No clowning around in this classroom.

When NFR bullfighter Dusty Tuckness and Barrelman Justin Rumford get together – things happen in and out of the rodeo arena.

They put their heads together earlier this year and thought it would be cool to have a bullfighter and barrelman school together. Tuckness had successful schools in the past and having the two together made sense and gave future rodeo stars the opportunity to learn the intricacies of the business from two of the best.

Tuckness and Rumford hosted the first ever school of this kind on July 5 – 7 in Wyoming in conjunction with the Cody Night Rodeo. It was important for them to do it there for two reasons. One, it is where both of these guys got their experience and start and two, it gave the students an opportunity to work and be critiqued by their teachers.

Sessions started with a classroom involving all of the students.

Sessions started with a classroom involving all of the students.

Growing up in Meeteetse, Wyo., Tuckness started riding bulls when he was eleven years old. His father was a bullfighter and is still a barrelman. Hanging up his bull rope for a pair of cleats was an easy decision. Being close to Cody, he went to work for Maury Tate and Tate’s Mo Betta Rodeo Company who produce the Nite rodeo.

Tuckness is a five-time PRCA Bullfighter of the Year and has been selected for the NFR for six consecutive years. He is well respected among bull riders, his peers and everyone that knows him.

Rumford also grew up in a rodeo family. As stock contractors, they expected him to learn every facet of rodeo. He did that and also competed in steer wrestling. When he blew out his knee, he helped the rodeo team at Southwestern Oklahoma State University in Weatherford. Then he was a truck driver for Beutler and Son Rodeo.

The arena was kept busy throughout the school.

The arena was kept busy throughout the school.

Eventually, he did a three-year stint at the Cody Nite Rodeo gaining the experience that has earned him the PRCA Clown of the Year award for the past three years and a trip to Las Vegas last December to work the barrel at the NFR.

When they contacted Tate and asked him about having the school there, he decided they should add bareback, saddle bronc and bull riding to the roster. He brought in NFR qualifier Heath Ford to teach the bareback riders. World champions taught the other events, Dan Mortensen in the saddle bronc and Cody Custer in bulls. Each of them spent many nights perfecting their crafts when they were starting their careers by riding in Cody.

Nearly 40 students gathered around to get advice from all of these champions. The school started with a talk from each of the instructors before they split off into their individual disciplines.

“My rookie year, I was fortunate enough to be able to travel with my uncle (five-time world champion Bruce Ford).” Heath Ford said. “He taught me how to enter and how to compete. I love rodeo and I want to pass all of that on.”

NFR qualifier Heath Ford went over student’s equipment with a fine tooth comb

NFR qualifier Heath Ford went over student’s equipment with a fine tooth comb

Rumford spent time with his students in a classroom environment and put them through tests that would prepare them for real-life experiences they would have in an arena as a clown and barrelman. Tuckness started his students with physical fitness routines daily, then put them through the paces with bullfighting simulation. Other NFR bullfighters that were on hand for the school included Cody Webster, Darrell Diefenbach and Aaron Ferguson.

6 time world champion saddle bronc rider showing a future star the correct foot placement

6 time world champion saddle bronc rider showing a future star the correct foot placement

The highlight for all of the students was getting to participate for three nights at the rodeo, then get valuable advice. The bullfighter and barrelman students all got a turn in the arena giving them an opportunity to work in front of a live audience and be seen by Tate who hires all the personnel for the Nite Rodeo.

Tate has been putting on the Cody Nite Rodeo for over 10 years and was one of the first stock contractor to hire Tuckness and Rumford. He also has a passion for rodeo. A former competitor, Tate, his wife Nikki daughters Cydni and Hadley make their home in Apache, Okla., from September to June.

The Cody Nite Rodeo gives them an opportunity to test and season young bucking horses and bulls. That has worked well enough to have some of their bucking stock selected for the NFR.

“When I look back at the history of this rodeo and this arena, I’m amazed,” he said. “There is no other place in the world that gives rodeo people an opportunity like this one.”

1992 world champion bull rider Cody Custer talking about the fine points of bull riding

1992 world champion bull rider Cody Custer talking about the fine points of bull riding

Legends like Freckles Brown and Tom Ferguson and Chris LeDoux all spent time at the Cody Nite Rodeo which started in 1938 and has run continually from June 1 to Aug. 31 since. The highlight of the season for many fans is the Cody Stampede held over the Fourth of July, sanctioned by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and Women’s Professional Rodeo Association.

It’s a long way from the Cody Nite Rodeo and the Cody Stampede to the NFR, but a road that many contestants and contract personnel have been on. With the addition of the school after this year’s Cody Stampede, they are providing more opportunities for anyone interested in becoming a rodeo star.

I think that Buffalo Bill Cody who had so much influence on rodeo and this area would be proud.

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