- Special Sections
KANSAS CITY, Mo. â€“ For every event that takes place during the American Royalâ€™s fall festival, there are countless beneficiaries of the organizationâ€™s mission.
Most prominent of those are the Royal Scholars, a group of six exceptional college students who serve as ambassadors for the American Royal and are rewarded with $2,500 scholarships each.
â€śTo me, being a Royal Scholar is such a great honor, because my grandpa used to show carloads of Hereford cattle back in the day,â€ť said Garrett Kays, a junior at Kansas State University earning a bachelorâ€™s degree in agricultural economics. â€śI understand the history and the tradition of this area and of agriculture.â€ť
Raised on the family farm near Wier, Kan., in the stateâ€™s southeastern corner, Kays is a fourth-generation farmer who, with his brother, runs a 40-head Angus cow-calf operation. His proximity to Kansas Cityâ€™s exposition has given him a greater understanding of what has happened in the West Bottoms for the past 115 years.
â€śTo learn more about the organization and to be part of the larger aspect of the history of the American Royal is quite an honor,â€ť he said. â€śThe coolest thing is the educational opportunities the organization provides to young people, especially in the greater Kansas City area. My background with the American Royal makes it even a more rewarding experience to be a Royal Scholar.â€ť
Kays is joined as a 2014 Royal Scholar by Alyssa Clements, a University of Tennessee graduate who will begin her masterâ€™s program at the University of Illinois; Jade Kampsen, a senior at South Dakota State University; Morgan Weinrich, a sophomore at Colorado State University; Emma Likens, a senior at the University of Nebraska; and Sadie Kinne, a senior at the University of Missouri.
â€śBoth my parents were raised on family farms, my mom on a dairy farm and dad on a sheep farm,â€ť said Kinne, an agriculture education major from Eagleville, Mo. â€śI was raised on a registered Angus farm. When I was little, I was opening gates and keeping dad company, then I had the responsibility of choring every day.â€ť
Itâ€™s that work ethic she carried with her to Mizzou and to her training to be an ag educator.
â€śOur society needs educated about where our food comes from,â€ť she said. â€śItâ€™s that simple, but itâ€™s very hard to go about that. I would like to get into elementary classrooms and hold adult classes as well as high school classes.â€ť
Through every phase, Kinne and her fellow Royal Scholars will tout the American Royal and its primary purpose of promoting education and agrarian values.
â€śThe biggest message that I can contribute as a young person is to use my passion and my education within agriculture to educate others about it,â€ť said Kays, who plans to represent the agriculture industry in the political arena. â€śWe are not tying agriculture to food as much as we should. Thatâ€™s why Iâ€™m interested in pursuing a career in this, working on food policy to benefit the most customers.
â€śIncorporating food into our conversations is the most important message we can provide.â€ť
Thatâ€™s the type of attitude that guided J.J. Jones into an agriculture career. Now the international trade director for the Kansas Department of Agriculture, Jones graduated from K-State after studying animal science and industry and international agriculture. He was an American Royal Ambassador, the predecessor to the Royal Scholars program.
â€śItâ€™s a great program that recognizes youth leaders in the agriculture industry,â€ť Jones said. â€śIt ties into one of the longest running livestock shows and agrarian events in the nation. The American Royal has such a rich heritage in agriculture in Kansas City. It was such a great opportunity to be involved in the organization.â€ť
That opportunity continues to pay dividends several years after Jones graduated.
â€śItâ€™s still all about education,â€ť he said. â€śI actually gave a speech on the livestock show in high school. I talked about the original livestock show in the 1880s and 1890s. Thatâ€™s where the ranchers would go to see the latest techniques.
â€śToday â€“ while thereâ€™s still the livestock show and the rodeo and all the other activities â€“ itâ€™s more about educating customers.â€ť
Those lessons will continue for years to come.
MISSOURI MAN CASHES IN AT AMERICAN ROYAL ON FINAL DAY OF HIS ROOKIE SEASON
KANSAS CITY, Mo. â€“ John Mincey and his family moved to southeastern Missouri just seven years ago because they wanted to live in cowboy country.
Now heâ€™s a professional rodeo cowboy, and he loves it. On Saturday night, he rode Stace Smith Pro Rodeoâ€™s Black Velvet for 81 points to place fourth in bull riding, pocketing $869 in the process. That was well worth the 275-mile drive from his home in West Plains, Mo.
â€śWhen I seen that I had that big olâ€™ thing drawn,â€ť he said of Black Velvet, â€śI was scared to death. But if you breathe and let it all hang out, God will be with you, so you just stick it on them.â€ť
It worked out quite well for the 20-year-old cowboy, who moved to West Plains seven years ago from southern Louisiana. Now a rookie in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association, Mincey is chasing his dreams on the rodeo trail.
â€śI finished the season strong, and I feel like I did everything I can this year, so Iâ€™m happy with it,â€ť he said.
Mincey is one of five contestants in the final performance of the 2014 American Royal who earned money by finishing among the leaders. Saddle bronc rider Wade Sundell, a six-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier from Boxholm, Iowa, paved the way with an 85-point ride on Three Hills Rodeoâ€™s Big Jet, finishing in a first-place tie with two-time world champion Taos Muncy.
Bronc rider Tyler Corrington, a three-time NFR qualifier from Hastings, Minn., placed fourth with an 83 on Stace Smith Pro Rodeosâ€™ Hammer Cocked. Bareback rider Casey Breuer of Mandan, N.D., finished in a tie for fourth place with a 78-point ride on Three Hills Rodeoâ€™s Heaven On Earth, and barrel racer Laura Kennedy rounded the cloverleaf pattern in 14.35 seconds to finish sixth.
For Kennedy, it was important to finish well at the final rodeo of the season, which also counts toward the Great Lakes Circuit, the ProRodeo region made up of events across the Midwest, including Missouri.
â€śThis is very good for me, because I would love to win the circuit again this year,â€ť said Kennedy, who won the regional title a year ago.
The Quitman, Ark., cowgirl had success on her horse, Lexus, before he was injured. On July 7, she purchased Tall Boy and has found quite a gem in the 7-year-old sorrel.
â€śTall Boy is a very nice horse,â€ť she said. â€śHeâ€™s been very good to me. Iâ€™ve had him almost three months, and Iâ€™ve won $22,000 on him. Heâ€™s very athletic, easy-going and wants to please.â€ť
She certainly was pleased Saturday night.
American Royal Rodeo
Kansas City, Mo.
Bareback riding: 1. (tie) Justin McDaniel, on Smith, Harper & Morganâ€™s Proud Mary, and Ryan Gray, on Stace Smith Pro Rodeoâ€™s Rosana, and Jared Keylon, on Three Hills Rodeoâ€™s Black Diamond, 80 points, $1,588 each; 4. (tie) Orin Larsen, Casey Breuer and Tyler Waltz, 78, $522 each; 7. Tilden Hooper, 77, $272; 8. Jessy Davis, 76, $204.
Steer wrestling leaders: 1. Stewart Gulager, 3.6 seconds, $2,530; 2. (tie) Cooper Shofner, Tom Lewis, Sean Santucci and Bray Armes, 3.9, $1,705 each; 6. (tie) Wade Steffen and Jon Ragatz, 4.0, $715 each; 8. (tie) Matt Koch and Tanner Brunner, 4.2, $110 each.
Team roping leaders: 1. Coleman Proctor/Jake Long, 4.2 seconds, $2,545; 2. Turtle Powell/Dakota Kirchenschlager, 4.6, $2,277; 3. (tie) Ryan Von Ahn/J.W. Beck, Clay Tryan/Jade Corkill and Trevor Brazile/Travis Graves, 4.7, $1,741 each; 6. Manny Egusquiza Jr./Martin Jucero, 4.8, $1,206; 7. Tom Richards/Cesar de la Cruz, 5.1, $938; 8. Andrew Ward/Reagan Ward, 5.3, $670; 9. (tie) Nathan McWhorter/Cole Davison and Chad Masters/Clay Oâ€™Brien Cooper, $268 each.
Saddle bronc riding: 1. Taos Muncy, on Three Hills Rodeoâ€™s Melancoly Baby, and Wade Sundell, on Three Hills Rodeoâ€™s Big Jet, 85 points, $1,983 each; 3. Dustin Flundra, 84, $1,272; 4. Tyler Corrington, 83, $823; 5. Sterling Crawley, 82, $524; 6. (tie) Bradley Harter, Sam Spreadborough and CoBurn Bradshaw, 81, $299.
Tie-down roping leaders: 1. (tie) Adam Gray and Cody Ohl, 7.9 seconds, $1,900 each; 3. Clint Cooper, 8.2, $1,502; 4. (tie) Timber Moore, Ryle Smith and Clint Robinson, 8.3, $972 each; 7. Blair Burk, 8.4, $442; 8. Marcos Costa, 8.5, $177.
Barrel racing leaders: 1. (tie) Polly Hagey and Michele McLeod, 14.24 seconds, $2,090 each; 3. (tie) Tana Poppino, Kimmie Wall and Shelley Morgan, 14.34, $1,356 each; 6. Laura Kennedy, 14.35, $791; 7. Fallon Taylor, 14.37, $565; 8. Sara Rose McDonald, 14.38, $452; 9. (tie) Taylor Langdon and Mary Walker, 14.39, $367 each; 11. Shelly Anzick, 14.40, $282; 12. (tie)Samantha Lynne and Ann Scott, 14.41, $113 each.
Bull riding: 1. Denton Fugate, 87 points on Smith, Harper & Morganâ€™s Midnigh, $2,369; 2. Ty Wallace, 85, $1,816; 3. Jordan Wacey Spears, 83, $1,342; 4. John Mincey, 81, $869; 5. Brett Stall, 78, $553; 7. (tie) Beau Hill and Jeff Askey, 76, $355 each; 7. Jesse Fischer, 75, $237.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. â€“ The final week of the ProRodeo season has provided Sterling Crawley with the opportunity to live out his inner NASCAR.
A saddle bronc rider, Crawley is a two-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier from Stephenville, Texas, who is in a race to make his third straight appearance in the sportâ€™s grand finale. Only the top 15 cowboys on the money list at the end of the regular season earn the right to compete in Las Vegas this coming December.
Crawley is 17th and needs to earn at least $4,000 to hit that magic number. On Friday night, the Texan took the lead at the American Royal PRCA Rodeo with an 82-point ride on Stace Smith Pro Rodeoâ€™s Hickok. That should be good enough for a nice payday in Kansas City, but it wonâ€™t be enough to catch the pack.
â€śWeâ€™re going as hard as we can and not letting off the gas until the last day,â€ť he said.
The final day of the regular season is Sunday. Time is running out, and Crawley has thousands of miles to go before heâ€™s done. He competed in Omaha, Neb., on Thursday, then arrived in Kansas City. He rides in Stephenville, Texas, on Saturday night, then in San Bernadino, Calif., on Sunday.
Heâ€™ll have plenty to think about along the way in reliving Fridayâ€™s ride on Hickok.
â€śI was really excited to have him, because the last time we met up, it was really good,â€ť Crawley said. â€śI was excited to draw him again, especially with the end of the season drawing near and me being kind of back a little.
â€śI need everything I can get.â€ť
Itâ€™s just another phase for a cowboy who travels the rodeo trail with his brother, Jacobs, who already has secured his fourth trip to the NFR. They are following their passions.
â€śI rodeo because itâ€™s something you love as much as anything,â€ť Sterling Crawley said. â€śThereâ€™s no place weâ€™d rather be on a Saturday night than at an arena and getting on bucking horses. Youâ€™re with your friends, youâ€™re doing what you love and youâ€™re bettering yourself every time. Why not do that as often as possible.â€ť
American Royal Rodeo
Kansas City, Mo.
Bareback riding: 1. Justin McDaniel, on Smith, Harper & Morganâ€™s Proud Mary, and Ryan Gray, on Stace Smith Pro Rodeoâ€™s Rosana, 80 points; 3. Tilden Hooper, 77; 4. Jessy Davis, 76; 5. Steven Dent, 74; 6. Anthony Thomas, 70; 7. Blade Elliott, 61; no other qualified rides.
Steer wrestling leaders: 1. Stewart Gulager, 3.6 seconds; 2. (tie) Cooper Shofner, Tom Lewis, Sean Santucci and Bray Armes, 3.9; 6. Matt Koch, 4.2; 7. (tie) Blake Mindemann and Kyle Irwin, 4.4.
Team roping leaders: 1. Coleman Proctor/Jake Long, 4.2 seconds; 2. Turtle Powell/Dakota Kirchenschlager, 4.6; 3. (tie) Clay Tryan/Jade Corkill and Trevor Brazile/Travis Graves, 4.7; 5. Manny Egusquiza Jr./Martin Jucero, 4.8; 6. Tom Richards/Cesar de la Cruz, 5.1; 7. Andrew Ward/Reagan Ward, 5.3; 8. (tie) Nathan McWhorter/Cole Davison and Chad Masters/Clay Oâ€™Brien Cooper, 5.4.
Saddle bronc riding: 1. Sterling Crawley, 82 points on Stace Smith Pro Rodeoâ€™s Hickok; 2. (tie) Bradley Harter and Sam Spreadborough, 81; 4. Jacobs Crawley, 80; 5. Isaac Diaz, 76; 6. Kyle Whitaker, 65; no other qualified rides.
Tie-down roping leaders: 1. Cody Ohl, 7.9 seconds; 2. Clint Cooper, 8.2; 3. (tie) Timber Moore, Ryle Smith and Clint Robinson, 8.3; 6. Blair Burk, 8.4; 7. Marcos Costa, 8.5; 8. Tyson Durfey, 8.9.
Barrel racing leaders: 1. (tie) Polly Hagey and Michele McLeod, 14.24 seconds; 3. (tie) Tana Poppino, Kimmie Wall and Shelley Morgan, 14.34; 6. Fallon Taylor, 14.37; 7. Sara Rose McDonald, 14.38; 8. (tie) Taylor Langdon and Mary Walker, 14.39; 10. Shelly Anzick, 14.40.
Bull riding: 1. Ty Wallace, 85 points on Stace Smith Pro Rodeoâ€™s Miami Heat; 2. Jordan Wacey Spears, 83; 3. Bret Stall, 78; 4. (tie) Beau Hill and jeff Askey, 76; 6. Tyler Stoltz, 69; no other qualified rides.
DUNCAN, Okla. â€“ The qualifiers are set for the Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Rodeo.
In all, 108 contestants from the Oklahoma-Kansas-Nebraska region will make their way to Duncan for the finale, set for 7:30 p.m. Oct. 16-18 at the Stephens County Fair and Expo Center. That means the cream of the crop from one of ProRodeoâ€™s top circuits will showcase their skills over the three-day competition.
While several championships have already been decided, the Prairie Circuit Finals is still a major stop for the cowboys and cowgirls who have qualified. The top prize in the region is the year-end title, which is awarded to the contestant in each event who finishes year with the most money won.
The next best thing is the circuit finals average title, which will go to the contestant in each event that finishes the three-day finale with the best cumulative time or score. An important carrot at the end of the stick is a trip to the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo, which takes the year-end and average champions in each event from the 12 ProRodeo circuits.
The race is on. In fact, there is a very tight race for the year-end title in steer wrestling, where the top six cowboys are separated by less than $2,200. Cole Edge of Durant, Okla., leads the standings with $11,770, followed by Stockton Graves of Alva, Okla., who is less than $400 behind.
Go-round winners will earn about $1,200 each of the three nights, with the average winner pocketing an additional $1,800. That means that the next four â€“ Brandon Volker of Alva; Trell Etbauer of Goodwell, Okla.; Kyle Irwin of Robertsdale, Ala.; and Jeff Miller of Blue Mound, Kan. â€“ are still in the mix for that coveted year-end championship.
Irwin, who lives primarily in Oklahoma after attending Northwestern Oklahoma State University, won the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo steer wrestling championship last spring.
Thatâ€™s also a big part of the conversation for the 12 qualifiers in each of the other events. Those that have punched their tickets to Ocala are the secured year-end champions: bareback rider Caine Riddle of Vernon, Texas; header Andrew Ward of Edmond, Okla.; saddle bronc rider of Coleman, Okla.; and bull rider Sage Kimzey of Strong City, Okla.
The other races area open, though it will take solid performances by the existing runners-up to make a move on the leaders: tie-down roper Bryson Seachrist of Apache, Okla., is $5,000 behind Jerome Schneeberger of Ponca City, Okla., and barrel racer Ivy Hurst of Walnut Springs, Texas, is $4,300 behind Gretchen Benbenek of Aubrey, Texas. Benbenek is the reigning national champion barrel racer.
Other tight races are in heeling â€“ where Reagan Ward of Edmond is just $1,100 ahead of Billie Saebens of Nowata, Okla. – and in steer roping, where Chet Herren of Pawhuska, Okla., is $1,300 head of Brady Garten of Claremore, Okla.
When the best in ProRodeo arrive in Duncan, it will definitely be a showcase, just as it is meant to be.
FOR CONTESTANTS ON THE BUBBLE TO MAKE THE NFR, KANSAS CITY IS A MAJOR STOP
KANSAS CITY, Mo. â€“ Chet Johnson really shouldnâ€™t be in this position.
Johnson, a four-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier from Sheridan, Wyo., is the No. 19 cowboy on the saddle bronc riding money list. Heâ€™s four spots away from a fifth qualification to ProRodeoâ€™s grand championship, which takes place in December at Las Vegas.
He needs to finish among the top 15 in the world standings when the regular season concludes Sunday, and heâ€™s got just three chances to do it: Stephenville, Texas; Omaha, Neb.; and the American Royal PRCA Rodeo in Kansas City.
He is one of many top ProRodeo contestants on the bubble for the NFR that hope to capitalize on a solid run at Kansas Cityâ€™s rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Friday and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Hale Arena inside the American Royal complex.
â€śThis is probably the sixth time in my career that Iâ€™ve been on the bubble,â€ť said Johnson, 33, now in his 13th season in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. â€śIâ€™ve ended up 17th in the world standings, missing it by $4,000. I have a 50 percent success rate at it. Itâ€™s come down to the wire a few times.â€ť
This season is no different in some ways, yet much different for the cowboy best known for his great riding style and vibrant smile. His sister, Tracy, died suddenly in May, then a close friend followed a couple months later. He spent the better part of two months away from the game as he focused on family, friends and his own grieving.
â€śJust to be in contention after losing my sister and not rodeoing for so long, Iâ€™m pretty happy about that,â€ť he said. â€śThere have been years where youâ€™d be in the top 15 then drop out, and thatâ€™s pretty disheartening. Iâ€™ve missed so much of this season, I really had nothing to lose.â€ť
Like Johnson, steer wrestler Jule Hazen had to miss part of this season; his was because of an appendectomy that occurred Memorial Day weekend just when he was getting ready to run at a rodeo in Oklahoma. Heading into this weekâ€™s run of rodeos, Hazen is 21st in the world standings, about $6,200 out of that magical 15th spot.
â€śThis is really the first time Iâ€™ve been on the bubble this late,â€ť said Hazen, a three-time NFR qualifier from Ashland, Kan. â€śA few years ago, I considered myself on the bubble and sealed it (two weeks before the season concluded) in Albuquerque.â€ť
The Kansan takes a business-like approach to every run he makes. His week includes the American Royal, Omaha, Stephenville and San Bernadino, Calif. Does that mean he plans to fly to California for his scheduled Saturday run.
â€śIâ€™m far enough behind that I really need that big money thatâ€™s in Omaha to go along with the checks in Kansas City and Stephenville,â€ť he said. â€śIf I do good in Omaha, I wonâ€™t go to San Bernadino because Iâ€™ll make it back for Saturday in Omaha. If I donâ€™t do good in Omaha, then I wonâ€™t need to go to San Bernadino because I wonâ€™t make it anyway.
â€śMy real chance to make it is to win a very big check in Omaha and win the titles in Kansas City and Stephenville.â€ť
Itâ€™s a mad rush, but thatâ€™s what happens the last week of the ProRodeo season each year. Of the more than 400 entries scheduled to be part of the American Royal Rodeo, dozens are NFR qualifiers who are itching to make it back to the year-end championship, which features the largest purse all season â€“ go-round winners will earn nearly $20,000 each night in each event for 10 straight December evenings in the City of Lights.
Thatâ€™s why itâ€™s so important to do well this weekend in Kansas City and all points in between.
â€śHopefully itâ€™s my turn to draw good and use the steers the best I can,â€ť Hazen said. â€śWhen I was in Albuquerque last week, I felt like I had something to lose.
â€śNow I donâ€™t have anything to lose. Iâ€™m coming from behind, so Iâ€™m going for broke.â€ť
ALVA, Okla. â€“ The key to a solid rodeo season is a strong start.
The Northwestern Oklahoma State University rodeo teams started with powerful performances this past weekend at the Cherokee Rodeo hosted by NWOSU. The Rangers won the womenâ€™s team title, accumulating 435 points in the process, thanks in large part to exceptional work by the goat-tiers.
Lauren Barnes of Buckeye, Ariz., won the championship, tying down two goats in 14.0 seconds, just two-tenths of a second better than teammate Shayna Miller of Faith, S.D. Karley Kile of Topeka, Kan., finished fifth with a two-run cumulative time of 15.3 seconds. They were joined in the championship round by breakaway ropers Sage Allen of Pawhuska, Okla., and Kelsey Driggers of Albany, Ga.
Thatâ€™s a solid start to the womenâ€™s team, which has proven to be one of the top teams in the Central Plains Region over the last few years â€“ the Rangers have qualified as a team for the College National Finals Rodeo each of the past two seasons by finishing second in the region.
The men, who finished Cherokee in eighth place, were guided by two event champions: tie-down roper Hayden Pearce of Kim, Colo., and steer wrestler Michael McGinn of Haines, Ore. Pearce won both go-rounds and the average championship, roping and tying two calves in 19.2 seconds; he was nearly two seconds ahead of the runner-up, teammate William Whayne of Tulsa.
â€śI drew good and was able to use the calves I had,â€ť said Pearce, a senior. â€śThis gets everything started off on the right foot and gives you the confidence that you can go out and compete. It just lets you know you just need to go out and do your part.â€ť
Pearce has yet to qualify for the college finals, and the Colorado cowboy has placed a trip to Casper, Wyo., atop his list of priorities.
â€śItâ€™s about staying smart and going at them every weekend,â€ť said Pearce, who puts in a lot of work in the practice and with the matches that coach Stockton Graves has set up to keep the Rangers at the top of their form. â€śWe tie a lot of calves, trying to stay solid on the ground. I also like to keep my horse sharp and work on my scoring a lot.â€ť
That means he has a strong bond with his horse, Harley, a 14-year-old sorrel mare.
â€śShe can really fire and get across the (starting) line, and she stops really hard,â€ť he said. â€śThat helps a lot in this event.â€ť
McGinn is a junior but in his first year at Northwestern; he transferred this fall from Mesalands (N.M.) Community College. He won the first round in Cherokee with a 4.1-second run, then shared the short-round win in 5.1 seconds; the cumulative time of 9.2 was eight-seconds ahead of the No. 2 cowboy, Cody Devers of Garden City (Kan.) Community College.
â€śIn the first round, I had a really good steer and got a good start and took advantage of it,â€ť he said. â€śI knew in the short round I just had to catch and throw him down.â€ť
It worked well, and it was quite a relief for the 20-year-old cowboy, who spent much of the last 10 months on the injured list after having surgery to repair a broken collarbone; he didnâ€™t return to practice until August, so the weekend run in Cherokee was his first competitive run in quite a while.
â€śI made the college finals my first year, but Iâ€™ve been out of commission,â€ť McGinn said. â€śI decided to come to Alva because I knew Stockton and (assistant coach) Kody Woodward were great bulldoggers and great coaches, so I thought this would be a great place to come and get back to winning.â€ť
Heâ€™s off to a fast start.
HEMPSTEAD, Texas â€“ The Texas stars are big and bright, and theyâ€™re going to shine during Hempsteadâ€™s rodeo.
Many of the top ProRodeo athletes are expected to be part of the lineup at this yearâ€™s Waller County Fair and Rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 2-Saturday, Oct. 4, at the Waller County Fairgrounds in Hempstead.
Those stars will be made up of world champions and other elite cowboys and cowgirls in the sport. Theyâ€™ll share the arena with some of rodeoâ€™s greatest animal athletes from Pete Carr Pro Rodeo, which has been recognized as one of the greatest livestock firms in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.
â€śPete Carr has the greatest string of bucking horses and bulls in all of rodeo,â€ť said Clint Sciba, president of the Waller County Fair Board. â€śHeâ€™s been nominated as stock contractor of the year in the PRCA each of the last two years, and thereâ€™s a good reason for that. He brings the best animals to our rodeo and puts on a great production.
â€śWhen we made the decision to be a ProRodeo, we knew he was the stock contractor we wanted to put on our rodeo. Now our fans know they will see something great each of the three nights of our rodeo. Thatâ€™s great for everyone involved.â€ť
Carr pulls out all the stops when it comes to making a fantastic production. The Waller County rodeo will feature several nominees for 2014 PRCA end-of-the-year awards: Cody Sosebee, up for Clown of the Year; Sandy Gwatney, up for Secretary of the Year; and Andy Stewart, one of five finalists for Announcer of the Year.
On top of that, Carr has a fantastic herd of bucking animals. Last year, 27 Carr animals were selected to perform at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, the sportâ€™s year-end championship. Only the top 300 animals in the PRCA are selected on a vote by the top contestants in each of the three roughstock events: bareback riding, saddle bronc riding and bull riding.
â€śThe reason Peteâ€™s rodeos are so tough is because he has so many great horses,â€ť said Richmond Champion, a 2014 NFR qualifier and bareback riding winner at RFD-TVâ€™s The American. â€śAny rodeo you go to, you know you have a chance to win on anything heâ€™s got. That makes it exciting for us.â€ť
Champion knows very well. This year alone, he has eight rodeo victories, two of which came on the backs of Carr animals. He won Guymon (Okla.) Pioneer Days on Fancy Free in May, then followed that with the championship at the Cheyenne (Wyo.) Frontier Days on Dirty Jacket, a horse that has been selected as one of the top three bareback horses in the world each of the past two seasons.
â€śPete has our interests in line,â€ť Champion said of Carr. â€śHe wants us to have good horses to get on. Heâ€™s put in a lot of time to get good horses together, and he has a lot. He has horses that are consistent. Heâ€™s one of the guys that have the top animals and hauls them all over the country to give us a chance to win.â€ť
Champion, 21, is a bright young gun in the world of rodeo. He has been among the top 10 in the world standings much of the season and set the sport on fire this past March when he earned $1.1 million at The American. He will be part of the inaugural 8 Second Bareback Shootout, a head-to-head match with veteran Clint Cannon, a four-time NFR qualifier from Waller, Texas.
Itâ€™s just another powerful statement as to the star-studded draw that is the Waller County Fair and Rodeo. The top contestants know what to expect when they arrive in Hempstead.
â€śPete has put together a good set of bulls,â€ť said J.W. Harris, the four-time and reigning bull riding world champion from Mullin, Texas. â€śI think he wants to show that heâ€™s got great bulls to go with his great horses.
â€śYou know when you go to his rodeos youâ€™re going to get on a good one. I like going to Peteâ€™s rodeos because heâ€™s got good people who work for him, but having all those good animals sure makes it easier for us to go to. Pete Carrâ€™s come a long ways in just a few years.â€ť
LIVESTOCK CARE CRITICAL PART OF WORLD-CLASS COMPETITION AT THE AMERICAN ROYAL
KANSAS CITY, Mo. â€“ The job of many in rodeo is part athlete, part travel agent and part animal caregiver.
It combines into a full-time job, whether itâ€™s as a crew member for a livestock producer, cowboy or cowgirl. The entire package comes together at world-class events like the American Royal PRCA Rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 26, and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 27, at Hale Arena.
Unlike many other professional sports, rodeo features another variable that is just as much athlete as any human that participates. Bulls and horses are a major ingredient in the game, whether they buck or are the primary engine that drives cowboys and cowgirls to incredibly fast times.
â€śThe feed and preparation you put into them is what makes the animals so good,â€ť said Cody Kidd, the general manger of Stace Smith Pro Rodeos, the American Royalâ€™s stock contractor. â€śThere are bulls and horses that cost millions of dollars. Youâ€™ve got to take care of those animals, and thatâ€™s what we all try to do.â€ť
The Smith firm travels nationwide producing rodeos. When the bucking horses and bulls are not somewhere between Mississippi and Utah for the competition, they reside on the Smith ranch near Malakoff, Texas, where they enjoy lush grasslands and the right care thatâ€™s needed to help them perform at their best.
â€śIt all starts at the ranch back in Texas,â€ť Kidd said. â€śThey are cared for better than some humans are. They get looked at after and are fed grain daily. We know that theyâ€™re getting enough treatment that they can handle the road, getting from one rodeo to another. They have to be in good shape, and we do everything to make sure they are.
â€śWhen we go to Kansas City, weâ€™ll go from Amarillo (Texas). Part of the care is having a good staff. Weâ€™ve got great people at the ranch and great guys that go on the road to make sure they get the right care.â€ť
For timed-event contestants, caring for horses is vital. It takes fast times to be successful, and horsepower is the key to it all.
â€śHe eats before I eat,â€ť steer wrestler Bray Armes said of his horse, Ote, which guided the Texan to the average championship at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo last December. â€śYou treat him like heâ€™s your child. If he gets hurt or anything, you get him to the vet and get him checked out.
â€śHeâ€™s part of the family. I feel very blessed to have him. He gives me a chance to win every time. If I donâ€™t, itâ€™s usually pilot error.â€ť
Cowboys and cowgirls travel about 100,000 miles a year. For timed-event contestants, that means their horses ride in specialized trailers to assist in the animalsâ€™ comfort along every highway and interstate. Once they arrive at a rodeo, both human and equine needs to have their bodies in working order to compete at a high level.
â€śWeâ€™ve got to take care of them just like we take care of ourselves,â€ť said Armes, who has earned his third straight qualification to the NFR. â€śActually, we probably take better care of our horses than we do ourselves.â€ť
Armes, who lives in Ponder, Texas, with his wife and two children, knows how important it is to allow Ote to perform well. It helps to understand the palomino gelding loves his job.
â€śIf you watch him at the NFR, 90 percent of the time he makes a lap at the end of the arena, then he goes to chasing that steer out of the arena,â€ť he said. â€śWe have to have them to do what we do, but you can sit and watch a horse and tell if he loves his job or not. If they donâ€™t love their jobs, we donâ€™t force it upon them.
â€śYou can watch bucking horses, and you know they love to get the cowboy on the ground. Theyâ€™re bred that way. They just love what they do.â€ť
KANSAN WILL ROPE THIS WEEK DURING AMERICAN ROYAL INVITATIONAL YOUTH RODEO
KANSAS CITY, Mo. â€“ Cooper Martin has a special place in his heart for the American Royal Invitational Youth Rodeo.
â€śDefending my American Royal title is like defending my national title,â€ť said Nelson of Alma, Kan.
The last 12 months have been pretty special for the high school senior, who added two major titles to his already growing resume. Last September, the 17-year-old cowboy earned the American Royal title, one he will try to defend this week during the youth rodeo, set for 11:30 a.m. Tuesday and noon Wednesday-Friday at Hale Arena.
This past July at the National High School Finals Rodeo, Martin won the tie-down roping title, beating a field that consisted of the very best cowboys from across the country. When he competes during his age division Wednesday afternoon, he will have that experience with him.
â€śItâ€™s a great rodeo, for the kids that watch it, especially,â€ť Martin said, referring to the students who enjoy the rodeo each day while part of field trips to tour the American Royal complex. â€śItâ€™s just as good for the contestants, too.â€ť
Thatâ€™s just one of the reasons young rodeo athletes make their way to Kansas City every fall. The others are a chance to win one of the most prestigious events in which they can compete, to ride in the same arena as ProRodeoâ€™s top stars and to play a game they love.
â€śThe guys that work the hardest â€“ those pros that are making a living at it and making the (National Finals Rodeo) â€“ theyâ€™re doing what they love,â€ť Martin said. â€śThatâ€™s why I work so hard. I put in all of my time into rodeo to where hopefully someday I can make it my job.â€ť
How much time? He takes his high school courses online to leave him time to chase his dreams.
â€śItâ€™s my life; itâ€™s all I do,â€ť said Martin, who will compete in the youth rodeo for the sixth straight year. â€śThatâ€™s why I take online classes so I can practice every day and go to more rodeos.â€ť
It seems to be working, but so are the lessons that come with competing at a high level, whether through experiences or by enlisting assistance from quality trainers.
â€śIâ€™ve had a lot of help from Roy Durfey, Junior Lewis and Monty Dyer; I would not be at the level I am without any of them,â€ť he said. â€śIâ€™ve also had a lot of help from my family. My mom and dad do everything they can to help me so that I have cattle in my practice pen and fuel in my tank.â€ť
Thatâ€™s a valuable tool for any competitor, but itâ€™s especially nice for Martin. Neither of his parents â€“ mom Candi and dad Chris â€“ competed in rodeo, but theyâ€™ve been supportive for Cooper and his younger sister, Caxton, 13, who will compete in barrel racing, breakaway roping and goat tying during Thursdayâ€™s performance.
â€śMy parents both grew up on ranches, and thatâ€™s what we do here,â€ť he said. â€śWhen I started kindergarten, they told me I needed to choose a sport. I always rode horses and did stuff on horses, and thatâ€™s how I got started in rodeo. They took me to my first rodeo when I was in kindergarten, and Iâ€™ve been going ever since.â€ť
Of course, adding another American Royal title would be a nice feather to add to his cowboy hat
â€śThatâ€™s a big win, and you want to be able to prove yourself that it was not an accident when you won the first time,â€ť Martin said. â€śI want to prove myself over and over again.â€ť
It looks like he wonâ€™t slow down any time soon.
STEPHENVILLE, Texas â€“ This communityâ€™s motto is more than a phrase; itâ€™s a lifestyle
The Cowboy Capital of the World is proof of the tremendous athletic talent that resides in Erath County. Over the last few years, the communityâ€™s rodeo has made changes to be a true showcase of that â€“ first changing the date to the end of September to help draw more fans, then increasing the purse to attract the biggest names in the game.
â€śWith college kids in town, our population doubles,â€ť said Chad Decker, chairman of the volunteer committee that produces the Cowboy Capital of the World PRCA Rodeo, set for 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 26, and Saturday, Sept. 27, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 28, at Lone Star Arena. â€śIn June, the college population wasnâ€™t here. Weâ€™re trying to do the best job for the community.
â€śWeâ€™re also trying to get the cowboys and cowgirls. Now that itâ€™s one of the last rodeos of the year, we feel like weâ€™re going to be the rodeo theyâ€™ll all want to get to.â€ť
ProRodeoâ€™s regular season concludes on that Sunday. When the checks are tabulated the next day, everyone will know who finished among the top 15 money-earners in each event, signifying those coveted qualifications to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. Thatâ€™s what makes the Stephenville rodeo so vital for the top contestants in the land.
â€śWeâ€™re giving them a chance to make it,â€ť Decker said.
Decker and other volunteers stepped up their fund-raising efforts. This year, the committee will put $47,500 into the pot, which will be added to the contestantsâ€™ entry fees to make up the overall purse. That means solid payouts for the top finishers.
Another key feature for the top cowboys in the game is in the quality of livestock. The Cowboy Capital of the World Rodeo has the benefit of Pete Carr Pro Rodeo as its livestock producer. Last year alone, 27 Carr animals that were selected to buck at the NFR.
â€śAnytime Pete Carr has a rodeo, you know the stockâ€™s going to be great,â€ť said rookie Sage Kimzey, the No. 1 bull rider in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. â€śHis bull string is one of the best in the business.â€ť