Archive for June, 2012

postheadericon Pecos rodeo will get a kick out of Dirty Jacket

Carr Pro Rodeo's Dirty Jacket matches moves with young gun Tanner Aus during the final performance of the Guymon (Okla.) Pioneer Days Rodeo. Aus made a great ride on the world-class horse but received a no-score for missing his markout on the horse to begin the ride. (ROBBY FREEMAN PHOTO)

Carr Pro Rodeo's Dirty Jacket matches moves with young gun Tanner Aus during the final performance of the Guymon (Okla.) Pioneer Days Rodeo. Aus made a great ride on the world-class horse but received a no-score for missing his markout on the horse to begin the ride. (ROBBY FREEMAN PHOTO)

PECOS, Texas – When Paul Peterson leans over the chute to grab the strap wrapped around Dirty Jacket’s flank, the veteran cowboy knows there’s danger ahead.

“When he leaves the chute, he’s trying to kick the flankman off the back of the chute,” said Kaycee Feild, the reigning bareback riding world champion who won the Fort Worth Stock Show Rodeo after riding Dirty Jacket for 89 points in the championship round. “He’s so fast, and he bucks so hard.

Kaycee Feild

Kaycee Feild

“There’s no way you can muscle up on him. You’ve got to be fast and aggressive, or he will get you out of shape and might get you bucked off.”

The flank strap is a leather device with wool that serves as leverage and an enticement for the greatest animal athletes to perform at their best, and Peterson is the man who adjusts the strap for Carr Pro Rodeo. He knows what to expect every time Dirty Jacket performs, and he’s OK with it.

You see, the 8-year-old bay gelding is one of the greatest bucking horses in ProRodeo today and will be one of the featured athletes at the West of the Pecos Rodeo, set for 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 27-Saturday, June 30, at Buck Jackson Arena.

In addition to Feild’s win in Fort Worth, two other cowboys earned titles on the horse so far this year: Wes Stevenson of Lubbock, Texas, won in San Angelo, Texas, after matching moves with Dirty Jacket for 87 points in the short round, and Jeremy Mouton of Scott, La., posted an 84 on him to win in Bridgeport, Texas.

“That horse has just gotten better,” said Stevenson, a seven-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier. “I think he may have stepped it up from what we’ve seen.”

Dirty Jacket is always electric, which is why the top bareback riders in the game have selected him to buck in the elite rounds at the NFR each of the last three years – the TV pen features the “showiest” bucking horses, and the moniker comes from the days when only the final round of the NFR was televised. The “TV pen” animals buck in the fifth and 10th rounds, which provides a great touch to the halfway point of the championship and the season’s final go-round.

“That horse is in his prime,” Stevenson said. “He could be having one of the better years he’s had, and that’s saying a lot. The first time he was bucked was four years ago in Guymon (Okla.), and they won the rodeo on him.”

Wes Stevenson

Wes Stevenson

Pete Carr, owner of Carr Pro Rodeo, has a dozen animals selected to the finals each year, a couple of which are bucked in the fifth and 10th rounds. Carr owns some of the greatest bucking animals in ProRodeo, including Real Deal, the 2005 Bareback Riding Horse of the Year, and Riverboat Annie, the 2007 reserve world champion bareback horse.

“This spring is the best I’ve seen Dirty Jacket,” Carr said. “He’s been phenomenal.”

He’s been pretty good since he first started bucking in May 2008.

“The first time he was bucked was four years ago in Guymon (Okla.), and they won the rodeo on him,” Stevenson said.

That was just the beginning of some miraculous stuff. He helped cowboys to the Guymon title each May from 2008-2011 – four straight seasons of excellence. But he can handle the kind of heat that Pecos offers. Last August, for example, three-time world champion Will Lowe shared the victory in Lovington, N.M., with an 87-point ride on Dirty Jacket – Lowe is also one of the four cowboys to have won the Guymon title on the gelding’s back.

Cody DeMers

Cody DeMers

“He’s so electric,” said Heath Ford, a three-time NFR qualifier from Greeley, Colo. “I think maybe he’s Pete’s best horse this year.”

Ford isn’t the only one who thinks that.

“I think guys are going to win a lot of money on him,” said Cody DeMers, a four-time NFR qualifier from Kimberly, Idaho. “You dang sure have to ride good. Those kinds of horses are the ones that are going to psych you up and talk you into riding good.

“Having horses like that says a lot for Pete. He takes care of those horses. He babies those horses. He probably loves those horses as much as he does his own family.”

postheadericon Graves moves into position for circuit crown

DUNCAN, Okla. – Over the course of his career, Stockton Graves has been one of those cowboys who battled every step of the way to play on the biggest stages of ProRodeo.

Stockton Graves of Newkirk, Okla., grapples a steer during the 2008 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. Graves, a seven-time NFR qualifier, leads the Prairie Circuit's steer wrestling standings and is hoping the be part of the Destination Duncan field for the 2012 Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo, set for October in Duncan, Okla.

Stockton Graves of Newkirk, Okla., grapples a steer during the 2008 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. Graves, a seven-time NFR qualifier, leads the Prairie Circuit's steer wrestling standings and is hoping the be part of the Destination Duncan field for the 2012 Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo, set for October in Duncan, Okla.

Whether it’s qualifying for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo or the championship round of the Dodge City (Kan.) Roundup Rodeo, Graves competes for championships. It’s what drives him down the rodeo trail, and he’s happy to do it. And, as always has been the case since he turned pro 15 years ago, winning the regional title is always a priority.

“It’s always been a goal of mine to win the Prairie Circuit,” said Graves, a seven-time NFR qualifier from Newkirk, Okla. “I’ve won the circuit two times, and it’s always a big deal for me to win it. When I first started in the PRCA, I started in the circuit.”

He’s well on his way to a third Prairie Circuit steer wrestling title and qualifying for the Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo, set for Oct. 18-20 at the Stephens County Expo Center. He was helped considerably by winning the Buffalo Bill Rodeo last week in North Platte, Neb. Graves placed in both go-rounds and won the average with a two-run cumulative of 8.3 seconds, pocketing $3,077 in the process. That moved his earnings at rodeos in the Oklahoma-Kansas-Nebraska region to $6,136 and atop the circuit’s standings for the first time this year.

“That’s probably the biggest win I’ve had this year,” said Graves, who also is the rodeo coach at Northwestern Oklahoma State University. “My schedule’s slowed down a little bit with the coaching deal, which is a good thing, but this summer we’re going to try to rodeo and set out to make the NFR. If we have a chance to make the NFR, then we’ll go for that.”

Stockton Graves

Stockton Graves

Graves is the third bulldogger in the last couple of months to sit atop the circuit standings – two-time world champion Dean Gorsuch of Gering, Neb., led after the first weekend in May, and Sean Mulligan of Coleman, Okla., was the No. 1 man in early June. Graves was certainly thankful for a good run in the Nebraska sandhills.

“I needed it,” he said. “Winning North Platte gets your summer going. It’s nice to get the summer started on a winning note. I’ve won North Platte before, and I won the first round like five years in a row.

“It’s one of the better circuit rodeos, and I always seem to do good there.”

Graves is joined atop the circuit leaderboard by bareback rider Jared Keylon of Uniontown, Kan. ($7,466); team ropers Nick Sartain of Dover, Okla., and Kollin VonAhn of Durant, Okla. ($7,794 each); tie-down roper Hunter Herrin of Apache, Okla. ($11,495); steer roper Cody Scheck of Ellinwood, Kan. ($8,858); barrel racer Tana Poppino of Big Cabin, Okla. ($6,802); bull rider Ty Clearwater of LaCynge, Kan. ($6,019); and saddle bronc rider Jesse James Kirby of Dodge City ($6,651).

Clearwater, though, has just a $5 lead over the No. 2 man, Dustin Elliott of North Platte, who placed third and added $1,728 at his hometown rodeo. Sartain and VonAhn, the 2009 world champions, utilized the $1,362 from North Platte to move into the lead; they finished in a tie for third.

Jesse James Kirby

Jesse James Kirby

Kirby nearly doubled his circuit earnings last weekend. He won $3,384 in two rodeos – he finished second in North Platte, where he won $1,879, and won the co-approved rodeo in Weatherford, Texas, adding $1,505.

“I was blessed this last week,” said Kirby, who won the circuit finale in 2009. “I started out the week riding Lori Darling of Classic Pro Rodeo, a horse that’s been to the NFR several times. That was probably one of the better bronc rides I have this year. That one will stand out for a long time.

“I went to Coleman (Texas) the next day and placed there, then went to Cleburn (Texas) and placed there. When I got to North Platte, I had Beutler (& Sons) Night Moves. That’s the fourth time I’ve been on him. That was the best trip he’s had with me, and that was the best I’ve rode him.”

That’s the kind of confidence Kirby needs as he gets into the heat of the season.

“It just got the ball rolling, and I hope it continues,” Kirby said.

The big part for all the competitors is to finish the season among the top 12 in the region. That’s because Destination Duncan is an important part of their ProRodeo season, where they can compete for big bucks and Prairie Circuit titles.

“I’m glad Duncan stepped up and invited us there for the finals,” Graves said. “They’ve got a nice facility. My hat is off to Duncan for stepping in there and making it a great championship.”

postheadericon MGM Deuces Night returns to site of first triumph

PECOS, Texas – The last time she performed, MGM Deuces Night helped rising star J.R. Vezain to the bareback riding victory in Guymon, Okla.

J.R. Vezain

J.R. Vezain

The two athletes worked together quite well in the Oklahoma Panhandle community, posting an 89-point ride and sending another statement in the already rich resume of the 7-year-old bay/paint mare. Each of the last two years, she’s been selected as one of the top bucking horses in the business, chosen to work the most elite pen at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

Of the four times she’s bucked at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, she’s helped cowboys to three go-round victories and one runner-up finish. Some experts might say she just likes that arena. Well, that can be said for just about any rodeo pen.

“She’s been pretty electric just about anywhere we’ve taken her,” said Pete Carr, the man who owns MGM Deuces Night and Carr Pro Rodeo, the primary stock contractor at the West of the Pecos Rodeo, set for 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 27-Saturday, June 30, at Buck Jackson Arena.

You see, the 2010 edition of the Pecos rodeo is where MGM Deuces Night broke out, leading Chris Harris of Itasca, Texas, to the bareback riding victory and showing off for all the greatest cowboys in the world to see. She repeated that feat again last year, so, yeah, odds are in her favor to do it again in 2012.

Kaycee Feild

Kaycee Feild

“That’s just a unique horse, and she gets real high in the air,” said Kaycee Feild, the reigning world champion who rode her for the 10th-round win during the 2011 NFR. “That horse tries really hard to buck really good. She gets high in the air and gives you a lot of time to set your feet and crank your toes out. You’ve got to have quick feet and set them high in the neck. With that horse, it seems easy to set them high in the neck.

“She’s that way every time I’ve been on her. She’s a pretty cool horse.”

Feild has seen her a bunch. He won the NFR’s 10th round on MGM Deuces Night in 2010, too, then scored 90 points to share the final-round win in April 2011 at the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo in Oklahoma City. This past march, the two great athletes set a new standard during the $50,000 round at RodeoHouston – the result was an arena-record 93-point ride inside Reliant Stadium.

Of course, Feild isn’t the only cowboy to have success on the young mare.

“When I heard callbacks for this rodeo, I was screaming out loud and running around like a little girl,” Vezain said of their match-up in Guymon. “I had my highest marked ride on that horse last year with an 87 at San Antonio, and I was going for the record this year.

“I was going for 90; I knew it was going to be good.”

Wes Stevenson

Wes Stevenson

MGM Deuces Night has been one of the best bucking horses in the business since she started bucking in Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association events. The cowboys who see her and have a chance to match moves with her know it better than anyone, and that’s why they have selected her to be part of the most elite pen of bucking horses at the NFR – the showiest horses in the game are part of the TV pen, a term that dates back to the days when only the final round of the NFR was showcased on television.

Those animals buck during the fifth and 10th rounds of ProRodeo’s championship event. Not bad for a horse that was raised by bareback rider Wes Stevenson.

“I knew she’d have a really good shot to come to the finals,” said Stevenson, a seven-time NFR qualifier. “I knew she was that good, so part of the reason I sold her to Pete is that I knew she’d have a good shot to go to the finals. I bought her from Jim Zinser as a brood mare, but she bucked so good, I didn’t want to waste her sitting at my house. I wanted her to have a chance.

“She has a lot of heart. I was the first one to get on her with a rigging, and from the first time we ever bucked her, I knew that little filly has a lot of heart. She’s a very electric horse.”

postheadericon Valuable lessons lead to college title

When I first met Tanner Aus, he seemed to be a soft-spoken young man who was learning the ins and outs of the rodeo world with veteran cowboy D.V. Fennell.

Tanner Aus

Tanner Aus

“He’s good, Ted,” is what D.V. told me last August as the two camped out in my basement for a couple of days.

Yes, he is, and now he’s the newly crowned bareback riding champion in the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association, earning the title last week during the College National Finals Rodeo.

I’ve seen Aus a few times since he hung out with me and my girls, and I’ve grown more and more impressed with each interaction. He realizes his status as a rising star in bareback riding means he has plenty of lessons to learn.

Sometimes those lessons aren’t as easy to swallow as one would like either. For instance, Aus put on a bareback-riding clinic on one of the greatest horses in the game, Carr Pro Rodeo’s Dirty Jacket, during the final performance of the 2012 Guymon (Okla.) Pioneer Days Rodeo. Problem was, the young cowboy’s spurs were over the top of Dirty Jacket’s neck on the first jump out of the chutes.

By rule, the rider’s spurs must be above the breaks of the shoulders in the neck region or it’s a no-score. Such was Aus’ fate that day. He knew it the moment it happened.

But he continued on with the ride, and it was phenomenal. Everybody in the arena knew it, too. Aus was disappointed, as he should be. But he learned a very valuable lesson that day in May, one, I suspect, he held with him in Casper last week.

I bet, too, he’ll carry that with him the rest of his career.

postheadericon There’s something to love in Lovington

Last year in my first venture to Lea County, N.M., I had no idea what to expect. I arrived in Lovington, home of the Lea County Fair and Rodeo, wondering about the little things that go into the community of 10,000 and why it’s host to a Wrangler Million Dollar Tour event in ProRodeo.

Oh, I had done my homework. As media director for both Carr Pro Rodeo and the event, I had a lot of background information – from the great rodeo history in southeastern New Mexico to the large number of contestants who make their way to town for the August championship.

Once in Lovington, though, I learned so much more. Mainly, I found out that the foundation of such an awesome event lies directly in the people who work all year to make it happen. There’s no way the community can host nearly 100,000 people in a week’s time without it.

The word about the event is getting around. Here’s a tidbit from County Living’s 50 Stops in 50 States: “Head to the Lea County Fair and Rodeo in Lovington for a day — or night — of carnival rides, pungent livestock, bull riding, and country music that’s just a darn good time. And the food? ‘To die for,’ says blogging quilter Mandy Davenport of The Dixie Chicken. There’s the typical fried fare, of course, but the real culinary winners at this fair are the food booths featuring Southwestern favorites, like fajitas and roasted corn.”

That tells a wonderful tale, but if you are looking for a neat little place to have an awesome time, I recommend a trip to Lovington.

postheadericon Domer picks up CNFR points for Rangers

CASPER, Wyo. – The score sheet doesn’t say much about what Tanner Braden did for the Northwestern Oklahoma State University men’s rodeo team during the College National Finals Rodeo.

Braden, a senior heeler from Dewey, Okla., failed to record a qualified time in the opening two go-rounds of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association’s championship event; he and his header, Bacone College’s Clay Pianalto, were able to post a 9.6-second run on their third and final steer of the week-long competition.

Collin Domer

Collin Domer

But what Braden told fellow Ranger Collin Domer made a big difference.

“We’d roped our first steer and were a little long,” said Domer, a senior from Topeka, Kan., who roped with Cody Carlin of Northeastern Oklahoma A&M; the two posted a 9.2-second opening-round run, whereas runs of 5.6 seconds shared the round victory. “I was kind of hanging my head a little bit, and Tanner was there as we were coming out of the arena. He really got me to thinking better about it. He said, ‘They bring teams back here (to the short round) on two head. Get two more down, and you’ll be alright.’

“For him to tell me that, it meant something to me. It meant he knew we could do it, and he had faith in us that we could do it.”

That made all the difference in the world for Domer, one of six Northwestern cowboys to make it to the big show. He was the only member of the men’s team to do so non-traditionally. You see, Domer earned an automatic qualification to the college finals by serving as the student representative for the Central Plains Region.

The other five – heelers Braden and Dustin Searcy, a freshman from Mooreland, Okla; tie-down roper Will Howell of Stillwater, Okla.; saddle bronc rider Cody Burkholder of Clarksville, Iowa; and steer wrestler Kyle Irwin of Robertsdale, Ala. – qualified by finishing in the top three in the region, made up of college teams primarily in Oklahoma and Kansas.

“I was a long shot; I’ll admit it,” Domer said. “I wasn’t the one going in that everybody was watching. Will Howell made an awesome run on his third calf, but he missed his second calf. It’s just one of those deals, and it’s bound to happen; you just don’t know when or where.

“We went in with a pretty big goal. Kyle Irwin won second this year, and he wanted to win the title this year. As a team overall, it wasn’t bad luck; it just wasn’t good luck. Everybody had a chance.”

Irwin’s hiccup came in the opening round, where he settled for an overall time of 14.9 seconds.

Stockton Graves

Stockton Graves

“We had a lot of bad breaks,” said Stockton Graves, who just wrapped his first semester as Northwestern’s rodeo coach. “Kyle’s steer jumped up, hit his head on the chute, and that slowed him down to the point where Kyle broke the barrier. That’s rodeo. It’s part of it. The good comes with the bad.”

In timed events, calves and steers are given a head start. A barrier string ensures that head start, and if a cowboy breaks the barrier, then he is penalized. That 10-second runoff took Irwin out of contention for the national title.

“It’s too bad, but it’s one of those deals,” said Graves, a seven-time steer wrestling qualifier to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo who won the Buffalo Bill Rodeo in North Platte, Neb., last week. “I think everybody kind of got over that. Right there at the end, we finished strong.”

Domer continued to rope consistently, and Braden posted a qualified run. Irwin scored 3.7-second run to finish runner-up in the third go-round, and Howell won the third round of calf roping with 7.5-second run, the fastest of 147 runs that took place during the seven days of competition.

“I think the key for me was consistency,” Domer said. “Since I’ve been little, it’s always been preached to me to just catch all your cattle. You can’t determine how anybody else is going to rope.

“I felt like I could’ve been quicker in some of the things I was doing. I couldn’t get in too much of a hurry; I just had to relax and catch. I didn’t think we’d be anywhere near the top 12, but that was a tough pen of steers. We had to fight to get three down. The best steer we drew was in the short round; he wasn’t the best steer, but he was the best we had in the four steers we drew.”

Domer will return for a fifth year of eligibility. As an NIRA student representative, his two weeks in Casper were more about business than most of the contestants in the field. That’s OK with the Topeka cowboy, though; he was elected student president, and he’s already earned the automatic qualification to the 2013 CNFR, so it’s all about taking care of business for the next season.

“Everybody at Alva has the ability, and it’s just getting them to take the next step in being more aggressive,” he said. “I’m looking forward to this next year with everything that’s going on. It’s going to be awesome.”

Graves sees a bright future for both the men’s and women’s teams.

“I think all the kids that went this year got exposed to the rest of the college world,” Graves said, “and they saw how things were and that they dang sure can compete at that level. I think they all did good. The younger kids that are very talented … I think that’ll help them next year when they make it.”

postheadericon Pecos rodeo ready to treat the fans to a show

PECOS, Texas – ProRodeo’s best have made a statement: The West of the Pecos Rodeo is an important part of the schedule.

More than 630 contestants have signed up to compete in the annual rodeo, set for 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 27-Saturday, June 30, at Buck Jackson Arena. That’s up nearly 10 percent from a year ago and a strong showing for one of the biggest events to hit west Texas each summer. What cowboys and cowgirls will find in Pecos is a town ready for the hottest rodeo action in the area.

“We have a lot of old rodeo fans that don’t cut me a bit of slack,” said Joe Keese, president of the committee that organizes the annual event, which is celebrating its 129 year this June. “After the 2009 rodeo, I had a lot of people tell me that it was one of the best rodeos they’d ever watched, start to finish. Last year, I had even more people tell me that.

“That’s a true testament to the great livestock Pete Carr brings to our rodeo every year and the kind of production Carr Pro Rodeo puts on.”

Another commentary is how the fans return each June.

“We had a great show last year,” Keese said. “Everybody was very pleased. The crowds were excellent. Year to year, we’ve had our attendance increase four or five straight years. A lot of the people around here really know rodeo, and they’ve come to know that we’re putting on a great rodeo.”

It helps to have the greatest athletes in the sport performing in Buck Jackson Arena. A year ago, 16-time world champion Trevor Brazile won the all-around title in Pecos; he’s the odds-on favorite to do so again this season. Other winners included Wrangler National Finals Rodeo stalwarts like team ropers Derrick Begay and Cesar de la Cruz, barrel racer Cassie Moseley, bull rider Tate Stratton and bareback rider Chris Harris.

“We’re tickled to have rodeos that have that much history in the sport,” said Carr, the owner of the Dallas-based livestock firm.

The West of the Pecos Rodeo is still making history, whether it’s having Boyd Polhamus – the voice of ProRodeo – announcing the action or sought-after funnyman Gizmo McCracken or the best soundman in the business, Benje Bendele, adding a delicate touch to the proceedings or having the event produced by the staff of Carr Pro Rodeo, one of the fastest-growing stock contractors in the game.

“One of the things Pete has helped us with tremendously is because he’s got such a good livestock lineup, he’s got the quality of animals that brings the top cowboys,” Keese said. “The good news for the fans that follow the sport of rodeo is that no matter what night they come to our rodeo, they’ll get to see their favorite guys go.”

The committee and Carr Pro Rodeo have set up a same-day format also allows for the top timed-event contestants to work the Pecos rodeo while also keeping busy on the rodeo trail all across North America. Each steer wrestler, team roper and tie-down roper will compete in the first round, which will take place during “slack” competition each morning. Cowboys with the top 12 times will return that night to compete in the second round during the paid performance; the others will make their second runs that morning.

“It s something that’s arranged for the cowboys’ benefit, so they can work this rodeo in a day, then go on to the next one,” Keese said. “That’s worked out real well for us, and most of the timed-event guys really appreciate it.”

They also appreciate the fact that Carr has agreed for whatever trades to happen to accommodate all the competitors. It’s one of many steps to ensure a great competition.

Another aspect a great production is making sure the shows are run in a timely fashion. The arena is large, and Carr brings in three pickup men to help corral animals much faster after each ride; it will be up to Shawn Calhoun, Jason Bottoms and Josh Edwards to tackle that task.

“We’ve been pretty blessed to have the best pickup men work the Pecos arena,” Carr said. “It takes guys who know what they’re doing, and the three we have working it this year do.”

When it all comes together, the expectations are for fans to see a flawless show. For rodeo fans and those who are just out for a great bit of fun, the entertainment value is the best part.

“Even people who don’t know rodeo – and I’d say 70 to 80 percent of the people who come don’t know rodeo – they come for the entertainment,” Keese said. “We’ve been fortunate to have the team in place that we have. With Pete and his crew running things, there really aren’t any dead times.

“To have Boyd as the announcer and Benje on the sound, even when there are dead times, the fans never know it. That’s just another reason it looks so good.”

The West of the Pecos Rodeo provides many outstanding features, from a large arena that will test the greatest timed-event cowboys in the game to a 12 foot-by-17 foot video board from Real Screen Video to help fans enjoy the experience on site.

“For the cowboys, we have a really long timed-event box and a 20-plus-foot score line,” Keese said. “When you have a huge arena and a long box like that, as I’ve been told by many guys, you’ve got to know what you’re doing. If you’re not well-mounted and not good at what you do, you’re not going to win in Pecos.

“We’re going to have great timed-event cattle, too. Pete spends the money to bring in a good string of steers and a good string of calves.”

postheadericon Breeding program benefits Big Spring rodeo

Korczak, right, walks to the feed trough with Tan Line and one of their foals on a May morning on the Carr Pro Rodeo ranch near Athens, Texas. (TED HARBIN PHOTO)

Korczak, right, walks to the feed trough with Tan Line and one of their foals on a May morning on the Carr Pro Rodeo ranch near Athens, Texas. (TED HARBIN PHOTO)

BIG SPRING, Texas – The Big Spring Rodeo Bowl will be the showcase for some of the greatest animal athletes in the sport.

The foundation, though, is on the Carr Pro Rodeo ranch southeast of Athens in east Texas. It’s where bucking horses and bulls are pampered and where trees align pastureland to provide shade and cover. It’s where established athletes are matched to create the next generation of stars.

“We definitely take care of the animals,” said Pete Carr, owner of the Dallas-based livestock firm, which serves as the primary stock contractor for the 79th annual Big Spring Cowboy Reunion and Rodeo, set this year for 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, June 21-23.

“Jeff Collins is our ranch manager, and he takes care of everything as if it were his own. That means a lot to me and my wife. We know we can trust everything he does.”

From the right feed to the acres of grassland, the Carr Pro Rodeo ranch is a great place for great animal athletes.

Right now, mares that have performed at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo – from River Boat Annie to Black Coffee – are providing the TLC to their weeks old colts, fathered by NFR bucker Korczak. Yes, it’s 375 miles from the Rodeo Bowl to the Carr ranch, but the fans who pack the Big Spring stadium get to see the result of great breeding when they watch the animals in action.

For instance, River Boat Annie was named the reserve world champion bareback horse in 2007 and has been to the NFR every year since. She has three colts that are being prepared for their trips to Las Vegas.

“She’s got a 3-year-old colt that we just bucked with a dummy,” Collins said about one of the first arena experiences for young horses.

The device is controlled by a remote control that, when clicked, releases a lock on the dummy so it feels as though the dummy is bucked off. In order to give the young buckers confidence, Collins hits the remote trigger at three seconds.

“When River Boat’s colt bucked, it was so cool and so electric that it took everything I had to push that button,” Collins said. “You hope to see that kind of action every time that horse bucks.”

That’s what Carr is hoping and why he’s invested into the breeding program as much as he has. Korczak bucked at the NFR in both bareback riding and bronc riding, which makes him a valuable portion of the breeding program. The paint horse’s genetics flow quite easily among many of the colts on the ranch.

“I’m excited by what we’re seeing as far as our breeding program,” Carr said. “Over the years, I’ve gone out and acquired great animals, both horses and bulls. I want to produce great rodeos, entertaining rodeos. To do that, you have to have the best contestants. To get the best contestants, you have to have good livestock.

“I’m happy that our breeding program is contributing to that.”

The foundation for a great rodeo lies on an east Texas ranch, but the benefits are found in Big Spring.

postheadericon Brothers win CNFR short rounds

Tyrel Larsen

Tyrel Larsen

Tyrel Larsen has worked long and hard to win the first of what I suspect to be many major championships.

The Inglis, Manitoba, cowboy sealed his first College National Finals Rodeo title with a big-time short-round ride on Saturday night in Casper, Wyo.  It was an important night for Larsen, his family and those who have been around him.

Now in his fifth year of eligibility and wearing the vest of Central Plains Region rival Southwestern Oklahoma State, Larsen is a big part of the Oklahoma Panhandle State rodeo legacy; he was actually attending graduate level classes online through Southwestern, while living in Goodwell, Okla.

Larsen was tied for second place in the average heading into Saturday’s finale, then posted a winning 79-point ride, bettering second place by six points. That gave him the win.

Oh, and he was one of two Larsens to win the CNFR’s short go-round: Tyrel’s brother, Orin, won the final round of bareback riding with an 80; Orin attends the College of Southern Idaho. Tanner Aus, of Missouri Valley College, won the bareback riding national championship. More on him later.


postheadericon Kirby brings strong work ethic to Carr team

Bullfighter Chris Kirby grabs the attention of the Carr Pro Rodeo bull Panther during the final performance of the 2012 Guymon (Okla.) Pioneer Days Rodeo. Kirby handles many other tasks for Carr Pro Rodeo, which will produce the 129th annual West of the Pecos (Texas) Rodeo from June 27-30. (ROBBY FREEMAN PHOTO)

Bullfighter Chris Kirby grabs the attention of the Carr Pro Rodeo bull Panther during the final performance of the 2012 Guymon (Okla.) Pioneer Days Rodeo. Kirby handles many other tasks for Carr Pro Rodeo, which will produce the 129th annual West of the Pecos (Texas) Rodeo from June 27-30. (ROBBY FREEMAN PHOTO)

PECOS, Texas – By the time Chris Kirby is ready for bull riding at the West of the Pecos Rodeo, he will already be drenched in sweat from a full night’s worth of work tackling many of the behind-the-scenes duties that are involved in producing an event of this caliber.

It’s OK, though. It’s something in which Kirby takes great pride.

You see, the Kaufman, Texas, man is a professional bullfighter who will work alongside veteran Dusty Duba of Aledo, Texas, in keeping fallen bull riders out of harm’s way. That is their main job at the 129th annual West of the Pecos Rodeo, set for 8 p.m. Wednesday, June 27-Saturday, June 30, at Buck Jackson Arena.

But they have many others with Pete Carr, owner of Carr Pro Rodeo, the stock contractor in Pecos.

“I’m just doing something I love to do,” said Kirby, 30, who owns a commercial mowing company and works as a foreman for his father’s trucking business when he’s not on the rodeo trail. “I get to do a lot of things for Pete. I help maintain his semis; we bring them to my dad’s shop, put them in with ours and do a routine maintenance on them. We make sure all his equipment is ready to go.

“I also make sure all of his horses and bulls are taken care of. I treat his business like I do mine. I need to know a little bout of it all, and I try to take care of it like it’s mine.”

Both will be in charge of hauling some of the best animal athletes to Pecos from the Carr ranch near Athens, Texas. Once on site, Kirby and Duba will work with the rest of the dedicated Carr crew in working behind the scenes to make sure the production comes across as seamless as possible.

“We have a family atmosphere, and we all know what to expect with each other,” Kirby said. “I take a lot of pride in Pete’s stuff. I’ve just kind of jumped in there. If there’s a void that needs to be filled, I just go with it. We all try to make sure that what needs to get done gets done. It’s a smooth deal.

“If we do it all right, it looks effortless. Everybody that works at a Carr rodeo has respect for each other. Everybody has an understanding of what each of us does, and it’s a team effort.”

A longtime athlete, the Texas-born Kirby likened it to another professional sport.

“It’s no different than the Dallas Cowboys playing,” he said. “When they’re in the huddle and the play is called, everybody’s supposed to know their situation and know what they’re supposed to do. The offense drives down the field, and you score, just like you’re supposed to.

“At Carr Pro Rodeo, there’s no one-man hero. We’ve got people who don’t mind going the extra step out of their way. We always make sure everybody’s got what they need.”

Kirby grew up competing in more traditional sports like baseball and football. His family cared for livestock, so he’d been around horses and cattle all his life, but it wasn’t until his early 20s that the man learned why rodeo gets in one’s blood.

“I played other sports, and really I didn’t know roping calves could pay you money,” he said. “I saw a buddy I went to college with fight bulls, and I thought I’d give it a try. The first one I ever got in front of ran me smack over. I got up and said, ‘Let’s do this again.’

That was a decade ago, and he’s been doing it ever since. In fact, he began taking it seriously just five years ago. In 2010, he became a member of the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, the top sanctioning body in the sport, and got involved with the Carr crew.

“It’s a job I get paid for that I really enjoy,” Kirby said. “I never really looked at it like it’s a dangerous job. It’s just what I do. And, really, I’m just as safe in that rodeo pen as if I’m driving down the highway.

“Plus you get to travel and you get to meet a lot of nice people doing it.”

Still, not many others get a chance to look in the eyes of a bull toting nearly a ton of kicking, spinning muscle. As a bullfighter, Kirby moves in once a bull rider comes off the animal, battling to get the bull’s attention, then using his natural athletic ability to get himself and all others in the arena out of harm’s way in the blink of an eye.

“It’s exhilarating,” he said. “It’s everything about it. It’s truly sensational to know there’s a wild animal right there that I’ve got a hold of that’s going to follow me wherever I go.

“I showed calves in high school, and it took me three or four months to get him to follow me so I could show him. All I have to do is be in the same pen as the bull, and he’ll follow me everywhere I go.”

While he works in front of thousands of fans at any given rodeo, Kirby tests his night on how little he is recognized in the arena. If he’s doing his job well and everybody stay’s out of harm’s way, then a bullfighter goes unnoticed. That’s his goal in Pecos, but that’s also his “working behind the scenes” personality.

“Going from amateur rodeos to the professional level, I didn’t realize the production of a good rodeo,” Kirby said. “It took me about a year to really see it, but what Pete wants and what we want is to have the kind of production where everybody that paid to be there got their money’s worth and then some. That’s our goal every time.”

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