The sport of rodeo is chock full of close and deep relationships, and the industry has regularly been compared to a big family. There are plenty of family ties in ProRodeo, both between those who are actual family members and like family.
For bull rider Kanin Asay and bullfighter Dusty Tuckness, their bond is a brotherhood forged from years of developing as stars in the sport they love side by side. Asay has a younger brother, Kaleb, who was the 2008 Saddle Bronc Riding Rookie of the Year and an older brother, Klayten, who was an Army interrogator in Iraq in 2007, and with Tuckness, it’s almost as if he has a third brother.
The two met through Wyoming Junior Rodeo Association events and became fast friends, with Asay riding steers and Tuckness fighting them. They grew and developed as friends, rodeo participants and Christians together.
“I’ve got a picture hanging up in my bedroom of me riding a bull in Meeteetse in a junior rodeo, and Dusty is the bullfighter in the background,” Asay said. “We were both saved at the same rodeo bible camp in, I believe, 2002. It’s such a blessing, not only to have such a good friend who would put his life on the line for you anywhere, but who’s out there fighting bulls.”
Asay is competing in his fifth career Wrangler National Finals Rodeo this year, while Tuckness is fighting bulls in his fourth in a row after serving as the alternated in 2008. The friends have shared much in and out of the arena through the years, and Tuckness remembers one special memory in particular.
“My first year here in my very first round, he came out and won the round,” Tuckness said of 2009. “He went on to win three rounds that year and the average, so probably the coolest thing was working my first NFR and seeing him come away with the average title.”
Earlier this year, Asay became the first bull rider to win a second Xtreme Bulls Tour title, and Tuckness has joined him as a champion. Tuckness won his third PRCA Bullfighter of the Year award last week, a feat that thrilled Asay.
“I believe (fighting bulls) is the gift God has given him,” Asay said. “He has such a drive to make himself better, and honestly, I’ve never seen anyone work at it as hard as him. To have three bullfighting world titles now, it definitely shows.”
Both cowboys appreciate the chance to share Wrangler NFR experiences together each and every year they earn the right to step in the Thomas & Mack Center.
“His dream was to ride bulls and be a world champion, and mine was to fight bulls and come to the NFR,” Tuckness said. “Now when we look back, it seems like it was just yesterday when we were making our own bull ropes out of bailing twine. It’s a blessing, and we thank God every day that we’re here at the NFR together.”
Having Tuckness in the arena gives Asay the confidence to succeed.
“I’d get on the meanest thing in the world not having any fear about it, knowing God is going to take care of me and that God has placed Dusty in my life for that reason,” Asay said. “He is definitely a life-saver and is a very good friend.”
Asay’s support has helped propel Tuckness, as well.
“It’s not just because he’s my best friend that I’ll do anything for him,” Tuckness said. “It doesn’t matter who nods their head, whether it’s a rookie or an eight-time world champion, I’m going to do my job at the NFR and in the practice pen. That’s what I pride myself on, and that’s part of the uplifting Kanin’s done for me.”
Through it all, Asay and Tuckness have been through the ups and downs together. They’ve been knocked out in the same arena at the same time, and they’ve earned trips to Las Vegas side by side.
Whether it’s moral support, spiritual reassurance or a boot in the pants, the pair is there for each other.
“He’s such an inspiration to me,” Tuckness said of Asay. Any time I’m down or need some positive input, he’s right there to lift me up and kick me in the butt. We’ve been through so many things together, and now here we are at the NFR. It’s just such a blessing.”