’s always great.”

postheadericon Moore claims Eliminator title

HEMPSTEAD, Texas – Timber Moore likes competing in The Eliminator at the Waller County Fair and Rodeo.

On Tuesday night, the four-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier from Aubrey, Texas, put the wraps on his second straight title in the unique competition that featured eight NFR qualifiers owning 13 world championships.

Timber Moore

Timber Moore

“There are a lot of guys that rope great that were here,” said Moore, who earned $5,000 for the victory. “I swapped horses and was riding my good horse in the second half, and he was making stuff happen. I drew good, and luckily it all worked out in my favor.”

The event featured three world champs: Fred Whitfield, who has seven gold buckles, Cody Ohl (6) and Shane Hanchey (1). Hanchey and Moore return to the NFR this December, as do the other four cowboys in the mix: Marty Yates, Caleb Smidt, Hunter Herrin and Cory Solomon.

All eight competed in the first round, with the bottom two times being eliminated. Over the remaining rounds, the slowest individual times were dropped, which is the key to The Eliminator’s format. It was a great precursor for the fair’s rodeo, which is set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturday in the same arena at the Waller County Fairgrounds in Hempstead.

As the competition unfolded, it became a race in the final round between Moore and Ohl, who owns a record 52 NFR wins on his impressive resume. Ohl roped first and put together a blazing time of 7.4 seconds.

“Knowing how fast you’ve got to be sure makes it a lot easier,” said Moore, who followed with a 6.9-second run, the fastest time in the two years of the competition. “Knowing I had to go fast, I just had to take some chances.”

With ProRodeo’s grand championship still two months away, The Eliminator allowed the cowboys the opportunity to make pressure-packed runs. Now they’ll spend the remaining weeks fine-tuning their talents to compete for the biggest purse in the sport.

“It’s a fast start, and you have to tie them fast,” Moore said of The Eliminator. “It kind of prepares me, but we’re still so far off that I’ve still got more preparing to do before I get there.”

postheadericon Ohl replacing Shiozawa in Eliminator

Matt Shiozawa

Matt Shiozawa

HEMPSTEAD, Texas – Matt Shiozawa is heading to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo for the eighth time in his career, but an injury over the weekend will sideline the Chubbock, Idaho, cowboy for Tuesday’s Eliminator at the Waller County Fair and Rodeo in Hempstead.

Shiozawa suffered an ankle injury on the final weekend of the 2015 Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association regular season. Since his priority is to be ready for the NFR in December, he is unable to compete in Waller County.

Cody Ohl

Cody Ohl

The Eliminator is to feature eight of the top tie-down ropers in the game all competing in knockout rounds in Hempstead. All eight will compete in the opening round, with the bottom two times eliminated from the competition. Every subsequent round will feature the slowest single time eliminated.

Shiozawa’s replacement will be Cody Ohl, a seven-time world champion from Hico, Texas, who has 20 NFR qualifications under his belt. He will be joined by eight-time champ Fred Whitfield of Hockley, Texas.

They will be matched against six other cowboys that are heading to the 2015 NFR, including 2013 world champion Shane Hanchey of Sulphur, La.; Cory Solomon of Prairie View, Texas; Hunter Herrin of Apache, Okla.; Marty Yates of Stephenville, Texas; Caleb Smidt of Bellville, Texas; and defending champion Timber Moore of Aubrey, Texas.

The action begins at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Waller County Fairgrounds in Hempstead.

postheadericon Breuer ends season with Royal win

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Every year keeps getting better for bareback rider Casey Breuer.

Now in his third year in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, the 23-year-old cowboy finished his 2015 season among the top 25 in the world standings. More importantly, he closed out his campaign on a high note by winning the American Royal PRCA Rodeo.

AmericanRoyal“This year was a lot of ups and downs,” said Breuer, of Mandan, N.D. “It started out really slow, then it picked up. From June through August, I went on a pretty good stretch where I was pulling checks and rodeo was fun. The last three or four weeks, it’s been tough.”

It got much better Saturday night. Riding Frontier Rodeo’s Cross Fire during the final performance of this year’s championship, Breuer and the strong sorrel danced across the Hale Arena dirt for 85 points. For that, he pocketed $1,839.

“It feels good to finish with a win for the year to build some momentum for next year,” he said. “With this sport, you have to be consistent all year if you want to be on top. You don’t want to waste any opportunities.”

That’s important, especially for a man who is about to add to his family in a little more than a month. On Oct. 30, Breuer will marry his high-school sweetheart, Brooke, in Mandan. Once the nuptials are complete, he’ll go back to work making a living on the rodeo trail.

Still young in the game, he is taking the lessons learned while traveling with three friends, all of whom can now lay claim to being qualifiers to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, the sport’s year-end championship that features only the top 15 contestants in each event: brother Ty Breuer, who went to Vegas in 2013; Joe Gunderson, who qualified in 2010; and Tanner Aus, a 2015 finalist.

“Ty and Tanner started traveling together when they started,” Casey Breuer said. “I was lucky enough to jump in with them and Joe.

“Joe got hurt earlier this year, and Tanner ended up making it. Me and Ty got close, but close doesn’t count much in this sport.”

No, it doesn’t, but finishing among the sport’s elite allows Breuer a fresh start on the 2016 season. With a new bride that’s part of his life, there’s little wonder why he’s so excited for new beginnings.

American Royal Rodeo
Sept. 25-26
Kansas City, Mo.
Bareback riding:
1. Casey Breuer, 85 points on Frontier Rodeo’s Cross Fire, $1,839; 2. (tie) Kyle Brennecke and Devan Reilly, 81, $1,226 each; 4. George Gillespie, 80, $674; 4. Clint Cannon, 79, $429; 6. (tie) Ethan Assman and Will Lowe, 78, $276 each; 7. (tie) Luke Creasy and Mason Clements, 76, $92 each.

Steer wrestling leaders: 1. Clayton Hass, 3.2 seconds, $2,400; 2. (tie) Ryan Bothum, and J.D. Struxness, 4.0, $1,930 each; 4. Casey Martin, 4.1, $1,461; 5. Ryan Swayze, 4.2, $1,147; 6. Dakota Eldridge, 4.3, $835; 7. (tie) Jule Hazen, Josh Clark and Jacob Edler, 4.5, $243 each.

Team roping leaders: 1. Riley Minor/Brady Minor, 3.6 seconds, $2,992; 2. Luke Brown/Kollin VohAnh, 4.1, $2,677; 3. (tie) Aaron Tsinigine/Ryan Motes, Miles Baker/Dustin Serarcy and Joe Bach/Jim Ross Cooper, 4.2, $2 ,047 each; 6. Nick Sartain/Rich Skelton, 4.5, $1,417; 7. (tie) Jeremy Hemmann/Jeff Brown, and Ryan Von Ahn/J.W. Beck, 4.6, $,945 each; 9. (tie) Erich Rogers/Cory Petska, Matt Sherwood/Quinn Kesler, Clay Smith/Paul Eaves and Jake Barnes/Junior Nogueira, 5.1, $157 each.

Saddle bronc riding: 1. Chad Ferley, 85 points on Dakota Rodeo’s Groovy, $2,109; 2. Bradley Harter, 84, $1,617; 3. David Martin, 83, $1,195; 4. (tie) Taos Muncy and Hardy Braden, 82, $633; 4. Dalton Davis, 81, $352; 7. (tie) Chuck Schmidt and Jesse James Kirby, 79, $246.

Tie-down roping leaders: 1. Timber Moore, 7.9 seconds, $2,140; 2. Caleb Smidt, 8.0, $$1,861; 3. Dillon Holder, 8.3, $1,582; 4. Ryan Jarrett, 8.4, $1,303; 5. Tuf Cooper, 8.5, $1,023; 6. (tie) Monty Lewis and Clay Brown, 9.0, $605; 8. Cody Quaney, 92, $186.

Barrel racing leaders: 1. Kimmie Wall, 14.30 seconds, $2,107; 2. Vickie Carter, 14.34, $1,791; 3. Deb Guelly, 14.48, $1,475; 4. Carmel Wright, 14.53, $1,264; 5. Jeanne Anderson, 14.55, $1,054; 6. Layna Kight, 14.56, $738; 7. Laura Kennedy, 14.63, $567; 8. Calyssa Thomas, 14.66, $422; 9. Marne Loosenort, 14.67, $290; 10. (tie) Trula Churchill and Sherry Cervi, 14.68, $290 each; 12. Ashley Bauer, 14.69, $211.

Bull riding: 1. Corey Atwell, 88 points on Frontier Rodeo’s Big Money, $2,096; 2. Dallee Mason, 85, $1,607; 3. Trevor Reiste, 81, $1,188; 4. John Young, 79, $768; 5. Kody DeShon, 76, $489; no other qualified rides.

postheadericon Ferley is back in the saddle

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Saturday afternoon’s performance of the American Royal PRCA Rodeo was Chad Ferley’s last shot at making the 2015 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

“I had to come here and do good to have a legit shot to stay in the top 15,” said Ferley, a two-time world champion from Oelrichs, S.D.

Chad Ferley

Chad Ferley

The pressure didn’t seem to bother the veteran saddle bronc rider. He matched moves with Dakota Rodeo’s Groovy for 85 points to take the lead at the American Royal. He is virtually guaranteed a solid payday in Kansas City, but he will have to wait out Saturday’s evening performance to know for sure where he will finish the rodeo.

“It worked out, and it’ll be up to the other guys this weekend; this is my last rodeo this year,” he said.

Ferley entered the week No. 15 in the world standings with $58,490. Only the top 15 in the world standings advance to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, the year-end championship that takes place in December in Las Vegas.

Heading into Saturday night’s final performance, though, Ferley had already dropped to 16th, when Tyrel Larsen of Ingles, Manatoba, earned enough money in Omaha, Neb., on Thursday to move past Ferley by $700.

The saddle bronc riding champion at the American Royal can win up to $2,300, depending on the final breakdown on the purse. While Ferley is done for the 2015 regular season, Larsen is scheduled to compete in Omaha (for the second time this week) on Saturday night and in Apache, Okla., on Sunday. There still are others in the mix to make a move, including 2012 world champion Jesse Wright of Milford, Utah.

With the biggest pay in the game in Las Vegas in a couple of months, it’s important to full-time cowboys to earn a spot in the top 15. What would that mean to Ferley?

“It kind of sucks to finish right there out of it,” he said. “Honestly it would be my own fault. I didn’t go to very many rodeos this year. I rodeoed pretty easy and just had fun.”

There were a lot of reasons for the 35-year-old cowboy to stay back in South Dakota much of this year. He and his wife, Jessica, have two daughters, ages 4 and 10 months.

“I rodeoed a little harder this fall because I was in a position where I needed to,” he said. “I stayed home more and spent a little more time with my family.”

Ferley and his wife have been married since 2007 but waited to have children because of the life he lives on the rodeo trail.

“I went out and rodeoed hard for quite a few years and waited to have kids,” Ferley said. “I wanted to try to be home more when I had kids. Now I’m slowing down just a little bit because of that.”

Still, riding broncs as one of the best cowboys in the game is how he puts food on the table and how he pays his electricity bill. He needs to be on the road to make sure those things are accomplished. There’s no place to do it better than at the NFR.

“That’s the kicker in the deal,” he said, noting that the payout in Vegas is at an all-time high starting this December. “It pays so much better now, not that it didn’t pay great before. It’s twice as good now. You can make up that money pretty fast in one round.

“You can go in 15th in the world standings and have a really good shot at winning the world title now. You can win almost twice as much money at the finals as you can rodeoing all year.”

That’s why he’s in a solid position to return to Vegas for the ninth time in his championship career. That’s why he made his trip to Kansas City on Saturday count.

American Royal Rodeo
Sept. 25-26
Kansas City, Mo.
Bareback riding:
1. (tie) Kyle Brennecke, on Frontier Rodeo’s Miss Garrett, and Devan Reilly, on Frontier Rodeo’s Lizzard Medicine, 81 points; 3. George Gillespie, 80; 4. Clint Cannon, 79; 5. (tie) Ethan Assman and Will Lowe, 78; 7. (tie) Luke Creasy and Mason Clements, 76.

Steer wrestling leaders: 1. Clayton Hass, 3.2 seconds; 2. (tie) Ryan Bothum, and J.D. Struxness, 4.0 each; 4. Casey Martin, 4.1; 5. Ryan Swayze, 4.2; 6. Dakota Eldridge, 4.3; 7. (tie) Jule Hazen, Josh Clark and Jacob Edler, 4.5.

Team roping leaders: 1. Riley Minor/Brady Minor, 3.6 seconds; 2. Luke Brown/Kollin VohAnh, 4.1; 3. Aaron Tsinigine/Ryan Motes, 4.2; 4. Nick Sartain/Rich Skelton, 4.5; 5. (tie) Jeremy Hemmann/Jeff Brown, and Ryan Von Ahn/J.W. Beck, 4.6 each; 7. (tie) Erich Rogers/Cory Petska, Matt Sherwood/Quinn Kesler, Clay Smith/Paul Eaves and Jake Barnes/Junior Nogueira, 5.1.

Saddle bronc riding: 1. Chad Ferley, 85 points on Dakota Rodeo’s Groovy; 2. Bradley Harter, 84; 3. Taos Muncy, 82; 4. Dalton Davis, 81; 5. Chuck Schmidt, 79; 6. Doug Aldridge, 78; 7. Tyrel Larsen, 75; 8. Evan Hecht, 73.

Tie-down roping leaders: 1. Timber Moore, 7.9 seconds; 2. Caleb Smidt, 8.0; 3. Dillon Holder, 8.3; 4. Ryan Jarrett, 8.4; 5. Tuf Cooper, 8.5; 6. Monty Lewis, 9.0; 7. Kadin Boardman, 9.3; 8. Cade Swor, 9.6.

Barrel racing leaders: 1. Kimmie Wall, 14.30 seconds; 2. Vickie Carter, 14.34; 3. Deb Guelly, 14.48; 4. Carmel Wright, 14.53; 5. Jeanne Anderson, 14.55; 6. Layna Kight, 14.56; 7. Laura Kennedy, 14.63; 8. Calyssa Thomas, 14.66; 9. Marne Loosenort, 14.67; 10. (tie) Trula Churchill and Sherry Cervi, 14.68.

Bull riding: 1. Corey Atwell, 88 points on Frontier Rodeo’s Big Money; 2. Dallee Mason, 85; 3. Trevor Reiste, 81; 4. John Young, 79; 5. Kody DeShon, 76; no other qualified rides.