Archive for June, 2011

postheadericon WOMEN’S PRO RODEO NEWS: Renick wins DNCFR

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story appeared in the May 2011 issue of Women’s Pro Rodeo News.

Uncertainty crept into Tana Renick’s mind on the final day of the Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeo.

It’s not that she didn’t believe in herself or in her partner, a 13-year-old bay mare named XV Wildchild; Teddy helped Renick win the 2010 Prairie Circuit year-end title, earning the Kingston, Okla., cowgirl a trip to the national championship in Jim Norick Arena in Oklahoma City, just two hours from the Renick home.


Tana Renick

Tana Renick

“I still can’t believe I won it,” Renick said a week after the biggest win of her career. “I have so much faith in Teddy, but with that back-to-back format on the last day and runner her 45 minutes to an hour later, I was never sure what she would do.

“She was actually faster that run than she was her semifinal run.”

The DNCFR’s format featured two full go-rounds. The top eight cowgirls in the two-run average qualified for the semifinals, and all previous times were erased. The top four based on semifinal times advanced to the sudden death finals, where the cowgirl with the fastest time was crowned national champion.

“I can’t believe I outran Sherry in the sudden death deal,” Renick said, referring to three-time and reigning world champion Sherry Cervi of Marana, Ariz.

Renick and Teddy posted a 15.30-second run in that finale, 11-100ths of a second faster than Cervi. Renick earned $17,687, the most of the 24 barrel racers in the field. Cervi, who won the semifinal, finished with $15,973.

“I’m still overwhelmed and happy,” Renick said. “It took me a few days to sleep at night.”

Round by round

Early on, Lisa Lockhart proved why she’s been a mainstay at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. She and Oakie With Cash won the opening go-round, posting a 15.24-second run on opening night.

Louie’s time held up for the fastest of the four-day, five-performance rodeo, which is pretty phenomenal. But that’s Louie, an 8-year-old buckskin gelding by Biebers Oakie out of Lady Kaweah Cash.

“Louie felt great,” said Lockhart of Oelrichs, S.D. “I think it’s a great pen to run in. It’s not too small, but it’s not too big either.”

The 25th anniversary of the DNCFR has found a new home at Oklahoma City’s State Fairgrounds after 24 years in Pocatello, Idaho. The change of venue brings a championship-caliber ProRodeo event back to the longtime home of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo – that event took place in Jim Norick Arena from 1965-78, then was in the Myriad Arena in downtown Oklahoma City until 1984.

“I hope it works well here,” Lockhart said. “I love Pocatello, but this is such an outstanding facility that it works well to have it here.”

Renick and Teddy posted a 15.26, the second-fastest run of the weekend, good enough for second place in the go-round. Their speedy time also came near the bottom of the ground on the second night of the competition.

“She got to stay in the pasture at home until 1 o’clock this afternoon,” said Renick, who was competing at the DNCFR for the first time in her career. “I didn’t really have any idea what it would be like when I got here.”

Hindsight tells an interesting tale. Take Nancy Hunter, who won the second go-round after knocking over a barrel in the first. Hunter and Flit N Fizz rounded the pattern in 15.31, just 1-100th of a second ahead of Cervi and Bobbie Jo Bohlman. Still, that was good enough for a $4,525 payday.

But that was after dealing with the frustration of downing the second barrel for the fifth straight time. In the early-morning hours before most folks had awakened at the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds, Fred Hunter had Fuzz in the practice pen.

“I’m so lucky to have a husband to fix my horse,” said Nancy, a representative from of the Wilderness Circuit. “Hopefully I can stay in there in the round just to make a little money to pay for the fuel home.”

Lockhart and Renick won the two-run average and led the field of eight into the semifinals. That’s where Cervi and MP Meter My Hay shined with their 15.29. Everybody in the building expected it, too.

After all, Stingray had guided Cervi to paychecks in both rounds and a third-place finish in the average. Plus the two have been solid at just about every venue they’ve been to over the past few seasons, winning the Wrangler NFR average in 2009 and finishing second in 2010, when they won the world title, Cervi’s third.

When Renick posted the 15.30 to win the final round, only she was surprised. Those who know the game saw talent in the cowgirl and Teddy.

“There was just so much going on that it was kind of a blur,” said Renick, who tried to take care of her horse and other chores, only to be ushered off to handle post-event pomp and circumstance. “I can’t thank Lisa Lockhart enough, because I was trying to get everything taken care of and get my horse cooled down, and she came running to me to help me out. She asked what all she needed to do, then said she’d handle it and that I needed to go. That was so sweet of her to do that for me.”

Where to go from here

No matter where she is in the standings – ninth in the WPRA ProRodeo Standings the week after the DNCFR – Tana Renick has her priorities in order.

“The biggest thing I am is a mom first,” she said, referring to Taycee, her daughter with her husband, Henry. “But I know I’m in a position that I need to go.”

That’s not easy, and she knows it. She doesn’t want to leave her family behind, but she’s hoping to make it pay off with her first qualification to the Wrangler NFR. That means hitting the road.

“I’ve been able to go up north a couple times,” Renick said. “Last year I went up there, and my generator quit. I had to put $1,200 bucks on my rig, and I had to come home to make money.

“That money I won at the DNCFR, I’ve spent some of it getting things done to the barn and fences. But I’m planning to use that money so that I can go up north. What I’ve noticed is if I get broke or get in a slump, I have to come home and make some money. If you’re able to stick it out and keep going, that’s how you need to do it.”

Ah, the life on the rodeo trail.

Renick didn’t do much the first week after the national championship. Her backup horse, Sees Red Rocket, became sick, so Renick has been caring for the 4-year-old gelding because she knows his importance when she hits the road.

“He’s a futurity horse, a colt, but he fits me,” Renick said. “I’ve had him since he was a yearling, and he’s just my style. I think the bigger, the more wide open the pattern, the better he works.”

It’s a tremendous benefit to have Teddy, one of the top horses and barrel racing, and allowing a little seasoning on Rocket.

“I never realized until the last few years how important your confidence is,” Renick said. “Once you figure out you have a horse that’s talented enough and you’re talented enough of a rider, you can do it.

“You’ve got to learn to control the jitters. Anytime I can go back and watch video, I’ve never been disappointed if someone outran me, but I’d sure get disappointed if I make a mistake. The reality is stuff is going to happen. I used to be extremely hard on myself no matter what I did. The thing I’m most proud of is learning that you can make a mistake, and that it’s alright.”

It’s a lesson she carried on her back as she sprinted into Jim Norick Arena, something she thought about as she drove home from competition to Teddy could enjoy a little time at home in the pasture during the grueling days of work, where they ran four times in three days.

“Teddy has never really fired in that arena before,” Renick said. “I was a little surprised and even more proud of her than ever because she clocked well there that weekend.

“I noticed on my video she seemed to pop her tail a little more. I have no idea what she thought, but it was pretty neat to see.”

postheadericon Getting some needed days off

I left Reno, and I didn’t have a good horse in Prescott (Ariz.), so I had three days off. I got to come home and check on my cows.

I ride in Springfield tomorrow night, and we’ll be gone until September, so it’s good that I got to spend some time at home. Now it’s time to hit it hard. First has about $66,000 right now, so I’ve got a lot of ground to make up. If I want to go to the finals and win another buckle, I’m just going to have to go.

It’s just part of being a cowboy. It beats getting that 9-to-5 job. This rodeo life doesn’t last forever for roughstock guys, so I’ve got to take advantage of every situation I can.

The Fourth (of July) run is hard, but you can also win a lot of money. You’ve got to put your name in the hat at all the big ones and see what’s going to happen. What a lot of people don’t realize is that the whole summer is important. We’re still going to be going to one rodeo about every day.

It doesn’t really slow down, so we’ll be taking our Hodge Ford vehicle as hard as we can. Of course, Hodge Ford has been awfully good to me. That’s important in rodeo.

postheadericon Spending time with friends

When we arrived in Guymon, Okla., on Monday afternoon, we were greeted with open arms and open doors.

Ken Stonecipher

Ken Stonecipher

Our friends, Ken and Sherry Stonecipher, have opened their doors to us for a couple of days while we take care of some personal business and while I do some work from the Texas and Oklahoma panhandles.

It’s great touching base with longtime friends. My wife lived in this neck of the woods for 13 years, from school to work to her years on the committee that produces the annual Pioneer Days Rodeo. Ken, who was a longtime chairman of the rodeo committee, also is a ProRodeo announcer. That means he and I plan to do a little work while I’m here as we prepare to work the upcoming Silverton (Texas) Buck Wild Days Rodeo.

While here, I’m getting a fine education on the Guymon rodeo, even more information than I had in the back of my mind. Ken has several mementos from his years associated with the event as well as his time around the sport in general.

And that’s been a blast for me to see. I could look at a lot of that stuff all day long.

But getting to spend time with friends makes the trip even better.

postheadericon Carr animals handle the heat, top cowboys in Pecos

PECOS, Texas – Chris Harris must like west Texas. He definitely likes Deuces Night, one of the up-and-coming great bucking horses from Carr Pro Rodeo.

Chris Harris

Chris Harris

For the second straight year, Harris matched moves with Deuces Night to win bareback riding at the West of the Pecos Rodeo; this year he earned $3,278 for his win at the 129th edition of the World’s Oldest Rodeo with an 87-point ride on the 6-year-old mare sired by the great bucking stallion Night Jacket.

Harris told Lee Scheide of the Odessa American that the young horse is showy, flashy and a good horse to get on.

“You just got to do your job,” Harris said in the publication.
That’s been the case for the last year concerning the bucking beast, who led world champion Kelly Timberman to the 10th-round victory at the 2010 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, the first of what should be many trips to ProRodeo’s grand finale for the athletic horse. This past April, she guided Kaycee Field to a 90-point, round-tying ride during the Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeo championship in Oklahoma City.

“She has just been phenomenal all year,” said Scotty Spencer, a Carr Pro Rodeo cowboy who cares for the animal athletes. “With the 117-degree temperatures all week in here, it’s tough on everyone, including the animals.

“But even with the extreme conditions, all the animals were really outstanding.”

That’s saying something. Many parts of Texas have seen several weeks of triple-digit high temperatures, and that plays a role into how well any athlete performs.

It might not make a difference to Charlie’s Bandito, though. In Pecos, NFR veteran Tate Stratton and the Carr Pro Rodeo bull worked together for 89 points to win the rodeo and $3,809 – it was the second time in three weeks that Charlie’s Bandito has guided cowboys to rodeo championships; he helped Jacob O’Mara to the win in Stephenville, Texas, two weeks before.

“I knew he was a good bull,” said Stratton of Kellyville, Okla. “I just sat in the middle of him the whole time. He just felt so good. I was a little surprised at the score, because I didn’t have a lot of pressure on that ride. It just felt like driving a Cadillac, just really nice in the middle.”

Spencer, who serves as one of the bullfighters during the rodeo, saw the action closer than almost anyone else in Pecos.

“Tate’s an outstanding cowboy that made a great ride on one of our bulls that should go to the NFR this year,” Spencer said.

There were plenty of big winners in Pecos, which has a grand history in the sport of rodeo. In fact, one of the greatest cowboys in the game, 14-time world champion Trevor Brazile, won the all-around title.

Other winners were steer wrestler Ben Goodman, 9.8 seconds on two runs; team ropers Derrick Begay and Cesar de la Cruz, 15.3 on two runs; tie-down roper Sterling Smith, 19.8 on two; barrel racer Cassie Moseley rounded the cloverleaf pattern in 17.54 seconds for first; steer ropers Kim Ziegelgruber and Cody Scheck, 41.6 on three; and saddle bronc riders Cody Angland and Seth Schafer posted 83s on horses that have bucked at the NFR.

Schafer rode veteran bronc Coffee Bean to collect his $2,782, while Angland matched moves with True Lies.

“Cody rode True Lies in that last performance, and he was really good,” Spencer said. “That’s probably the best I’d seen that horse all year.

“We’ve changed our feeding program at the ranch, and it’s taken quite a bit of weight off Coffee Bean. She’s probably been the best I’ve seen her since I’ve been around. She’s bucked like the NFR-caliber horse that she is, and Seth couldn’t have ridden her any better.”

West of the Pecos Rodeo
Pecos, Texas
June 22-25
All-around cowboy:
Trevor Brazile, $3,329, team roping, tie-down roping and steer roping.
Bareback riding: 1. Chris Harris, 87 points on Carr Pro Rodeo’s Dueces Night, $3,278; 2. (tie) Steven Peebles and Will Lowe, 86, $2,185 each; 4. Kaycee Feild, 85, $1,202; 5. (tie) Tilden Hooper and J.R. Vezain, 84, $656 each; 7. (tie) Jared Smith and Kelly Timberman, 83, $382 each.
Steer wrestling: First round: 1. Ben Goodman, 4.6 seconds, $1,414; 2. (tie) Brad McGilchrist and Nick Guy, 4.7, $1,048 each; 4. Clayton Tuchscherer, 4.8, $683; 5. Casey Martin, 4.9, $439; 6. Jacob Talley, 5.4, $244. Second round: 1. Darrell Petrky, 4.6 seconds, $1,414; 2. Jabe Anderson III, 5.1, $1,170; 3. (tie) Ben Goodman, Kyle Calllaway and Chance Campbell, 5.2, $683 each; 6. Clayton Tuchscherer, 5.3, $244. Average: 1. Ben Goodman, 9.8 seconds on two head, $1,414; 2. Clayton Tuchscherer, 10.1, $1,170; 3. (tie) Jabe Anderson III and Darrell Petry, 11.2, $805 each; 5. Cal Urbanek, 12.1, $439; 6. Brent Lassetter, 12.2, $244.
Team roping: First round: 1. Derrick Begay/Cesar de la Cruz, 7.5 seconds, $2,015 each; 2. Brock Hanson/B.J. Campbell, 8.1, $1,668; 3. Matt Sherwood/Cory Petska, 8.2, $1,320; 4. (tie) Waylon McCurley/Travis Woodard and Charly Crawford/Russell Cardoza, 8.3, $799 each; 6. (tie) Turtle Powell/Jhett Johnson, Justin Yost/Kyle Crick and Ty Blasingame/Cody Hintz, 8.8, $116 each. Second round: 1. Erich Rogers/Kory Koontz, 5.9 seconds, $2,015 each; 2. David Key/Justin Wade Davis, 7.5, $1,668; 3. (tie) Colby Lovell/Bobby Harris and David Motes/Ryon Tittel, 7.6, $1,147 each; 5. Keven Daniel/Chase Tryan, 8.2, $625; 6. (tie) Turtle Powell/Jhett Johnson and Jake Barnes/Walt Woodard, 8.3, $174 each. Average: 1. Derrick Begay/Cesar de la Cruz, 16.3 seconds on two head, $3,023 each; 2. Turtle Powell/Jhett Johnson, 17.1, $2,501; 3. Brock Hanson/B.J. Campbell, 17.2, $1,980; 4. Justin Yost/Kyle Crick, 17.3, $1,459; 5. Charly Crawford/Russell Cardoza, 18.2, $938; 6. (tie) Jeremy Mascorro/Quisto Lopez and Keven Daniel/Chase Tryan, 20.3, $261 each.
Saddle bronc riding: 1. (tie) Seth Schafer, on Carr Pro Rodeo’s Coffee Bean, and Cody Angland, on Carr Pro Rodeo’s True Lies, 83 points, $2,782 each; 3. Jace Garrett, 79, $1,785; 4. (tie) Sam Spreadborough and Weston Ireland, 78, $945 each; 6. (tie) Steven Dent and Jacobs Crawley, 77, $472 each; 8. (tie) Kobyn Williams and Taos Muncy, 76, $157 each.
Tie-down roping: First round: 1. Justin Maass, 8.5 seconds, $1,733; 2. Jeff Chapman, 9.3, $1,507; 3. Caleb Smidt, 9.5, $1,281; 4. Jerome Schneeberger, 9.6, $1,055; 5. (tie) E.J. Roberts, Chase Williams and Will Kiker, 9.9, $603 each; 8. (tie) Neal Felton and Trent Walls, 10.0, $75 each. Second round: 1. Sterling Smith, 8.7 seconds, $1,733; 2. Charley Russell, 9.4, $1,507; 3. (tie) Seth Childers and Cort Smith, 9.7, $1,168 each; 5. Monty Lewis, 10.0, $829; 6. Scott Kormos, 10.2, $603; 7. Chance Means, 10.5, $377; 8. Fred Whitfield, 11.1, $151. Average: 1. Sterling Smith, 19.6 seconds on two head, $1,733; 2. Seth Childers, 20.3, $1,507; 3. Monty Lewis, 20.7, $1,281; 4. (tie) Chance Means and Cort Smith, 21.0, $942 each; 6. Jeff Chapman, 21.6, $603; 7. (tie) Fred Whitfield and Caleb Smidt, 21.9, $264 each.
Barrel racing: 1. Cassie Moseley, 17.54 seconds, $2,856; 2. Carlee Pierce, 17.57, $2,427; 3. Tana Renick, 17.60, $1,999; 4. Maegan Reichert, 17.73, $1,713; 5. Rainy Graham, 17.79, $1,428; 6. Lindsey Ewing, 17.80, $999; 7. (tie) Margaret Stephenson and Angie Meadors, 17.81, $643 each; 9. Jeanne Anderson, 17.84, $500; 10. Judi Reed, 17.89, $428; 11. Whitney Baker, 17.94, $357; 12. Julie Hardcastle, 17.95, $286.
Steer roping: First round: 1. Vin Fisher Jr., 12.1 seconds, $1,821; 2. Ty Herd, 12.2, $1,507; 3. Scott Snedecor, 12.4, $1,193; 4. Cody Scheck, 12.5, $879; 5. Chet Herren, 12.7, $565; 6. Cody Lee, 12.9, $314. Second round: 1. Bryce Davis, 10.7 seconds, $1,821; 2. Trevor Brazile, 11.3, $1,507; 3. Shay Good, 11.9, $1,193; 4. Ralph Williams, 12.0, $879; 5. Buster Record Jr., 12.2, $565; 6. Walter Priestly, 12.8, $314. Third round: 1. Trevor Brazile, 10.8 seconds, $1,821; 2. Mike Chase, 11.6, $1,507; 3. Cody Lee, 11.8, $1,193; 4. J.B. Whatley, 11.9, $879; 5. Cody Garnett, 12.1, $565; 6. (tie) Kim Ziegelgruber and Ty Herd, 12.5, $157 each. Average: 1. (tie) Kim Ziegelgruber and Cody Scheck, 41.6 seconds on three head, $2,497 each; 3. Riley Christophersen, 42.8, $1,790; 4. J.B. Whatley, 43.7, $1,319; 5. Dan Fisher, 44.2, $848; 6. Paul Patton, 44.7, $471.
Bull riding: 1. Tate Stratton, 89 points on Carr Pro Rodeo’s Charlie’s Banditio, $3,809; 2. Dustin Larsen, 87, $2,920; 3. Cooper Kanngiesser, 86, $2,159; 4. (tie) Travis Atkinson and Beau Schroeder, 83, $1,143 each; 6. Cody Teel, 80, $635; 7. (tie) Luke Haught and J.W. Harris, 79, $444 each.
Total payoff: $166,256. Stock contractor: Carr Pro Rodeo. Rodeo secretaries: Delia Walls and Sand Gwatney. Officials: Butch Kirby, Cliff Overstreet, Travis Howe and Chuck Hoss. Timers: Denise Adams and Jayme Pemberton. Announcer: Boyd Polhamus. Specialty act: Tim Lepard. Bullfighters: Scotty Spencer and Chad Beavers. Clown/barrelman: Tim Lepard. Flankman: Pete Carr. Chute bosses: Pete Carr and John Gwatney. Pickup men: Paul Peterson, Guy Allen and Shandon Stalls.

postheadericon Rubbing two nickels

I’ve got some good horses lined up for the Fourth (of July, the series of lucrative rodeos referred to as Cowboy Christmas). I’ve got (Stace Smith Pro Rodeo’s) R.D. Mercer in Springdale (Ark.), and I’ve got a good horse in Prescott (Ariz.).

I’m just looking for good things.

The Fourth is seven days of non-stop going. When it’s over, you’re ready for a long nap. We’ll go hard, that’s for sure. We left a car in Albuquerque (N.M.) the other day to fly to Reno. I just kept my ears open for things, and I found a guy who picked up our car in Albuquerque and drove it to Denver.

We’ll start in Prescott, then we’ll drive to Phoenix and fly back to Tulsa so we can work Springdale. I’m actually flying into Bentonville (Ark.), and my buddy Eric Norris is picking me up in Bentonville. I’ll work Springdale, then I’ll hook back up with Justin McDaniel and drive back to Tulsa so we can fly do Denver to work Greeley (Colo).

We’ll drive to Oakley, Utah, which is basically Salt Lake City; that next day, we’re in Cody, Wyo. The on (July) 3rd, we’ve got Red Lodge and Livingston (Mont.) on the same day. That night we have an all-nighter to make St. Paul and Molalla (Ore.) the last day. If a guy ends up getting two really good ones, he may have to charter a plane to make sure he gets to them all.

Last year, I got to Oregon and I hadn’t won a lick. I was walking around with my bottom lip stick out feeling sorry for myself, and I ended up winning Molalla and St. Paul. Winning those two rodeos on the Fourth made for having a good week after all.

How you make the Fourth work is you fly a lot, you drive a lot and you rub two nickels together and hope by the end of the week they turn into $100 bills.

postheadericon Taking a Turtle on a Jhett

For several years, header Turtle Powell and heeler Jhett Johnson have proven themselves as elite ropers in their respective categories.

Now that they’ve joined together, they’re setting a healthy standard in team roping. This past week is as much proof as anything.

Powell, a five-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier from Stephenville, Texas, and Johnson, a four-time NFR qualifier from Casper, Wyo., won a hair more than $15,000 each in a week’s worth of roping. They won the prestigious Reno (Nev.) Rodeo for the lion’s share of their earnings, but they also finished second at the West of the Pecos (Texas) Rodeo and earned a round check in Santa Fe, N.M.

That will move each cowboy easily into the top 10 in their divisions. Also it provides them with incredible momentum heading into “Cowboy Christmas,” the lucrative run of rodeos around the Fourth of July.

That might be the most valuable piece they’ve got going in their fights for 2011 world championships.

postheadericon Out on the trail

Rodeo cowboys and cowgirls spend much more time on the highways than in arenas. It’s just the nature of the beast for contestants who work their tails off for just a few seconds of time in competition at a time.

I’ll get a sneak peak at their life on the road when I head to the Texas Panhandle tomorrow with my wife and oldest daughter. Google maps says it’ll take more than nine hours to get to our first stop, then my wife and I will continue another two hours.

From the time we leave until we unpack at our final stop of the night, I’m figuring it’ll be 15 hours.

That’s nothing new to rodeo folks, who do that dang near every day. But most likely, I’ll be making several more pit stops than my buddies scurrying back to Reno, Nev., for the short go-round. Bathroom stops are a must, you know.

And, I suspect, I’ll be the one requesting those breaks; it comes with age.

postheadericon Women’s Pro Rodeo News: Guymon 2011

For much of the last three years, I’ve been a regular contributor to Women’s Pro Rodeo News, the official magazine of of the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association. I’m very fortunate to have met some outstanding women and tell their stories, and I plan to share some of them on TwisTED Rodeo. If you don’t subscribe to WPRN, you should consider it. You’ll be impressed by the passion involved.


Most 18-year-olds have aspirations about how their lives will turn out. Athletes dream of championships and competition and beating the best in the business.

Kassidy Dennison isn’t your typical 18-year-old cowgirl. Yes, she sees those stars most want to grab, and she’d love to play on the grandest stage in the sport, the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. But if it’s possible, her visions are beyond gold buckles.

“I’m interested in showing our young kids to have a dream and to do something big,” said Dennison, a Native American cowgirl who lives on the edge of the Navajo Nation in Tohatchi, N.M. “It’s like Derrick Begay; he gave people out here on our reservation motivation. Derrick’s really talented, and he’s the first Navajo to qualify for the NFR.

“I want to give somebody a dream, then help them follow it.”

She’s well on her way after winning the Guymon (Okla.) Pioneer Days Rodeo the first weekend of May, collecting $3,945 in the process. She won the first round with a 17.38-second run, six-100ths of a second faster than second-place finisher Susan Kay Smith. Dennison was even faster in her second-round run during the Friday night, May 6, performance, but the 17.27 was second best to Kim Schulze’s 17.20.

“Just before Guymon, I was having a hard time,” Dennison said. “I wasn’t really placing, and my horse wasn’t really working that well, but I just kept at it. I believe God has this plan for me, so I’ll just keep working at it.”

Dennison is a home-schooled high school senior, raised and educated by her parents, Karl and Debra, both of whom have been around rodeo most of their lives. Debra Dennison is half-Scottish, half-Navajo, and Karl is full-blooded Navajo. Each of their three children – Kyle, Devyn and Kassidy – share that lineage and their passion for the sport of rodeo.

Kassidy Dennison is the youngest sibling, and she still competes in the New Mexico High School Rodeo Association. In fact, she had to trade places with another cowgirl in order to make her second-round run in the opening performance in Guymon; Dennison was in a high school rodeo in Gallup, N.M., starting Saturday morning.

That eight-hour drive toward home – Gallup is half an hour south of Tohatchi – was important. Dennison is focused on finishing her high school rodeo career on a high note; she wants to qualify for the National High School Finals Rodeo this summer.

“I rode a different horse than I rode in Guymon, and I ended up winning second in barrels,” she said. “I didn’t do so well in breakaway.”

That’s not always the case. In fact, Dennison has earned five Indian National Finals Rodeo championships in her young career, the first of which was five years ago. She has earned four all-around titles and a barrel racing buckle.

Which leads us to 2011. Dennison turned 18, and she became a full-fledged member of the WPRA shortly thereafter. She travels the circuit with her 22-year-old sister, Devyn, who is on her WPRA permit.

“Since I’m going, my sister wants to give it a try,” Dennison said. “She’s been one of my biggest supporters. I know I wouldn’t have gone this far if it wasn’t for her.”

That’s true, but as any true rodeo hand will tell you, it takes a village to raise a champion. Her parents are in that mix, and so is her older brother, Kyle. Of course, none of it would be happening without Sierra Hall of Fame, her 5-year-old gelding out of La Ganadora by PESI Stallion Dash Ta Fame. Eagle is fast, but, as one might imagine, he’s green.

“When he’s on, he’s on,” Dennison said. “I got him last year in February. Dena Kirkpatrick found Eagle for me, and I was at her house all last year. I don’t even know how many months I stayed with her and worked with him. We really improved myself and him to where we are right now.

“Dena got me that opportunity. He was truly a blessing. He came from out of nowhere. I feel truly blessed to have him.”

Dennison realizes the talent she’s hauling, and she understands mistakes will be made. She’s figuring this will be a learning session, for her and her trusty mount.

“I realized we had nothing to lose and everything to gain,” she said. “This is both of our rookie years, and it’s the first time we’re rodeoing with the best girls. I’m going to look at every rodeo like it’s just another barrel race.

“I’ve really prepared myself to hit the road. I really want to succeed in this, so I’ve worked my way around and I’ve been meeting the right people to help me be successful.”

Success is measured in so many ways. For Dennison, it’s about reaching out to others, motivating them to live up to their potential and chasing their dreams.

“I want to make the NFR,” she said. “If I’m blessed to go that far, I plan on winning the NFR. I do want to go to college next year, and I want to get my degree in marketing. I’ll see where life takes me from there.

“I’m pretty sure I’m going to be involved in rodeo. I’m doing it now so that, eventually, someone other than myself will see how interesting rodeo is. Maybe that can help grow rodeo out here on our reservation.”


postheadericon Writing about passion

I love seeing a passion for rodeo develop among those who have never experienced it.

Oftentimes I work with neophyte reporters who know little, if anything, about the sport. I show them the athleticism involved and liken it to sports they might understand better. I explain the lifestyle and the no-guarantees competition, and I can always tell when those reporters get it.

It’s a greater joy for me to see young journalists get excited about rodeo. Such is the case with my Joshua Kinder, a friend of mine who serves as sports editor of the newspaper in Manhattan, Kan. I’d contacted Josh several months ago as I tried to work out an agreement with the Kaw Valley Rodeo, which takes place every July in Manhattan.

Josh is from Dodge City, Kan., home of the largest ProRodeo in the state. He’d been around the sport some, and he’s watched bull riding on TV.

Even though I won’t be working with the Manhattan rodeo this year, Josh reached out to me with a brilliant idea he had: He wants to ride a bull and write about the process of such in advance of the Kaw Valley Rodeo.

Under the watchful eye of Steve Frazier, the former rodeo coach at Kansas State University who has been on the rodeo association for a number of years, Kinder has been training. What he’s learned is that it takes quite a bit to ride a bull, or in his level of development, ride a practice bucking machine.

It takes even more for Josh, who, even though he’s lost nearly 100 pounds, still weighs in at more than 210 pounds – considerably heavier than most bull riders. He’s at a disadvantage, but he knows it. Still he’s excited about his continued development and the opportunity to ride a bull.

More importantly, this cowboy from western Kansas wants to get even closer to the sport. He is looking into joining the Kaw Valley Rodeo Association so he can help a great community event get even better.

That kind of passion is fun to see. So is Josh’s work, which you can see HERE.

postheadericon Reliving history

While going through things in our storage area, my wife and I came across the television broadcast of the 1998 Guymon (Okla.) Pioneer Days Rodeo.

It’s definitely interesting to see the telecast, hear the voices of Hadley Barrett and Curt Robinson and see a much younger set of friends. It’s also interesting to see the difference in the quality of bucking animals from just 13 years ago; over the last five or six years, each of the four performances of Pioneer Days Rodeo has been like a mini-Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

It’s also quite interesting that the “sideline” reporter is a young announcer named Justin McKee, and the lead commentator is Reed Flake; the latter is still involved in Rodeo Video, handling all the necessary duties it takes to produce the shows. It’s kind of funny to listen to his voice on the broadcast, then see the tall cowboy working the video camera

I think it’s important the rodeo world looks at its history so we can see just how far its come.

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