postheadericon American Royal preparing for festival with youth as the beneficiary

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Every move made inside the American Royal complex is specifically designed for the association’s mission.

As the foundation that holds the footing for everything involved in the American Royal and its fall festival, the mission is to promote and celebrate the excellence in agricultural progress and develop future generations of leaders through agrarian values, disciplines and expressions of skills.

AmericanRoyal“At the heart of what the American Royal does is as a children’s charity,” said Bob Petersen, the American Royal’s president and CEO, explaining that the association’s purpose is to provide scholarship, education, awards and competitive learning experiences that reward hard work, leadership skills and agrarian values.

“We are very proud that we provide more than a million dollars every year for youth and education, and we are equally proud of the variety of ways we do that.”

This year marks the American Royal’s 115th year with its marquee event on the horizon. The fall festival begins in early September and runs for two and a half months, from various horse shows, livestock shows, youth events, rodeos and the World Series of Barbecue.

“Last year we had more than 270,000 people who came through our doors during the fall festival,” Petersen said. “In addition to that money going toward youth in Kansas City, having that kind of attendance is important to everything we do.”

It also is important to Kansas City. The American Royal provides a substantial economic impact to the area. Thousands come to town to participate in the fall festival, and thousands more arrive to take in the festivities. It’s the perfect fit for its theme: “Kansas City’s Most Authentic Asset.”

“We have been around for more than a century, and we’re looking to build on that history,” Petersen said. “We want everyone in Kansas City to know that the American Royal is more than our fall festival; the American Royal is Kansas City, and we want youth to benefit from everything we do.”

postheadericon Trainer brings her passion to work

Michelle Gilles works with a young roan horse during a recent Colt Starting Challenge USA event in Cortez, Colo. Gilles has utilized techniques she gathered in the competitions to aid in her training business, and she continues to compete. (COLT STARTING CHALLENGE USA PHOTO)

Michelle Gilles works with a young roan horse during a recent Colt Starting Challenge USA event in Cortez, Colo. Gilles has utilized techniques she gathered in the competitions to aid in her training business, and she continues to compete. (COLT STARTING CHALLENGE USA PHOTO)

GARDEN CITY, Kan. – Michelle Gilles is a horse trainer and a competitor.

She also is a wife and mother, and no matter where she goes, she does so with her family involved. Whether it’s working her business at their home near Lubbock, Texas, or on the road at competitions, it’s certainly family time.

“A family that works together, plays together and stays together,” said Gilles, owner of Michelle Gilles Horsemanship. “Everywhere I go, it’s me, my husband and kids.”

That works just fine. By combining family, work and competition, the native Californian is living her perfect life. That includes her ventures for Extreme Mustang Makeover events, reining contests and competing in the Colt Starting Challenge USA, the latter of which showcases trainers’ work with young horses.

In fact, Gilles will be part of the next challenge, set for 6-9 p.m. Friday, Sept. 5, and 5-9:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 6, inside the Bronc Buster Horse Palace at the Finney County Fairgrounds in Garden City.

“The Colt Starting Challenge is a really great way to further your education with horses,” Gilles said. “It makes you have to learn who you truly are, because you are putting a lot of training in such a short period of time. You have to know your stuff.”

While she utilizes the challenges for self-training, Gilles’ true competitive nature comes out in full force when it’s time to enter the arena.

“The Colt Starting pen shows you where your holes are and where you have to go back and fix,” she said. “I do it to better myself and hopefully educate the public that there’s a new way of doing things.”

The Colt Starting Challenge focuses on natural horsemanship, which better utilizes a horse’s natural instincts. The techniques used are a far cry from what was done a generation ago and what many have seen regarding breaking horses on TV and in the movies.

The competitions are the brain child of trainer and horseman Russell Beatty. In the two-day challenges, trainers are matched via random draw to horses that have had limited handling; there has been no saddle nor bridle ever on the animal. To close out the challenge, trainers take their hoses through a variety of obstacles in order to show how far their animals have come in a short amount of time.

“I’ve been watching different competitions, and this was interesting because I am really good at getting these young ones going, and I enjoy getting the colts started,” Gilles said. “I got started by watching them, and I’ve already been to four. I watched Russell, and I really liked the sportsmanship and that with his competitions, it’s all about the horse.

“If you get in a bind in your pen and need help, another competitor can come in and help you. That’s an awesome part of the competition.”

As a trainer, she has taken a lot from the Colt Starting Challenges. In fact, some of the lessons learned have enabled Gilles to upgrade the techniques she utilizes in her home practice.

“I’m much quicker and more aggressive,” she said. “When I would get a green horse before, I would go slower and be methodical in the process. Now I have the tools to speed up the process of my training. Ideally the public wants a horst that’s past green broke in less than 30 days.

“Now I’m able to give a much better product to the horse community in a short amount of time.”

While trainers in the Colt Starting Challenge utilize the same philosophy, they go about their work using a variety of methods. For Gilles, adapting along the way is outstanding for her business.

“I was raised around horses my whole life,” Gilles said, noting that she began focusing on training while in college. “I started taking equine science classes. That’s where I started learning about starting colts.

“I fell in love with it. Horses are honest and pure, and they get out of it what you put into it. Horses have no bad intentions. What you give that horse, they give right back to you. The horse is really a reflection of who you are.”

Gilles’ passion is evident in everything she does, and she’s excited to share it through the Colt Starting Challenge USA.

postheadericon Trainers shooting for finale

COLT STARTING CHALLENGE TO HAVE ITS FINALS IN VEGAS DURING COWBOY FANFEST

GARDEN CITY, Kan. – There is tremendous excitement centering on the unique Colt Starting Challenge USA.

The relatively new venture features horse trainers showing off their natural horsemanship skills over a two-day contest. The word is getting out, and the popularity of the events is growing rapidly.

How fast?

“We have developed to the point that we will have a finals this year,” said Russell Beatty, founder of the Colt Starting Challenge USA. “To make our finals, you have to go to at least two of our events, and we’ll take the top eight trainers.”

The finale will take place from 2:15-4:45 p.m. Pacific Time, Saturday, Dec. 6-Monday, Dec. 8, at the Cowboy FanFest Arena at the Las Vegas Convention Center during the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

“It’s really exciting to be part of Cowboy FanFest and to have an opportunity like that,” Beatty said.

The opportunity arose because the competition has a solid foundation. Based on natural horsemanship methods in working with young horses, the Colt Starting Challenge affords trainers the opportunity to show their skills in front of fans and other competitors.

Trainers will work with their colts over two days, then will showcase the horses by riding them through an obstacle course. Such is the case at the organization’s next event, set for 6-9 p.m. Friday, Sept. 5 and 5-9:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 6, inside the Bronc Buster Horse Palace at the Finney County Fairgrounds in Garden City.

“We wanted to create Cowboy FanFest to attract ore of the male demographic that might not be as interested in shopping during the Cowboy Christmas at the Convention Center,” said Bo Gardner, the vice president for corporate marketing at Las Vegas Events. “We wanted to explore other areas of the Western world.

“We love the opportunity to do that with the Colt Starting Challenge. We got a sponsor that is going to help us support the finals. It’s something new that we can show our fans, and I think it’s something people are going to start following.”

They already are. At events across the country, interest is growing, and it’s not just the fans. Trainers are seeing the potential.

“If this has already grown to where there is a finals, I think this is something that can be big,” said Victor Sundquist, 20, a two-time event winner from Olathe, Colo. “What we do is through natural horsemanship training. We don’t use any spurs or twitches or hobbles. We use a horse’s natural instincts and communication. The horse wants to do it because of you.”

That’s one of the purposes of the Colt Starting Challenge. Trainers know that horses enjoy work, and communicating with the animals on their level is the key to success. Now rodeo fans that are in Las Vegas for ProRodeo’s championship will have the opportunity to watch it closely.

“Last year we had 196,000 people through our doors, which is a larger attendance than for the Thomas & Mack Center for the NFR,” Gardner said. “Over the course of 10 days, we broke several records.

“Our boss is one of those outside-the-box guys. We wanted to create an experience within the convention center, which has hosted Cowboy Christmas for some time. Cowboy Christmas has always been very successful, but if you continue to offer the same thing every year, it loses its flair. Also at Cowboy Christmas, there really isn’t a place to just sit down and relax. That’s what we wanted to do with Cowboy FanFest and to have a live stage and offer good entertainment.”

That’s how the Cowboy FanFest Arena was developed. In addition to the Colt Starting Challenge finals, the arena is home to the Miss Rodeo America horsemanship competition, mini bull riding, ranch shorting and a variety of other activities throughout the showcase.

It’s the perfect fit for horse trainers to showcase their talents.

postheadericon I am not Lazy Johnny Jackson

Over the last couple of days, I’ve had two dear friends contact me about Lazy Johnny Jackson, a character on Facebook.

To set the record straight, I am not Lazy Johnny Jackson, though I do follow his posts.

Ted Harbin TwisTED Rodeo

Ted Harbin
TwisTED Rodeo

For those not in the know, LJJ likes to stir the pot. In fact, he follows professional rodeo closely and posts about topics that will get folks thinking. Whoever the person is behind Lazy Johnny Jackson, he/she is very well written and has a sharp wit.

That wit is a little biting, especially if you don’t agree with LJJ’s comments. There have been exchanges and barbs shared with some of the greatest players in the sport.

The message I received this morning pushed me to write this. In the note, my friend spelled out the name of one accuser that is contacting many in rodeo, telling them that I am Lazy Johnny Jackson and that I’m purposefully stirring “crap” on Facebook.

It’s not me. While oftentimes I find LJJ’s posts and comments humorous, I’m not the kind of person to make comments under an assumed name. I also don’t possess LJJ’s quick wit. Since I first found LJJ on Facebook, I have, too, wondered his true identity.

But it’s my business to promote the sport of rodeo, its events and its people. It’s my passion, and it’s something I’m truly blessed to do. To accuse me of anything but that – in an effort to discredit my name and my credibility – is something I will fight against.

It’s much too important to me.

postheadericon Event challenges horse trainers

COMPETITION WILL BRING TOGETHER TOP HORSEMEN WORKING WITH NOVICE ANIMALS

GARDEN CITY, Kan. – For centuries, training horses has been a major part of ranch work worldwide.

The key, all horsemen say, comes in the early stages of a colt’s development.

“The funnest time of training horses is the first few days,” said Victor Sundquist, a lifelong trainer from Olathe, Colo.

Such is the foundation for Colt Starting Challenge USA, an association of two-day competitions that feature trainers utilizing natural horsemanship methods with young horses. The next event is scheduled for 6-9 p.m. Friday, Sept. 5 and 5-9:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 6, inside the Bronc Buster Horse Palace at the Finney County Fairgrounds in Garden City.

Victor Sundquist shows off his trophy buckle for winning the Colt Starting Challenge USA event in Cortez, Colo., last month.

Victor Sundquist shows off his trophy buckle for winning the Colt Starting Challenge USA event in Cortez, Colo., last month.

Sundquist is a two-time champion who has excelled at numerous challenges, most recently at the event in Cortez, Colo., where he walked away with the championship.

“In the first two days, the colt is able to learn new things really fast,” said Sundquist, 20, now in his fifth year of training professionally. “It’s amazing what you can do in the first hour. I’ve actually been able to stand up on a horse in the first couple of hours.”

That quick timeline becomes quite evident during the Colt Starting Challenge. Each trainer is matched with a horse via random draw; the colts have not been started and have never been saddled nor bridled. The trainers will work with the animals over the course of two two-hour sessions set up over two days, and judges will determine which of the trainers wins.

“We will have two hours of work the first day with a half-hour break in between,” said Russell Beatty, who founded the Colt Starting Challenge USA. “This is all done with an audience, and each contestant has a microphone so that when it’s their time to talk, they can say what they’re doing and why they’re doing it.

“The second day has two 45-minute sessions with a break in between. After the second session, we tear down the round pens, set up our obstacle course and the contestants ride their horse through the obstacle course. The winner gets a buckle.”

The contestants love the idea.

“I honestly see this as a great idea with a great future, which is why I’m doing it,” said Bob Mundy of Norco, Calif., who has competed in two events, including one victory. “I really like the whole philosophy behind it. This gives the smaller guy, the guy that has no name, the opportunity to go out and show his skills and promote himself.

“I also think it educates people, because you will have four guys who do things similarly but they do them differently.”

It’s a brilliant opportunity for horse owners to see what professional trainers can accomplish in a short amount of time.

“For anybody that does this, our goal is to promote how we go about it,” Mundy said. “I like colt starting because I like being able to start horses and get them a good foundation. The first few days with a horse makes all the difference in a horse.

“The people who come to these events can see the different methods coming together. They can see the different things going on. I really see the Colt Starting Challenge growing and making something positive. I think it’s something that’s needed. What I really like about it is, in the competitions I did, everybody was really helpful. We’re there to support each other. We want everybody to succeed.”

It’s that type of progress that makes the Colt Starting Challenges a draw not only for competitors but also for horse-loving fans who come to see the trainers at work. They can take some of the lessons they learn inside the arena back home or consider utilizing one of the trainers with their animals. The shows are set up in a fan-friendly environment that makes each performance enlightening.

“It’s really fun because it’s something new,” Sundquist said. “I really enjoy it and think it’s awesome.”

So do other trainers and the fans who witness it first-hand.

postheadericon Freshman dominates CNFR to claim title

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story appears in the August issue of Women’s Pro Rodeo News, the official publication of the WPRA. It is republished here with the approval of the WPRA.

The reality of Cool Rowdy was that nobody wanted him.

Not the Engessers, who owned him, and not anyone else for that matter. The family from Spearfish, S.D., tried to sell the sorrel gelding at least 10 times, and they never got a nibble.

“Once he got old enough to start riding him, none of us could ride him because he was so rough,” said Taylor Engesser, 19, the oldest of three children to Shorty and Punky Engesser. “We lost some horses a few years ago, and we really didn’t have anything left, so we just started working with Rowdy.

“We quickly learned that if you rode him right, he worked great.”

Taylor Engesser

Taylor Engesser

He works very well, and the young cowgirl learned first-hand in mid-June during a magnificent run through the College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, Wyo. She placed in three go-rounds, two of which she won, and claimed the ever-elusive barrel racing national championship aboard the 19-year-old, out of Cool Deep Margie by Mr Haggard.

A freshman at Gillette (Wyo.) College, Taylor Engesser posted a four-round cumulative time of 55.78 seconds. She just missed out on placing in the opening round with her slowest time of the week, a 14.34, then put together winning times of 13.83 in the second round, 14.03 in the third and 13.58 in the short go-round – she won the second and fourth rounds and placed in the top five in the third round.

“It’s a huge blessing to have made it that far, especially as a freshman coming in there,” she said. “I had nothing to lose.

“I was really nervous about running him indoors, but he actually ended up getting better and better with each run. I don’t know if he really liked indoors or the ground or what, but he ended up being more free, and he ran really well.”

So what changed from those early years? The family began riding him more aggressively, and it’s been a gold mine. Younger sister Rickie, 17, and younger brother Jace, 15, have found success on the gelding.

“We just figured out we had to go, and ever since he’s been great,” Taylor Engesser said. “You’ve got to make sure you ride him right every single time, ride him hard and go at him, then hope it all works out.

“He runs hard all the time. He’s got the biggest heart of any animal. He tries hard in everything he does. He’s an amazing all-around horse, and he can do just about anything.”

So can Engesser, who earned the right to compete at the college finals by finishing second in the Central Rocky Mountain Region’s all-around race. She ran barrels and competed in breakaway roping at Casper after helping the Gillette women to the regional women’s title – she placed sixth in the circuit in barrel racing and fourth in breakaway.

She also competes in goat tying – and rides Rowdy in that competition – but didn’t do so in Casper. She’s taken her rodeo lead from her father, Shorty, who owns Newcastle Motors in Newcastle, Wyo.

“We all got it started by my dad,” Engesser said. “My mom hasn’t done much with rodeo, but throughout the years, she’s definitely learned a lot more about rodeo.

“Dad’s the one who’s down there in the action with us. He roped when he was younger. Ever since I was born, he had me on a horse.”

The love affair continued to grow as she did. Now she’s hoping to parlay that passion with a run a ProRodeo. Through July 1, she had earned $878 on her WPRA permit, so she needed just a little more luck to come her way to secure her card.

“I actually want to get my permit filled so I can get my card and go to Rapid (City) and Denver,” Engesser said. “Realistically, Rowdy is 19, and I don’t know how many more years he has in him.

“I want to wait to rodeo really hard until I have my degree. But I understand that Rowdy is probably going to be done by then. I want to go while I can and hopefully qualify for the Badlands Circuit Finals and maybe the (Ram) National Circuit Finals on him. I know he can compete, and I’d like to ride him there before he gets too old.”

Those are some lofty goals, but she has the support system to make it happen. In addition to her family, she leans on Gillette rodeo coach Will LaDuke and another Gillette man, Jerry Means, who owns the property where Engesser keeps her horses and also assists her throughout the school year.

“I chose Gillette, because it’s a great rodeo program,” she said. “Will is a great coach, and he’s always there if you need him. He’s always taking care of me. I’m glad I went there to be with him.

“Jerry has been amazing for me. He has helped me so much. I’ll call him and ask him for help, and when I get there, he’ll have the claves for me. He’s another one who will help me when I ask. He’s the one reason I like to rodeo so much, because he was always there and is so great.”

Whatever it is, greatness is inspired. Taylor Engesser is proof.

postheadericon Veterinarian making the cut in barrels

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story appears in the August issue of Women’s Pro Rodeo News, the official publication of the WPRA. It is re-published here with the WPRA’s approval.

Like a lot of circuit cowgirls, Fonda Galbreath has a full-time job, leaving her little time to compete in ProRodeo.

That means traveling shorter distances in order to compete, which is just fine for Galbreath. She can focus on her primary task, which is pretty important. You see, she also is a veterinarian at Oakes (N.D.) Vet Service, where her husband, Collin, is also a vet.

Dr. Fonda Galbreath

Dr. Fonda Galbreath

“I work during the week, and then have fun on the weekends,” she said. “I pretty much stay within the same three-state area in the Dakotas and Minnesota. I also have clients in the area, so I generally work when I’m on the road as well.”

Her work paid off during the WPRA Tour event in Hamel, Minn., from July 10-13, where she and her mount, Frosted Cookies, rounded the cloverleaf pattern in 15.49 seconds, beating runner-up Jaime Newcomer by nearly a quarter of a second.

That’s not too shabby for a lady who began competing in barrel racing just four years ago and is running this season on her WPRA permit. Obviously, though, she’s no newcomer to being a horsewoman.

“My family started Strait Rail Ranch in Minnesota when I was in junior high,” said Galbreath, a 2009 graduate of the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine. “I got into cutting horses and rode cutting horses through high school. My senior year I was in the top 10 in the senior youth in the NCHA.”

She received her undergraduate degree from North Dakota State University, where she met her husband. She continued to ride some while focusing on her studies. Once she graduated from vet school, she began going to cutting competitions with a 4-year-old, Macs Spunkie Mate.

“But she wasn’t taking to cutting,” Galbreath said.

So she turned to NFR qualifier Jane Melby, who was living in Minnesota at the time. With Melby’s tutelage, Spunkie took to the barrel pattern, and Galbreath’s weekends changed.

“I entered my first barrel race in May 2010,” she said. “I ran that mare through last summer. In August, she fractured a bone in her right hind ankle, and that’s when I made the decision to buy Frosted Cookies.”

It looks to be a solid purchase. Lola is a 7-year-old sorrel mare by Cookie Dash out of PC Laughing Sundust, and she’s the reason Galbreath is stepping into the WPRA.

“This is my first year in rodeo,” she said. “I bought my WPRA permit Oct. 1 and have entered around 10 rodeos or so. I started out with jackpots, because that’s the level that Spunkie was able to compete at. Knowing the capabilities that Lola has, I decided I wanted to try to compete at the next level.

“I really enjoy the adrenaline of the crowd and the announcer, and the situation of rodeo music vs. being at a jackpot.”

And so does Lola. Her time in Hamel was proof.

“That was my first WPRA victory,” Galbreath said. “I feel just so blessed and thankful and overwhelmed that it actually happened. I know my horse is capable and know that I’m capable, but sometimes you have those doubts that you can really do it. It’s exciting that we haven’t entered that many rodeos and already have had this success.”

The future seems quite bright for Galbreath and Lola, an athletic mare with a sensitive nature.

“She has the speed and the ability to turn very tight around her barrels, so the combination makes her a likely candidate for being competitive at a higher level,” Galbreath said. “What drew me to the horse is when I watched Molly Otto in May of last year. She clocked very well, and she didn’t look like she was going that fast. She reminded me a lot of Macs Spunkie Mate.

“She’s extremely broke and really light in her face. She’s easy to ride from the standpoint that she’s very broke and she’s pretty bendy. She moves off your legs pretty easy, but she does get scared pretty easy. She’s very standoffish, but she loves her job, and she always wants to work for you.”

What’s next? She’ll remain on her permit until Oct. 1, then purchase her WPRA card and see where the rodeo road takes her.

“I’m sitting second in the WPRA Derby standings, so my plan is to finish out Lola’s Derby year and go to the WPRA Finals in Waco (Texas) in the Derby Class,” she said. “I’ll primarily rodeo next season.

“My plan is to go down south on and off during the winter when it’s the slow season for my veterinary work and make a decision from there whether I could justify going or come home and work.”

Whichever is the case, Galbreath certainly is enjoying her run in 2014. She was one of six recent winners on the WPRA Tour, joining Carlee Pierce, who won in Santa Fe, N.M.; Robin Herring, Pecos, Texas; Kassidy Dennison, Window Rock, Ariz.; Megan Swift, Ringgold, Ga.; and Cheyenne Shipps, Clear Lake, S.D.

For Shipps, the victory as a mix of great opportunity and better timing for her and VS Easy Dash Home, a 14-year-old sorrel gelding she calls Homie.

“I had been doing well and had won the Springfield (Mo.) ProRodeo in the spring, but I’d just been placing lately,” said Shipps, 23, of Dadeville, Mo. “I knew my horse was working really well, and I knew Clear Lake was his type of pen.

“It’s just an exciting rodeo and lots of energy. My horse runs so much better with bigger crowds. He likes it a lot. I knew I had beaten some really tough girls to win that rodeo, so that meant a lot to me, too.”

As of mid-July, Shipps was the No. 4 cowgirl in the WPRA rookie race. She purchased her permit in November, then filled it at the WPRA finals. As soon as the championship concluded, she purchased her card for this season.

“It means everything to me to be able to compete at this level,” she said. “It’s been my dream to be a professional cowgirl. I made my education my first priority, and I have my master’s degree. This is my first opportunity to ProRodeo.

“It’s been my dream, but I always thought I needed to get a good education to support this expensive hobby of mine.”

Shipps was raised on a ranch near Dadeville, about 35 miles northwest of Springfield. She earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Springfield at Missouri State University. She helps her family on their cow-calf operation.

“I’ve ridden horses as long as I can remember and always rode horses on the ranch,” Shipps said. “My dad was a steer roper who also team roped some. When I went with him, I always watched the barrel racing. I like to go fast, so I just kind of picked up barrel racing from there.”

She began competing at age 6 and has progressed through the ranks. Now that she has something special in Homie, she knows this is an opportunity to make a run in ProRodeo.

“He’s ornery,” she said of the gelding. “He’s a lot of fun, but he tries his heart out every time. He’s a true rodeo horse. He loves the crowds. He loves the excitement and the energy. He handles all kinds of ground.

“I love the atmosphere of rodeoing. It makes a good combination. He makes it fun to rodeo. Sometimes it’s easy to get down, be he somehow brightens the day and knows when I need a pick-me-up. I think we just have a good bond.”

That bond seems to be working now. She hopes it translates into brighter things ahead, from winning the rookie title to eventually competing at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

It’s what dreams are made of.

postheadericon Champs crowned in Lovington

LOVINGTON, N.M. – Trevor Brazile owns 19 world championships and a countless number of individual rodeo titles.

J.R. Vezain doesn’t own any gold buckles just yet, but he’s got all the talent, drive and, now, the ride equipment to make a move for that elusive title.

Trevor Brazile

Trevor Brazile

During Saturday’s final night of the Lea County Fair and Rodeo, both cowboys shined brightly inside Jake McClure Arena. Brazile – owner of 11 all-around, one heading, three tie-down roping and four steer roping world titles – won the steer roping title in Lovington, downing all three steers in 44.3 seconds to claim the title and $4,672.

Vezain, the 2011 bareback riding rookie of the year and a two-time qualifier to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, scored 89 points on the rodeo’s final night, matching moves with Pete Carr’s Classic Pro Rodeo’s Scarlet’s Web, a horse that’s led cowboys to the top spot in several go-rounds at the NFR.

“I got on her one other time in the short round in San Antonio my rookie year, and I was 85,” said Vezain, 22, of Cowley, Wyo. “I switched the style of my rigging today, and that felt way better than the first time I got on her. She was outstanding today and felt really good.”

So did the victory in Lovington, which was worth $5,450. He needs every penny, too. Only the top 15 money-earners in ProRodeo’s regular season earn the right to compete at the NFR, and Vezain began the night 15th in the world standings with $37,726. He still has more than a month and a half remaining in the regular season to make his move.

J.R. Vezain

J.R. Vezain

“My whole career I’ve never been in a dry spell,” he said. “This year something’s been going on. I wasn’t winning. I was drawing good and still getting low scores. I was fighting some equipment and kind of fighting my head. My (travel) group has been really supportive and just positive. I switched the style of riggings and started spurring again, and that’s just been awesome.

“I’m having fun again. I can hardly wipe the smile off my face again. It’s outstanding to be winning again.”

Winning is key in any competition, but rodeo is a different animal altogether. Not only does it help pay bills, but each dollar equals a championship point. The contestants in each event at the conclusion of the NFR will be crowned world champions.

“Not winning makes it tough,” Vezain said. “You’re putting on 80,000 to 90,000 miles a year. This isn’t the greatest way to become a millionaire either. When you’re not winning, it’s hard to keep paying your bills and have all the things going on in your head. You’ve just got to remember to stay positive, stay to the basics and keep having fun no matter what.”

That philosophy worked in Lovington.

Lea County Fair and Rodeo
Lovington, N.M.
Aug. 6-9
All-around champion:
Tuf Cooper, $7,421 in steer roping and tie-down roping.

Bareback riding: 1. J.R. Vezain, 89 points on Pete Carr’s Classic Pro Rodeo’s Scarlet’s Web, $5,450; 2. Bill Tutor, 88, $4,178; 2. 3. Will Lowe, 86, $3,088; 4. Bobby Mote, 85, $1,998; 5. Steven Dent, 82, $1,272; 6. (tie) Joel Schlegel and Jared Green, 81, $817; 8. Luke Creasy, 80, $545.

Steer wrestling: First round: 1. Wyatt Smith, 3.6 seconds, $1,874; 2. (tie) Ty Erickson and Justin Simon, 3.9, $1,507 each; 4. Casey Martin, 4.0, $1,141; 5. (tie) Gary Gilbert, Denard Butler and Bray Armes, 4.3, $652 each; 8. Brandon Bates, 4.4, $163. Second round: 1. (tie) Riley Duvall and Tom Lewis, 3.8 seconds, $1,752 each; 3. (tie) Bray Armes and Cooper Shofner, 3.9, $1,263 each; 5. (tie) Rowdy Parrott and Joe Buffington, 4.0, $774 each; 7. (tie) Ty Erickson, Casey Martin and Sean Santucci, 4.2, $190. Average: 1. Ty Erickson, 8.1 seconds on two runs, $1,873; 2. (tie) Casey Martin and Bray Armes, 8.2, $1,507 each; 4. Cooper Shofner, 8.7, $1,141; 5. Justin Simon, 9.1, $896; 6. (tie) Gary Gilbert and Josh Peek, 9.4, $430 each; 7. Jule Hazen, 10.6, $163.

Tie-down roping: First round: 1. (tie) Tuf Cooper and Scott Kormos, 7.8 seconds, $2,279 each; 3. (tie) Marty Yates and Jesse Clark, 8.0, $1,643 each; 5. Cody Ohl, 8.2, $1,166; 6. (tie) Cody Owens and Ryan Watkins, 8.4, $689 each; 8. (tie) Michael Otero and Adam Gray, 8.5, $106 each. Second round: 1. Robert Mathis Jr., 8.1 seconds, $2,438; 2. J.D. Kibbe, 8.2, $2,120; 3. (tie) Tyson Durfey, Tuf Cooper and Clif Cooper, 8.4, $1,484 each; 6. (tie) Jesse Clark and Jerrad Hofstetter, 8.5, $689 each; 8. JohnPete Etcheverry, 8.7, $212. Average: 1. Tuf Cooper, 16.2 seconds on two runs, $3,658; 2. Jesse Clark, 16.5 seconds, $3,181; 3. Cody Ohl, 17.0, $2,704; 4. Clif Cooper, 17.1, $2,226; 5. (tie) Adam Gray and J.D. Kibbe, 17.3, $1,511 each; 7. (tie) Ryan Watkins and Tyson Durfey, 17.5, $557.

Saddle bronc riding: 1. Cody DeMoss, 86 points on Pete Carr’s Classic Pro Rodeo’s Bully Dog, $4,653; 2. Heith DeMoss, 84, $3,568; 3. Jacobs Crawley, 83, $2,637; 4. Cody Wright, Taos Muncy and Bradley Harter, 82, $1,189 each; 7. Cody Taton, 81, $620; 8. (tie) CoBurn Bradshaw, Rusty Wright, Louie Brunson and Hardy Braden, 80, $116 each.

Steer roping: First round: 1. J.P. Wickett, 13.1 seconds, $1,869; 2. Bryce Davis, 13.3, $1,625; 3. Rod Hartness, 13.5, $1,381; 4. Chet Herren, 13.7, $1,138; 5. Will Gasperson, 14.0, $894; 6. Trey Wallace, 14.1, $650; 7. Roger Branch, 14.5, $406; 8. (tie) Shay Good and Casey Sisk, 14.7, $81 each. Second round: 1. Trevor Brazile, 11.3 seconds, $1,869; 2. Bryce Davis, 12.0, $1,625; 3. Vin Fisher Jr., 13.0, $1,381; 4. Chet Herren, 13.5, $1,138; 5. Jarrett Blessing, 13.6, $894; 6. Walter Priestly, 13.8, $650; 7. Ty Herd, 13.9, $406; 8. Jason Evans, 14.2, $163. Third round: 1. Rod Hartness, 10.7 seconds, $1,869; 2. (tie) Chance Kelton and Tom Smith, 11.3, $1,503 each; 4. Brodie Poppino, 11.5, $1,138; 5. Scott Snedecor, 12.0, $894; 6. J.P. Wickett, 12.1, $650; 7. Mike Outhier, 12.2, $406; 8. Jess Tierney, 12.5, $163. Average: 1. Trevor Brazile, 44.3 seconds on three runs, $2,803; 2. Chet Herren, 44.3, $2,438; 3. Brodie Poppino, 46.4, $2,072; 4. Kim Ziegelgruber, 47.9, $1,706; 5. Joe Wells, 52.6, $1,341; 6. Ralph Williams, 53.0, $975; 7. Rod Hartness, 24.2 seconds on two runs, $609; 7. J.P. Wickett, 25.2, $273.

Team roping: First round: 1. Chad Masters/Clay O’Brien Cooper, 4.7 seconds, $2,026; 2. (tie) Erich Rogers/Cory Petska and Chase Wiley/Ace Pearce, 4.8, $1,630 each; 4. Jake Barnes/Junior Nogueiro, 4.9, $1,233; 5. Riley Minor, 5.0, $969; 6. (tie) Chase Massengill/Tyler Getzeiller and David Key/Kory Koontz, 5.2, $573 each; 8. (tie) Nick Rawlings/Kyle Crick and Kaleb Driggers/Patrick Smith, 5.3, $88 each. Second round: 1. Colby Lovell/Martin Lucero, 4.7 seconds, $2,026; 2. (tie) Chase Wiley/Ace Pearce and Manny Egusquiza Jr./Brad Culpepper, 4.9, $1,630 each; 4. Chase Massengill/Tyler Getzwiller, 5.1, $1,233; 5. Spencer Mitchell/Russell Cardoza, 5.2, $969; 6. Chace Thompson/Jett Hillman, 5.3, $705; 7. Adam Rose/Billie Saebens, 5.6; 7. (tie) Blaine Vick/Walt Woodard and David Key/Kory Koontz, 5.7, $88. Average: 1. Chase Wiley/Ace Pearce, 9.7 seconds on two runs, $3,039; 2. Chase Massengill/Tyler Getzwiller, $2,643; 3. David Key/Kory Koontz, 10.9, $2,246; 4. Blaine Vick/Walt Woodard, 11.7, $1,850; 5. Travis Tryan/Dugan Kelly, 12.7; 6. Kaleb Driggers/Patrick Smith, $1,057; 7. (tie) Erich Rogers/Cory Petska and Manny Egusquiza Jr./Brad Culpepper, $462.

Barrel racing: 1. Rebecca Hughes, 17.24 seconds, $3,975; 2. Callie Gray and Kaley Bass, 17.47, $2,882 each; 4. Callie DuPerier, 17.53, $1,987; 5. Sabra O’Quinn, 17.54, $1,589; 6. Christine Laughlin, 17.58, $1,192; 7. Shelley Morgan, 17.59, $994; 8. Dena Kirkpatrick, 17.63, $894; 9. Shelby Perez, 17.69, $795; 10. Shy-Ann Jarrett, 17.73, $696; 11. Meghan Johnson, 17.80, $596; 12. (tie) Natalie Bland and Cheyenne Shipps, 17.83, $447 each; 14. Gretchen Benbenek, 17.87, $298; 14. Christy Loflin, 17.94, $199.

Bull riding: 1. J.W. Harris, 91 points on Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s Thunder Cat, $5,076; 2. (tie) Josh Koschel and Cody Teel, 90, $3,384 each; 4. Dalton Votaw, 88, $1,861; 5. (tie) Brett Stall and Caleb Sanderson, 87, $1,015; 6. (tie) Seth Glause, Brennon Eldred and Aaron Pass, 86, $395 each.

postheadericon Tutor takes lead on Dirty Jacket

Bill Tutor, upper right, gets help from bronc rider Joe Lufkin as Tutor sets his rigging on Pete Carr Pro Rodeo's great horse Dirty Jacket. In their fourth meeting, they matched moves for 88 points and own the lead at the Lea County Fair and Rodeo with one performance remaining Saturday night.

Bill Tutor, upper right, gets help from bronc rider Joe Lufkin as Tutor sets his rigging on Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s great horse Dirty Jacket. In their fourth meeting, they matched moves for 88 points and own the lead at the Lea County Fair and Rodeo with one performance remaining Saturday night.

LOVINGTON, N.M. – Dirty Jacket is a special bucking horse, and nobody in ProRodeo knows that better than bareback rider Bill Tutor.

“If you do your job right, he’s taking you to the pay window every time if not winning it,” said Tutor, a second-year pro from Huntsville, Texas. “I finished second in Eagle (Colo.) two years ago, and every other time I got on him, I won it.”

On Friday night, Tutor rode the 10-year-old bay gelding for 88 points to take the lead at the Lea County Fair and Rodeo with just one performance remaining Saturday night. It marked the fourth time in Tutor’s short career that he’s ridden the athletic equine – in 2013, the Texan won rodeos in Claremore, Okla., and Stephenville, Texas, on the horse.

Bill Tutor

Bill Tutor

Each of the past two years, Dirty Jacket has been recognized as one of the top three bareback horses in voting by Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association contestants.

“He’s great to ride,” said Tutor, the 20th ranked cowboy in the world standings.

Oftentimes the toughest part of the match-up is securing the horse through the random draw. Tutor has a little more luck than most at that, though; few cowboys have been on the horse’s back as many times.

“It’s an awesome feeling when you draw him, because he’s absolutely the one you want to draw,” he said. “But you get worked up about it, and your heart’s pounding all week. I don’t want to mess up a horse that great.”

Friday’s ride seemed a little more comfortable for the southeast Texas cowboy.

“I think he was a little easier to ride this time, but I think it’s because I kept my chin down,” Tutor said, referring to one of the basics needed in riding bucking bronc. “I’m just feeling better than I was back then. He still felt electric, but by riding better it made him feel better to me.”

It all adds up to his best season so far. Tutor has earned more than $33,000 in 2014 and will collect more out of Lea County in his first time to compete in Lovington. He’s in position move among the top 15 in the world standings and earn his first qualification to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, the sport’s year-end championship that will take place in December in Las Vegas.

“This summer hasn’t been as great as I wanted, and I’ve made mistakes here and there,” he said. “I hope to finish out strong. I think I have some of the quirks figured out. I’m excited for the next two months.”

He also would like another shot at the great Dirty Jacket. So do all the other bareback riders in ProRodeo.

Lea County Fair and Rodeo
Lovington, N.M.
Aug. 6-9
Bareback riding:
1. Bill Tutor, 88 points on Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s Dirty Jacket; 2. Bobby Mote, 85; 3. Steven Dent, 82; 4. (tie) Joel Schlegel and Jared Green, 81; 6. Luke Creasy, 80; 7. (tie) Kyle Bowers, Caine Riddle, Tim O’Connell and Richmond Champion, 79.

Steer wrestling: First round leaders: 1. Ty Erickson, 3.9 seconds; 2. Casey Martin, 4.0; 3. (tie) Gary Gilbert, Denard Butler and Bray Armes, 4.3; 7. (tie) Tanner Milan, Josh Peek and Monty Eakin, 4.7. Second round leaders: 1. Riley Duvall, 3.8 seconds; 2. (tie) Bray Armes and Cooper Shofner, 3.9; 4. Rowdy Parrott, 4.0; 5. (tie) Ty Erickson and Casey Martin, 4.2; 7. Timmy Sparing, 4.4; 8. Tommy Cook, 4.5. Average leaders: 1. Ty Erickson, 8.1 seconds on two runs; 2. (tie) Casey Martin and Bray Armes, 8.2; 4. Cooper Shofner, 8.7; 5. (tie) Gary Gilbert and Josh Peek, 9.4; 7. Jule Hazen, 10.6; 8. Timmy Sparing, 11.1.

Tie-down roping: First round leaders: 1. (tie) Tuf Cooper and Scott Kormos, 7.8 seconds; 3. Marty Yates, 8.0; 4. Cody Ohl, 8.2; 5. (tie) Cody Owens and Ryan Watkins, 8.4; 7. (tie) Michael Otero and Adam Gray, 8.5. Second round leaders: 1. J.D. Kibbe, 8.2 seconds; 2. (tie) Tyson Durfey, Tuf Cooper and Clif Cooper, 8.4; 5. Jerrad Hofstetter, 8.5; 6. JohnPete Etcheverry, 8.7; 7. (tie) Spence Barney, Adam Gray and Cody Ohl, 8.8. Average leaders: 1. Tuf Cooper, 16.2 seconds on two runs; 2. Cody Ohl, 17.0; 3. Clif Cooper, 17.1; 4. (tie) Adam Gray and J.D. Kibbe, 17.3; 6. (tie) Ryan Watkins and Tyson Durfey, 17.5; 8. Marcos Costa, 18.2.

Saddle bronc riding: 1. Cody DeMoss, 86 points on Pete Carr’s Classic Pro Rodeo’s Bully Dog; 2. Heith DeMoss, 84; 3. Jacobs Crawley, 83; 4. Cody Wright and Bradley Harter, 82; 6. (tie) CoBurn Bradshaw, Rusty Wright, Louie Brunson and Hardy Braden, 80.

Steer roping: Third round leaders: 1. Rod Hartness, 10.7 seconds; 2. (tie) Chance Kelton and Tom Smith, 11.3; 4. Brodie Poppino, 11.5; 5. Scott Snedecor, 12.0; 6. J.P. Wickett, 12.1; 7. Mike Outhier, 12.2; 8. Jess Tierney, 12.5. Average leaders: 1. Chet Herren, 44.3 seconds on three runs; 2. Brodie Poppino, 46.4; 3. Kim Ziegelgruber, 47.9; 4. Joe Wells, 52.6; 5. Ralph Williams, 53; 6. Rod Hartness, 24.2 seconds on two runs; 7. J.P. Wickett, 25.2; 8. Bryce Davis, 25.3.

Team roping: First round leaders: 1. Chad Masters/Clay O’Brien Cooper, 4.7 seconds; 2. (tie) Erich Rogers/Cory Petska and Chase Wiley/Ace Pearce, 4.8; 4. Jake Barnes/Junior Nogueiro, 4.9; 5. Riley Minor, 5.0; 6. (tie) Chase Massengill/Tyler Getzeiller and David Key/Kory Koontz, 5.2; 8. Nick Rawlings/Kyle Crick, 5.3. Second round leaders: 1. Colby Lovell/Martin Lucero, 4.7 seconds; 2. Chase Wiley/Ace Pearce, 4.9; 3. Spencer Mitchell/Russell Cardoza, 5.2; 4. Chace Thompson/Jett Hillman, 5.3 seconds; 5. Adam Rose/Billie Saebens, 5.6; 6. (tie) Blaine Vick/Walt Woodard and David Key/Kory Koontz, 5.7; 8. Shank Edwards/K.C. Curtis, 6.0. Average: 1. Chase Wiley/Ace Pearce, 9.7 seconds on two runs; 2. David Key/Kory Koontz, 10.9; 3. Blaine Vick/Walt Woodard, 11.7; 4. Travis Tryan/Dugan Kelly, 12.7; 5. Erich Rogers/Cory Petska, 15.8; 6. Adam Rose/Billie Saebens, 17.0; 7. Shank Edwards, 17.0; 8. Brock Hanson/Cesar de la Cruz, 20.1.

Barrel racing: First round leaders: 1. Rebecca Hughes, 17.24 seconds; 2. Callie Gray, 17.47; 3. Callie DuPerier, 17.53; 4. Sabra O’Quinn, 17.54; 5. Christine Laughlin, 17.58; 6. Dena Kirkpatrick, 17.63; 7. Shelby Perez, 17.69; 8. Shy-Ann Jarrett, 17.73; 9. Natalie Bland, 17.83; 10. Gretchen Benbenek, 17.87; 11. Christy Loflin, 17.94; 12. Jessica Frost, 18.00; 13. Carmen Larson, 18.19; 14. Dawn Lewis, 18.21; 15. (tie) Lacinda Rose and Ivy Hurst, 18.23.

Bull riding: 1. J.W. Harris, 91 points on Pete Carr Pro Rodeo’s Thunder Cat; 2. Josh Koschel, 90; 3. Daltan Votaw, 88; 4. (tie) Brett Stall and Caleb Sanderson, 87; 6. Seth Glause, 86; 7. (tie) Dylan Vick and Garrett Smith, 83.

postheadericon Champ races into circuit lead

DUNCAN, Okla. – The rodeo trail can be rugged. Cowboys, cowgirls and their equine partners spend hours, even days, driving cross country chasing their gold-buckle dreams.

It’s a tough life, but one most wouldn’t trade for the world. They’re competitors, and the rodeo road leads to championships. Across the Plains, many seek the coveted title of being a regional champion, which only comes through a qualification to the Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Oct. 16-18 at the Stephens County Fair and Expo Center in Duncan.

Gretchen Benbenek

Gretchen Benbenek

But the rodeo trail offers a few landmines along the way. Combatants get weary, and so do their athletic partners. Such is the case of Gretchen Benbenek’s speedy mount, Shot of Firewater, a 10-year-old bay gelding she calls Maverick.

“He was getting really sore,” Benbenek said after a run through July that saw limited winning. “I went up to Canada in June; I was making good runs, but I was running in the mud. It would dry out later, and the other girls were getting the faster times.

“Then my horse got sore. I won a little bit in Calgary (Alberta), but I think my horse was just too sore to work right.”

The struggles continued through mid-July. Once she and Maverick arrived in Cheyenne, Wyo., for Frontier Days Rodeo, she enlisted the assistance of equine therapist Troy Brandenburg.

“He uses acupressure for the most part,” she said. “I use a lot of chiropractic; I think you need to do the chiropractic plus the muscle work plus the vet. He was sore in his back. Once I got Troy to work on him, he’s been a different horse.”

The proof came the very next week during an all-important Prairie Circuit run across Kansas. From July 28-Aug. 3, she and Maverick raced in Sidney, Iowa, and at Kansas rodeos in Abilene, Phillipsburg, Hill City and Dodge City. In all, she pocketed about $7,400. It pushed her from fourth in the circuit standings to the No. 1 spot. Now she owns a lead of more than $4,000 over the runner-up, traveling partner Ivy Hurst.

“The last two weeks have been pretty big for me,” Benbenek said. “I get to catch up on some bills and, more importantly, catch up in the standings. I had actually won money at every rodeo I went to since Cheyenne. My horse has been really consistent the last three weeks and getting me the money everywhere.”

That’s vital in the Montana-born cowgirl who was educated in Oklahoma and now lives in north Texas. She is the defending Prairie Circuit champion barrel racer, who utilized a solid 2013 run in the region to a perfect finish and the national title at the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo.

“I was behind, and I didn’t think I was going to make a move yet,” she said. “I also didn’t think I was going to jump like that. I went into the circuit finals in Duncan last year winning it for the year-end, and I’d sure like to do that again.”

Regional titles depend on performing well in Duncan, which is another key reason why she’s excited to return.

“The last two years the circuit finals has been in Duncan, it’s gone really well,” Benbenek said. “The committee there is great, and they’re looking for ways to keep making the circuit finals better and provide a good home for us there. I’m excited to go back there. My horse seems to like that arena.”

The expo center is home to many rodeo and rodeo-like events throughout a calendar year, but none compares to the prestige and the caliber of competition that arrives in Stephens County for the circuit finals. The top regional contestants in the circuit standings must qualify to perform in Duncan, where they’ll battle for the titles and money that come with an event of this magnitude.

“This is why we rodeo,” Benbenek said.