Archive for May, 2014

postheadericon Top ropers coming to Groesbeck


GROESBECK, Texas – Like golf, team roping has a handicapping system that allows ropers of all levels an opportunity to compete.

It’s the perfect scenario for the Wild West Championships, set for Friday, May 23-Monday, May 26, at the Limestone County Fairgrounds in Groesbeck. That means newcomers game will compete on the same playing field as the world’s best, just not in the same contest.

There will be six handicapped ropings throughout the weekend in Groesbeck, but one of the highlight event will be the Texas 10-Header Open Team Roping, which features the very best in the game. It will take place Sunday, May 25, following the All Girls Team Roping.

“I talked with the USTRC and was able to get the team roping affiliated,” organizer Bobby Joe Hill said, referring to the United States Team Roping Championship organization, which conducts a national championship each fall in Oklahoma City. “I think that’s going to make it a lot better event this year.”

In fact, the Wild West Championships will pay the entry fees to the Priefert U.S. Open at the USTRC Finals for the winning team, which also will be awarded big money and championship buckles.

“All of our event winners will get paid shootouts to the USTRC Finals,” Hill said. “With our Texas 10-Header, the entry fee is $1,500 a man, and they can only enter one time. It should bring out the very best to come to this event.”

The Priefert U.S. Open features numerous world champions and regular qualifiers to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. A chance to qualify for paid entry fees to that USTRC finale, combined with a large purse, will be a huge incentive for the greatest ropers in the business.

Of course, that’s what they’ve come to expect out of the Wild West Championships.

postheadericon UBHA event a success in Alberta

DELBURNE, Alberta – In its first Canadian event, the United Bucking Horse Association found great success north of the border.

With a payout of nearly $13,000, the 2014 UBHA Tour stop featured 34 colts in an event that was organized and produced by two UBHA board members, Darcy Hollingsworth of Anchor Bar Ranch and Justin Twogood of 7W Ranch.

“The 2- and 3-year-old colts were bucked with a dummy for six seconds and judged on the UBHA’s criteria of kick, altitude, pattern, intensity and rhythm,” said Guy French, the association’s president. “Four judges scored each animal from 0-25 points in quarter-point increments. The high and low scores were eliminated, and the scores from the two remaining scores are combined for the final score.”

There were 16 contractors/breeders involved in the Delburne competition. In addition, two more Canadian events were finalized and a fourth is now in the worlds. Fifteen new members from Alberta and Saskatchewan joined the UBHA.

“We plan to be the primary bucking horse association and the launch pad for the industry,” French said. “Our goal is to bring bucking horses and bucking-horse events to the forefront and increase public awareness.”

The UBHA futurity system allows breeders and contractors to prove their colts and pave the way for their future success in the big leagues. The future bucking stars of rodeo will come through the UBHA. Through three events this season, the UBHA has paid out more than $33,000 and bucked 114 colts.

“We welcome anyone and everyone who has ever had a dream of being a rodeo contractor to join us in the dream,” French said.

postheadericon Arena facelift offers great viewpoint

Volunteers with the Will Rogers Stampede PRCA Rodeo have been busy giving the arena a facelift in time for this year's rodeo. Fans will have a great seat for all the action.

Volunteers with the Will Rogers Stampede PRCA Rodeo have been busy giving the arena a facelift in time for this year’s rodeo. Fans will have a great seat for all the action.

CLAREMORE, Okla. – The labor is intensive, but the work is worth it to the volunteers who produce the Will Rogers Stampede PRCA Rodeo.

Workers have been busy giving the Will Rogers Stampede Arena a major facelift. The end result will be of tremendous benefit to the fans of the annual rodeo, set for 7:45 p.m. Friday, May 23-Sunday, May 25, at Will Rogers Stampede Arena. Discounted tickets can be found on the rodeo’s website,; fans can also follow the rodeo on Facebook.

“We’ve put in hundreds of hours into the reconstruction of our arena and making it a better experience for our fans,” said David Petty, chairman of the rodeo committee.

The bucking chutes will be moved from the north end of the arena to the east side, while all the seating will be on the west. That change will allow fans the opportunity to see all the action right before them.

“This change also allows all of our fans to have their backs to the sun, so it should be a more enjoyable experience,” Petty said. “No matter where you sit, you’ll have great seat for all the action.”

Ropers and wrestlers will cross the arena while making their runs as the crowd cheers, while the cowboys riding bucking horses and bulls will be coming right toward the fans. It makes for a great experience.

“We will have our bathrooms finished and ready for use this year, so we’ve really focused our attention on getting things ready for the fans,” Petty said. “As always, we’ll have various vendors and our concessions stand for everyone to enjoy.

“We’ve made a lot of changes in the last couple of years, and they’re all geared toward making the Will Rogers Stampede experience something great for everyone who comes. We want our fans to come back every night and tell their friends how much fun they had.”

Customer satisfaction is the key to any successful event.

“We’ve got the best stock contractor in rodeo in Pete Carr, and we’ve got the most sought-after acts in rodeo coming to our rodeo this year,” he said, referring to the One Arm Bandit, John Payne, and funnyman/clown John Harrison. “We purposefully have put all these things together to make this one of the very best events that Claremore has every year.”

postheadericon Benbenek takes alternate route to national title

Gretchen Benbenek won the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo's barrel racing title, but she came to the sport a different way than most. Now she's chasing her gold-buckle dreams. (WPRA PHOTO BY JAMES PHIFER)

Gretchen Benbenek won the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo’s barrel racing title, but she came to the sport a different way than most. Now she’s chasing her gold-buckle dreams. (WPRA PHOTO BY JAMES PHIFER)

EDITOR’S NOTE: This story appears in the May edition of Women’s Pro Rodeo News, the official publication of the WPRA.

Lary and Basia Benbenek were young newlyweds when they packed up their city life and moved to the country.

There was a fondness for the expanse that is Missoula, Mont., which is so much different than the life they knew so well in Chicago. It was attractive and open, and it was nestled among the Lolo National Forest near the state’s western edge. A trip to visit family resulted in a lifetime change.

It’s where their children, Hilary and Gretchen, were born.

Gretchen Benbenek

Gretchen Benbenek

“My dad’s sister had moved out there,” Gretchen Benbenek said. “They came out to visit and fell in love with Montana. They were 19 years old.

“I think it was God’s plan that my parents decided to build on one acre across from Missoula Equestrian Park.”

It must have been.

“When I was about 9 years old, I got horse crazy,” she said. “I used to go over and watch all the horses. I never grew out of the horse-crazy faze.”

No, she didn’t; that’s a good thing. Her parents found her a job so Gretchen could work with horses, figuring the labor might be a bit overwhelming for the young lady. After three years of cleaning up horse manure and tackling the most menial of tasks, Gretchen Benbenek was more horse crazy than ever.

On Saturday, April 12, she put all those years of hard work and equine passion together for a national championship run during the final go-round of the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo at the Lazy E Arena near Guthrie, Okla. It was a season-changing event – maybe even a life-changing event – for the young cowgirl now living in the horse-country community of Aubrey, Texas.

“I was at the point in the year where I was going to have to make a decision as to whether I was going to make an NFR run or not, and I was leaning toward not,” said Benbenek, who qualified for the RNCFR by winning the Prairie Circuit’s year-end title. “I’ve made some good runs this year, but it hasn’t resulted in very much money for the year end.”

Not even the $13,025 she earned inside the Lazy E will count toward a Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualification, but it helps in many ways in regards to entry fees and expenses that go along with traveling the rodeo circuit full time. Along with the national title comes an automatic qualifier to the Calgary (Alberta) Stampede.

“Getting the qualification to Calgary is what pushed me a lot,” Benbenek said. “It’s time to do this thing. I’m going to plan on heading out in June, and I’m going to build my season around Calgary.”

She should. The historic rodeo north of the border features just a handful of barrel racers. Money won in Calgary will count toward the WPRA world standings – the winner will be awarded $100,000, and $50,000 of that will count toward Wrangler NFR qualifications.

“To only be competing against 20 other girls is a heck of an opportunity,” she said.

Benbenek has had a number of opportunities over the years, but they all seem to have been the perfect stepping stones to chase her gold buckle dreams in 2014. It all started with a watchful eye for the grace and beauty of horses that turned into a lifelong passion.

“I rode Western pleasure for a couple of years, and I didn’t really know anything about barrel racing or rodeo,” she said. “I went to a play day when I was about 13 and ran barrels for the first time. Even though I ran a 60-second pattern, I thought it was even more fun than Western pleasure.”

She competed in high school rodeo, all while working with Ron and Vicki Kellum on technique and horsemanship. Her senior season, Benbenek won the Silver State Rodeo’s barrel racing crown. She also qualified for the National High School Rodeo Association Finals in pole bending.

“I was a really shy kid,” she said. “I didn’t hardly say two words before I turned 18. I didn’t really care about hanging out with friends too much; I was mostly interested in hanging out with my horse.”

That horse was Miss Willie Ada, a mare that was just 3 years old when Benbenek got her. The Kellums thought Miss Willie Ada was the perfect fit, and she was.

“They made a deal for me to buy her, but I had to leave the horse with them for the sumer to come up and take riding lessons,” she said. “That ended up being the best thing that ever happened to me. They taught me everything I know about horses.”

When the Kellums moved to north Texas, Benbenek eventually followed. When it was time to further her education, she began contacting colleges in the region. The late Terry Hyman was the rodeo coach at Oklahoma State University, and he added Benbenek to the team. It paid off quite well; OSU won the women’s National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association titles in 2001 and 2004.

Upon graduation, she returned to north Texas, where she is a real estate appraiser for Merit Advisors in Gainesville. She also has maintained her place in the Prairie Circuit. She parlayed a cherished regional title into a coveted national title and all the perks that come with it, including a $20,000 voucher for a new Ram truck, which will come in handy.

“I’ve been in need of a new pickup,” she said. “I have to do some trailer shopping as well as some truck shopping.”

The new rig will get plenty of use in the months to come. The route to Las Vegas and the Wrangler NFR is scattered all across North America, so Benbenek will venture to parts unknown and see what happens. She’ll also haul A Shot of Firewater, an 11-year-old bay gelding by Firem Jet and out of Benbenek’s mare, Miss Willie Ada.

Inside the Lazy E, Benbenek placed in the opening round and the two-run average to qualify for the semifinals. In the round of eight, New Mexican Kassidy Dennison won the round with a 17.41-second run, and Benbenek was second, just one-hundredth of a second behind. She then posted the second-fastest run of the weekend a 17.13, to win the national title.

“Maverick was very consistent in the first three runs, finishing in 17.4,” she said. “I knew that level of competition in that situation was going to be faster. I’m pretty good about not letting the weight of the situation get to me. I was just trying to ride him correctly. Where he came up with that extra fire, I don’t know.

“I think he really thrives off the crowd. I think he had a feel for how big of a deal it was. I knew at a minimum that he’d be consistent. I know he’s got so much try in him that he’s going to do it right.”

Now she hopes that consistency pays off with her strongest season to date. It’s like she’s living a dream in the world of rodeo.

“When I have a good run, when I have a big accomplishment or when a horse that I’ve trained does well, it just makes sense,” Benbenek said. “It’s a lot of fun. I love the travel and to see the country.”

She will get her chance soon enough.


postheadericon Rodeo makes schedule changes

Tana Renick makes a turn around the second barrel during slack at the 2013 Will Rogers Stampede. The slack, which typically took place all day Thursday prior to Memorial Day weekend, will now move to Friday and Saturday mornings to allow contestants a better opportunity to travel at a number of good events that weekend.

Tana Renick makes a turn around the second barrel during slack at the 2013 Will Rogers Stampede. The slack, which typically took place all day Thursday prior to Memorial Day weekend, will now move to Friday and Saturday mornings to allow contestants a better opportunity to travel at a number of good events that weekend.

CLAREMORE, Okla. – Professional rodeo contestants are part of a gypsy lifestyle.

They travel the country in modified carriages that feature elaborate trailers housing living quarters and room for horses and other equipment. Most of their time on the rodeo trail is actually behind the wheel, with breaks along the highway in order to compete.

It’s that reality that has led the organizers of the Will Rogers Stampede PRCA Rodeo to make a change in their annual event. Performances remain scheduled for 7:45 p.m. Friday, May 23-Sunday, May 25, at Will Rogers Stampede Arena. Discounted tickets can be found on the rodeo’s website,; fans can also follow the rodeo on Facebook.

But there’s more competition than time allows in a typical performance. That is why most rodeos feature slack, a time designated to allow the overflow of contestants to perform.

“We wanted to help the contestants out as much as possible, so we won’t have slack on Thursday (May 22) at all,” said David Petty, chairman of the volunteer committee that produces the rodeo. “Instead, we will have our slack for barrel racers, steer wrestlers and team ropers on Friday morning, then we will have tie-down roping and steer roping on Saturday.”

That seems to be a winning ingredient for contestants.

“It’s actually better for us,” said steer wrestler Stockton Graves, a seven-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier from Alva, Okla. “As far as the (Prairie) Circuit goes, the only other one going on is in Mulvane (Kan.) that week, so this works well in our schedule.

“I think it was a good idea on their part; that way people can work both circuit rodeos.”

For the world’s greatest steer ropers, the day change allows for great opportunities to make a significant income. In addition to the rodeo in Claremore, contestants will have the opportunity to compete at another Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association event in Bandera, Texas, as well as non-sanctioned events in Saginaw, Texas, and Groesbeck, Texas.

“This year, a guy can go to Claremore and get done Saturday morning,” said Rocky Patterson, a three-time world champion from Pratt, Kan. “We can go to the Windy Ryon (in Saginaw) on Sunday, then go down to Groesbeck on Monday, so it works well in our schedule.”

The change will make things more convenient for everyone involved.

“It allows us the opportunity to take care of the contestants while spending less time on the production end of it,” Petty said. “It’ll be easier on the volunteers and easier on the contestants. I think it will be better.”

postheadericon Ranch rodeo a fixture for team


GROESBECK, Texas – Every day that Brian Leathers goes to work, he does so on the back of a horse with a rope in his hand.

“I cowboy for a living,” said Leathers, of Axtell, Texas.

Whether it’s cutting hay, rounding up strays or doctoring cattle, he handles about any task that comes his way. He also takes those skills with him when he plays, primarily at ranch rodeos all across central Texas and beyond.

On Sunday, May 26, Leathers and three friends will try to defend their title at the Wild West Championships’ Invitational Ranch Rodeo, which will take at the Limestone County Fairgrounds in Groesbeck. He partnered with Jake Conrad, Skeeter Ramsey and Wrangler National Finals Rodeo team roper Colby Lovell to win the title last spring, so repeating that feat would be grand.

“It was a good rodeo, and, of course, it’s always better when you win,” he said.

Twenty teams will compete in three events: pasture roping, branding and mugging. Points are accumulated in each category, and the top team wins the lion’s share of the prizes. That’s why having all the tools comes in handy.

“I used to rope calves professionally for a long time,” Leathers said. “I really like the double mugging and that side of it now.

“I always want to win. We win at a lot of the ranch rodeos we go to. We’ve won or placed at just about every big rodeo we’ve been to and have won 23 rodeos in a row.”

When he’s not in the competitive arena, he’s doing whatever jobs come his way. He has a yearling operation, but also does day work as a cowboy whenever the need arises. In mid-March, Leathers was called to nearby Waco, Texas, to help wrangle a bull that had escaped its pen at a veterinary clinic.

Now he’ll carry those skills into the fairgrounds arena to see if he can help entertain the crowd while his team wins its second straight Wild West title.

“I’m lucky to have such a good team of good hands,” Leathers said. “We click together, and we all have good horses. A man needs to try to win when he goes and enters.”

postheadericon World’s best coming to Kansas


MULVANE, Kan. – Based on the numbers alone, Trevor Brazile is the most prolific all-around cowboy in professional rodeo.

He will bring his bevy of talents with him to compete in the inaugural National Roping Championship, set for three powerful performances June 6-7 at the Kansas Star Arena. He will need every bit of his experience to help him at the National Roping Championship, which features 20 of the greatest cowboys in the game competing in each event.

Trevor Brazile

Trevor Brazile

Each of the 20 cowboys will compete in three rounds, which consist of making runs in each discipline. The cowboys will battle for their share of a $122,000 purse, with their eyes firmly placed on the $25,000 first-place prize.

If Brazile’s record 19 Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association world championships weren’t enough, there are many other statistics that prove his place atop the sport’s list of legends. Brazile is one of just two cowboys in PRCA history to have qualified for the National Finals in all four roping disciplines: heading, heeling, tie-down roping and steer roping.

The most important statistics refer back to those world titles; he has a record 11 all-around gold buckles, four steer roping championships, three tie-down roping crowns and a heading gold buckle. He has earned more than $5 million in the PRCA alone, and that money doesn’t include countless other titles won at individual events that aren’t part of that equation. Nobody in rodeo history comes close.

Brazile will be joined in the National Roping Championship by 19 other top all-around cowboys. In an age where most compete in a single event, it takes someone exceptional to do well in multiple events. It’s akin to a professional football player who excels on both offense and defense. It takes exceptional athletic talent and a determined focus.

It will take talent, grit and powerful determination to overcome the many challenges set forth in the National Roping Championship. The combatants must make constant adjustments throughout the tough two days of competition in order to make a play for the coveted title.

But that’s what cowboys do every day. From the days of pushing cattle up the Chisholm Trail to the laboring ranch work on the grasslands, the National Roping Championship is a competition that is engrained in the fabric that is Kansas.

That’s why the Kansas Star Arena is the perfect place for the world’s greatest ropers to show their talent.


postheadericon Gwatneys a big part of rodeo lore

CLAREMORE, Okla. – Members of the Will Rogers Round Up Club know what it takes to put on a high-quality event.

They also know when it’s time to lean on a little expert advice when they can. That’s one reason members of the volunteer rodeo committee sought out the expertise of Pete Carr Pro Rodeo, a livestock firm with some of the most talented hands in the game. When Pete Carr established his rodeo company years ago, he knew he needed a great team of talented people to help him along the way.

What Carr found was a family atmosphere, one very similar to the rodeo lifestyle itself. Crew members work, travel and celebrate together during the 30-plus rodeo season. Nobody in the sport epitomizes that family togetherness more than John and Sandy Gwatney, the husband-wife tandem that are a big part of the Carr brand.

John Gwatney

John Gwatney

“Everybody knows their job, and everybody knows where they need to fill in if something goes astray,” said John Gwatney, the production supervisor for Pete Carr’s Classic Pro Rodeo, the livestock firm that will produce the Will Rogers Stampede PRCA Rodeo, set for 7:45 p.m. Friday, May 23-Sunday, May 25, at Will Rogers Stampede Arena.

Discounted tickets can be found on the rodeo’s website,; fans can also follow the rodeo on Facebook.

Gwatney and Carr work closely together making sure every aspect of a rodeo’s production goes off as flawlessly as possible. They lean on each other and the rest of the crew to put on the best competition and showcase as possible.

Of course, John Gwatney leans on nobody more than his wife and traveling partner, Sandy, a secretary/timer/do-it-all cowgirl who is a big part of the rodeo’s success.

“She’s my best friend, and she knows as much about the production as anybody going,” he said. “Whether she’s timing or is the secretary or is carrying the American flag, she knows the importance of what we do and why we do it. That’s a lady that there’s no job that’s too little or too big for her.”

That’s a quality that is a shared among the talented Carr team.

“The thing about John and Sandy is that they’re very good at everything they do, and they’re very selfless,” said Carr, owner of the Dallas-based livestock company. “They have been with us since the beginning, and they are an integral part of making each of our rodeos work.

“I believe we have the best crew in rodeo, people who work hard and care about everyone: the fans, the committees and the contestants. That’s important.”

Sandy Gwatney

Sandy Gwatney

The Gwatneys grew up in California – Sandy in the northern portion, John in the south. They have been together since the fall of 1996, and they’re lives have centered around rodeo.

“The reason why I time or secretary is because I like being part of the rodeo,” Sandy Gwatney said. “Since we’re not competing anymore, this is a way for me to be part of it. I really like my job, and that’s why I do it. I’m a people person.”

She is, and it’s been a tremendous benefit to the rodeos she works, because she knows so many people in the sport. There’s something that comes with having those relationships, but there’s so much more that goes into rodeo. One common theme among members of the Carr crew is a love for the sport.

“I have a passion for horses in general,” she said. “I love watching a good bucking horse work as much as I love watching a good bulldogging horse or calf roping horse work. I absolutely love steer roping horses because they’re so disciplined and so intent on their jobs.

“I love animals and watching the animals work. I’m sure that has a definite advantage in my position. We’re doing our jobs, and the animals are doing theirs.”

When it all comes together, it’s a job well done. That’s what happens when people are passionate about the work they do.

“I love the sport,” John Gwatney said. “While most people wanted to go play football and baseball and stuff, all I wanted to do was go to another rodeo.

“A lot of it has to do with the love of animals, but then there’s the production side. If we can, for two hours a day, help people forget their problems and have a good time, then I feel that I’ve done my job, whether I’m running the bucking-chute end or the timed-event end or competing. I’m just taking people away from their worries for a couple hours each day, and it makes a big difference in my life.”

Rodeo is one of those hybrid events in which quality entertainment is mixed with world-class competition.

“We are always aware that we have an obligation toward the contestant, and a big part of our job is to make sure everybody at our rodeo has an equal shot to win,” John Gwatney said. “Mentally I’m still a contestant. Every stock contractors dream has been to buck everybody off, but without the 90-point ride, there is no rodeo.

“The contestants know I competed. I rode bulls for eight years. I’ll listen, and they know that. I want what’s right for the contestant. I want them all to have the same shot.”

It not only is the respect for others, but it’s a respect for the game. Rodeo is a rare breed in which humans match their skills against animal athletes. It’s a showcase of true athleticism.

That’s the Carr rodeo specialty. In 2013, there were 27 Carr animals selected to buck at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, the sport’s grand championship. Over the years, there have been three world champion bucking horses: Real Deal, Big Tex and MGM Deuces Night.

“The thing I like about Pete Carr is he keeps people working together who like to work together so their jobs more enjoyable,” Sandy Gwatney said. “You keep your foundation solid. If everybody gets along, it makes it that much more fun.”

That’s the key to a strong team, which is one of the strongest aspects of the Carr product. Of course, it all starts at home for the Gwatneys.

“I’m lucky enough to have my best friend travel with me and make it a successful event no matter where we go,” John Gwatney said.

postheadericon McCoys eliminated from ‘Race’

Cord, left, and Jet McCoy search for a clue during the 10th episode of "The Amazing Race" All-Star Edition, which aired Sunday on CBS-TV. The McCoys were given a U-Turn and finished last in the leg, therefore, they were eliminated. (CBS PHOTO)

Cord, left, and Jet McCoy search for a clue during the 10th episode of “The Amazing Race” All-Star Edition, which aired Sunday on CBS-TV. The McCoys were given a U-Turn and finished last in the leg, therefore, they were eliminated. (CBS PHOTO)

On the McCoy Ranch near Tupelo, Okla., there is vast pastureland that allows cowboys the freedom to maneuver.

There really is no need for a U-turn, but if there was, it would be a simple tug on the reins and a swift horseback spin; it’s an easy process. That was not the case during the 10th episode of “The Amazing Race” on Sunday night. Jet and Cord McCoy were damned by the cousin team of Leo Temory and Jamal Zadran with a U-Turn, where the penalized team had to perform both segments of a Detour before they could finish the leg.

“The strongest team in the race is still the cowboys,” Zadran said. “It only makes sense to U-Turn them.”

Zadran suffered a knee injury during Sunday’s episode of the race around the world for $1 million, which led to The Afghanamals’ decision to penalize The Cowboys.

“We love you guys, but Jamal messed up his knee really badly,” Temory said.

The McCoys were eliminated, finishing the 24th season of “The Amazing Race” in fifth place.

“Quite frankly, I think everybody was just outright scared of you guys,” host Phil Keoghan told the brothers as they wrapped up their third appearance on the CBS-TV reality series.

The McCoys have been fan favorites of the show since their first race in 2010, when they finished second. But they know that’s the way the show goes.

“We were surprised to see our face up there,” Jet McCoy said of the board displaying the U-Turn victims. “On the other hand, we were really disappointed in Leo and Jamal. You can’t trust anybody. You throw a million dollars in the mix, and it really kind of brings the worst out in some people.”

Part of the beauty of the reality show is the drama that comes naturally throughout the 12-week series. Teams try many tactics to get the upper hand in the competition. Temory and Zadran said they have faith they could beat the other teams remaining on the show, but that they were concerned with having The Cowboys still in the mix.

“I like our chances much better not having Jet and Cord there,” Zadran said.

The brothers, though, have been there. Of the 10 legs of the race in which they competed, the McCoys finished in the top two six times, with two leg victories.

“There’s so much more that you get to experience in life by coming on the race,” Cord McCoy said. “Jet and I got to go three times, and that’s something most people in the world would never experience.”

It has been quite a ride, and in true cowboy form, Cord McCoy rode off on a beautiful Spanish horse as the episode came to a close.

“We ran as good of a race as we could run with our character and integrity intact,” Jet McCoy said. “We got to meet some good people, and we got to see some beautiful, beautiful places that I don’t think we would’ve ever gotten to see otherwise. I have no regrets.

Said his brother, “Any leg of the race that you get to go on is just a blessing.”

postheadericon Richie is a Guymon Champion

Richie Champion rides Pete Carr's Classic Pro Rodeo's Fancy Free for 86 points on Sunday afternoon to share the bareback riding title (with Tim O'Connell) at the Guymon Pioneer Days Rodeo. (ROBBY FREEMAN PHOTO)

Richie Champion rides Pete Carr’s Classic Pro Rodeo’s Fancy Free for 86 points on Sunday afternoon to share the bareback riding title (with Tim O’Connell) at the Guymon Pioneer Days Rodeo. (ROBBY FREEMAN PHOTO)

GUYMON, Okla. – To say that Richie Champion is having the best season of his young would be quite an understatement.

In just a few months, the 21-year-old cowboy from The Woodlands, Texas, has won more than $1.1 million riding bareback horses, almost all of that coming from a new concept rodeo called RFD-TV’s The American. But he also is the No. 4 cowboy in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, where he’s won more than $35,000 already this season.

On Sunday afternoon, Champion added another title to his growing list by matching moves with Fancy Free of the Pete Carr’s Classic Pro Rodeo string for 86 points to share the crown with another newcomer to the game, Tim O’Connell of Zwingle, Iowa, the reigning rookie of the year; O’Connell rode Carr’s Scarlet’s Web on Friday night to match the score. Each cowboy pocketed $2,900.

Richie Champion

Richie Champion

“When I got my call back last week,” Champion said, referring to the notice of which animal he was to be matched with via a random draw, “I was so excited. She’s been so great for so long. It’s just a blessing to be able to be on her.”

Fancy Free is a veteran bay mare that has been selected to perform at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo nine times. She also has been named the Texas Circuit Bareback Horse of the Year.

“She was a little more of a handful than I expected,” Champion said. “She had a lot of down, and it took me a minute to adjust. She kind of loosened me up at the end.

“For a horse like that to consistently be getting stronger on the ride … that’s why she’s so great and has been so great, because she doesn’t weaken.”

In addition to winning the bareback riding title at The American, Champion shared titles in both Montgomery, Ala., and Denver. He also had a good run at RodeoHouston, which, like The American, is not affiliated with the PRCA.

“I’m really having fun,” he said. “I’m really just enjoying it, and I have been all year. I had a great winter. Everything’s just been rolling.”

A student at Tarleton State University in Stephenville, Texas, Champion won the Southwest Region title this season and will compete for a college championship in mid-June. Now he hopes to remain in the position to qualify for the NFR in December.

“I have had a lot of luck at events that are not PRCA sanctioned,” he said. “My goal is to go to the NFR and be a contender for the world championship. I want a gold buckle.

“I don’t want to be that guy who had all that luck at a one-day or two-day rodeos. When I look at (world champions) Kaycee Feild, Bobby Mote and Will Lowe … those guys could take a whole year of hauling and have learned how to travel and win consistently all over the world on little sleep, no food and just really learn to rodeo and made a career out of it because they’re the best.”

Combined, Feild, Lowe and Mote own 10 gold buckles.

“They’re the guys I look up to,” Champion said. “I want to be that guy.”

Guymon (Okla.) Pioneer Days Rodeo
April 28-May 4
Bareback riding:
1. (tie) Tim O’Connell, on Pete Carr’s Classic Pro Rodeo’s Scarle’s Web, and Richie Champion, on Pete Carr’s Classic Pro Rodeo’s Fancy Free, 86 points, $2,900 each; 3. Jared Smith, 85, $1,860; 4. Mason Clements, 84, $1,204; 5. Tilden Hooper, 83, $766; 6. (tie) Kyle Brennecke and Caleb Bennett, 82 $492; 8. Winn Ratliff, 81, $328.

Team roping: First round: 1. (tie) Cole Dorenkamp/Jesse Jolly and Trevor Brazile/Travis Graves, 6.5 seconds, $1,956 each; 3. Travis Warren/Justin Price, 6.9, $1,547; 4. Tyler Wade/Kinney Harrell, 7.0, $1,274; 5. Chad Masters/Paul Eaves, 7.1, $1,001; 6. Matt Sherwood/Dugan Kelly, 7.2, $728; 7. Tuf Cooper/Marty Yates, 7.5, $455; 8. Kory Bramwell/Cole Jackson, 7.7, $182.Second round: 1. Keven Daniel/York Gill, 5.8 seconds, $2,092 each; 2. Turtle Powell/Dakota Kirchenschlager, 5.9, $1,819; 3. Casey Hicks/Jake Pianalto, 6.0, $1,547; 4. Coleman Proctor/Jake Long, 6.5, $1,274; 5. (tie) Calvin Brevik/Wade Masters and Charly Crawford/Ryan Motes, 6.6, $864 each; 7. (tie) Ty Blasingame/J.W. Borrego and Travis Bounds/Wade Kreutzer, 6.7, $318 each. Third round: 1. Keven Daniel/York Gill, 6.4 seconds, $2,092; 2. Paul David Tierney/Matt Kasner, 6.7, $1,819; 3. Luke Brown/Kollin vonAhn, 8.9, $1,547; 4. Chace Thompson/Twister Cain, 7.2, $1,274; 4.Turtle Powell/Dakota Kirchenschlager, 7.5, $1,0012; 6. Trevor Brazile/Travis Graves, 7.6, $728; 7. Arky Rogers/Travis Woodard, 7.9, $455; 6. Drew Horner/Buddy Hawkins II, 8.2, $182. Average: 1. Turtle Powell/Dakota Kirchenschlager, 23.6 seconds on three runs, $3,139; 2. Trevor Brazile/Travis Graves, 25.4, $2,729; 3. Brock Hansen/Cesar de la Cruz, 25.7, $2,320; 4. Chad Masters/Paul Eaves, 27.1, $1,910; 5. Arky Rogers/York Gill, 27.3, $1,501; 6. (tie) Drew Horner/Buddy Hawkins III and Mike Bacon/Joseph Harrison, 27.5, $887 each; 8. Chace Thompson/Twister Cain, 28.3, $273.

Steer roping: First round: 1. J. Tom Fisher, 11.7 seconds, $1,891; 2. Brent Lewis, 12.3, $1,565; 3. (tie) Neal Wood and J.B. Whatley, 12.5, $1,076 each; 5. Tyrel Taton, 12.6, $587; 6. Jay Sellers, 13.1, $326. Second round: 1. Shay Good, 10.2 seconds, $1,891; 2. Trevor Brazile, 10.3, $1,565; 3. Tom Smith, 11.0, $1,239; 4. (tie) Vin Fisher Jr. and Corey Ross, 11.1, $749 each; 6. Chet Herren, 11.3, $326. Third round: 1. Trey Wallace, 10.8 seconds, $1,891; 2. Will McBride, 11.4, $1,565; 3. Chris Glover, 11.7, $1,239; 4. Tom Smith, 12.1, $913; 5. (tie) Jess Tierney and Joe Wells, 12.3, $456. Fourth round: 1. Chet Herren, 10.8 seconds; $1,891; 2. Chance Kelton, 11.1, $1,565; 3. Brodie Poppino, 11.7, $1,239; 4. (tie) Walter Priestly and Rob Denny, 11.9, $750 each; 5. Marty Poppino, 12.0, $326. Fifth round: 1. Kim Ziegelgruber, 11.2 seconds, $1,891; 2. Jason Evans, 11.7. $1,565; 3. Mike Chase and J.B. Whatley, 12.0, $1,076 each; 5. Chris Glover, 12.5, $587; 6. Joe Wells, 12.6, $326. Average: 1. Chance Kelton, 68.1 seconds on five runs, $5,673; 2. Brady Garten, 78.6, $4,695; 3. Mark Milner, 84.9, $3,717; 4. Tony Reina, 85.4, $2,739; 5. Chris Glover, 86.9, $1,761; 6. Randy Wells, 55.5 seconds on four runs, $978.

Saddle bronc riding: 1. Chad Ferley, 86 points on D&H Cattle’s Shaken Not Stirred, $3,486; 2. (tie) Chet Johnson, Heith DeMoss and Tyler Corrington, 84, $1,975 each; 5. (tie) Rusty Wright and Rusty Aldridge, 82, $697 each; 7. Justin Caylor, 80, $465; 8. (tie) Brady Nicholes, Ty Thompson, Cody Taton and Hardy Braden, 79, $87 each.

Steer wrestling: First round: 1. Dru Melvin, 3.7 seconds, $1,960; 2. Tyler Pearson, 3.8, $1,705; 3. Quinn Campbell, 4.0, $1,449; 4. Jacob Talley, 4.3, $1,193; 5. (tie) Josh Peek and Chance Howard, 4.5, $810 each; 7. (tie) Dean Gorsuch and Ben Shofner, 4.6, $298 each. Second round: 1. Tommy Cook, 3.6 seconds, $1,960; 2. (tie) Josh Peek and Todd Suhn, 3.7, $1,577 each; 4. Tyler Waguespack, 4.1, $1,193; 5. Trell Etbauer, 4.2, $937; 6. Clayton Hass, 4.3, $682; 7. Kyle Irwin, 4.4, $426; 8. (tie) Garrett Poston and Cole Edge, 4.5, $85 each. Third round: 1. Quinn Campbell, 3.7 seconds, $1,960; 2. Dru Melvin, 3.9, $1,705; 3. Kyle Irwin, 4.0, $1,449; 4 (tie) Riley Duvall and Cole Edge, 4.6, $1,065 each; 6. Brady Hageman, 4.8, $882; 7. (tie) Rowdy Parrott and Payden Kime McIntyre, 4.9, $298. Average: 1. Quinn Campbell, 13.2 on three runs, $2,940; 2. Cole Edge, 13.8, $2,557; 3. Josh Peek, 13.9, $2,173; 4. Payden Kime McIntyre, 14.3, $1,790; 5. Dean Gorsuch, 14.5, $1,406; 6. Dru Melvin 14.7, $1,023; 7. Rowdy Parrott, 15.2, $639; 8. Jacob Talley, 15.8, $256.

Tie-down roping: First round: 1. Clay Long, 7.6 seconds, $1,744; 2. Trevor Brazile, 7.8, $1,617; 3. (tie) Tyson Durfey and Marty Yates, 8.1, $1,175 each; 5. (tie) Seaver Tate and Morgan Grant, 8.3, $720 each; 7. Chase Williams, 8.4, $379; 8. Quay Howard, 8.6, $152. Second round: 1. Ryan Jarrett, 7.4 seconds, $1,744; 2. (tie) Michael Otero and Cody McCartney, 7.5, $1,403 each; 4. (tie) Marty Yates and Trent Creager, 7.6, $948 each; 6. (tie) EJ Roberts and Cade Swor, 7.7, $493 each; 8. Clint Robinson, 7.9, $152. Third round: 1. (tie) Hunter Herrin and L.D. Meier, 7.7 seconds, $1,630 each; 3. Timber Moore, 8.2, $1,289; 4. Catfish Brown, 8.4, $1,062; 5. (tie) Jake Hamilton, Sterling Smith and Trevor Brazile, 8.5, $607 each; 8. E.J. Roberts, 8.6, $152. Average: 1. Marty Yates, 24.9 seconds on three runs, $2,616; 2. Trevor Brazile, 25.5, $2,275; 3. Ryan Jarrett, 26., $1,934; 4. Timber Moore, 26.7, $1,592; 5. (tie) Clay Long and L.D. Meier, 27.2, $1,081 each; 7. Seaver Tate, 27.3, $569; 8. Hunter Herrin, 27.4, $227.

Barrel racing: First round: 1. (tie) Alicia Stockton and Shelby Herrmann, 17.43 seconds, $1,860 each; 3. Natalie Foutch, 17.45, $1,431; 4. Emily Holton, 17.54, $1,240; 5. Jordan Taton, 17.55, $954; 6. (tie) Shelley Morgan and Taylor Langdon, 17.56, $668 each; 8. Mary Burger, 17.57, $382; 9. Chelsie Clement, 17.59, $286; 10. Ivy Hurst, 17.60, $191. Second round: 1. Ivy Hurst, 17.06 seconds, $2,004; 2. (tie) Toni Harden and Alicia Stockton, 17.18, $1,574 each; 4. (tie) Carlee Pierce and Kim Schulze, 17.21, $1,097; 6. Victoria Williams, 17.29, $763; 7. Taylor Langdon, 17.33, $572; 8. Natalie Foutch, 17.37, $382; 9. Jean Winters and Tara Carr, 17.47, $239. Average: 1.Alicia Stockton, 34.61 seconds on two runs, $2,004; 2. Ivy Hurst, 34.66, $1,717; 3. Natalie Foutch, 34.82, $1,431; 4. Taylor Langdon, 34.89, $1,240; 5. Victoria Williams, 34.92, $854; 6. Kim Schulz, 35.08, $763; 7. Mary Burger, 35.11, $572; 8. Toni Hardin, 35.12, $382; 9. Shelby Herrman, 35.13, $286; 10. Britany Diaz, 35.15, $191.

Bull riding: 1. (tie) Sage Kimzey, on Pete Carr’s Classic Pro Rodeo’s Line Man, and Jason Beck, on Pete Carr’s Classic Pro Rodeo’s Footloose, $3,313 each; 3. Caleb Sanderson, 89, $2,125; 4. (tie) Scottie Knapp and Clayton Foltyn, 87, $1,125 each; 6. Jeff Askey, 86, $625; 7. (tie) Trey Benton II and Aaron Pass, 85, $438 each.

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