Every year the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) recognizes animals and individuals that have an impact on the sport that might otherwise go unnoticed.
Many of these awards are announced prior to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (NFR). Presentations are made at the PRCA Awards Banquet and throughout the 10 nights of competition. Committees and Stock Contractor of the Year along with others will be announced at the banquet.
The nomination and selection process also varies. Some are voted on by PRCA members. Others go to a committee.
Regardless of how it happens, for the recipients it is an honor not unlike getting a gold buckle. Not everyone has the ability, drive and determination to compete on rodeo’s biggest stage. But for those who love the sport, there are other ways to be involved.
Recognition is a reward and doing something they are passionate about is payment. For the past five years, the PRCA has been recognizing veterinarians who go above and beyond to care for rodeo animals with the Zoetis PRCA Veterinarian of the Year Award.
The veterinarians are nominated by PRCA members and rodeo committees. A selection committee narrows it down to five finalists and determines the final winner based on the veterinarian’s involvement in the sport of rodeo and their community along with contributions to the health and welfare of rodeo animals.
This year’s winner is Dr. John Boyington who has volunteered his time and services to Kansas’ Biggest Rodeo in Phillipsburg where he practices and resides. Not only has Dr. Boyington been the veterinarian there, he serves as a member of the rodeo committee heading up ticket sales.
Dr. Boyington’s love of rodeo started as a competitor in Little the Britches Rodeo Association then went on to the National High School Rodeo Association and National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association before joining the PRCA. In high school he primarily competed in team roping, tie-down roping and steer wrestling, but was also known to get on a bareback riding on occasion.
He qualified for the College National Finals Rodeo while competing for Colby (Kan.) Community College and was the Central Plains Steer Wrestling Champion. He then transferred to Kansas State University at Manhattan to finish undergraduate and graduate school.
“I realized long ago that it is wonderful to rodeo, but the value of an education is always there,” he said. “I’ll never regret going rodeoing. I loved it. But I’m glad I went into veterinary medicine because I love it too.”
Community involvement is a big part of this award and Dr. Boyington certainly fits that bill with over 25 years of volunteering on the Phillipsburg rodeo committee. His passion for rodeo, and the animals involved in the sport have been recognized locally and now will be on a national stage.
“I’m just smiling ear to ear,” he said. “Even though I’m not out in the arena competing anymore, I watch it all (rodeo) and it brings back memories. Animals are really neat to be around and work with. It’s great to watch all of those animal athletes. They are so well taken care of and really are finely tuned athletes. This is a lot for me to take in.”
He is now planning a family vacation in Las Vegas during the NFR. Dr. Boyington will receive his award at the Contract Personnel Banquet on Dec. 2, where his wife, Donna, and two children, son John, and daughter Brooke, will also be in attendance. Both of his children are attending school at his alma mater, Kansas State University.
The PRCA has also announced awards recognizing some of the best athletes in the timed events. The American Quarter Horse Association Horses of the Year will be presented at the banquet at the South Point Hotel, Casino & Spa as well. Awards for the best timed-event horses in rodeo have been presented since 1989.
For the first time in the history of the award, a South-American owned horse will be recognized in any event. Marcos Costa has been riding Sweet as Time in the tie-down roping, a horse that he calls Flea. Costa lists Childress, Texas, as home, but is originally from Brazil. The horse is owned by Brazilian businessman Renato Antunes and has also been ridden by Costa’s mentor, Stran Smith who won the world title in the Thomas and Mack Center in 2008.
Ty Erickson from Helena, Mont., has had the best season of his career and will enter this year’s NFR in third place in steer wrestling. That is largely due to KR Montana Shake Em a horse that Erickson co-owns with Kyler Ranch who gets top honors in that event.
The team roping saw a newcomer in the award category for the heading and a repeat winner in the heeling. Rey Shines on Top, a horse Brady Minor calls Rey has the distinction of the being the best heeling horse in the PRCA for two consecutive years, the first time that has happened since 2009 when Randon Adams’ great horse Bailey’s Copper Doc won four times in a row.
Clay Tryan has had an awesome partner in Dew the Dash that has helped him win world titles the past two years and that he has been riding for six. Tryan enters the race for the world title in first place and is hoping that he and Dew have the success in Las Vegas that they have had in the past.
The steer roping honors went to Weavers Diamond Bar, a horse that is ridden by Troy Tillard and owned by his father Tim. Troy will be riding “Rowdy” at the Clem McSpadden National Finals Steer Roping Nov. 6-7.
History was made in the barrel racing this year when French First Watch was chosen. “Custer” is owned and ridden by Jill Welsh who finished 16th in the standings. It is the first time that a barrel racing horse has won that will not be at the NFR. Welsh is a two-time cancer survivor and while she missed the NFR by one spot, she and Custer added a slew of rodeo wins to their resume in 2015.
The AQHA Horse of the Year Awards are voted on by members in their respective events. Having their animals recognized by their fellow competitors has special meaning for all of these contestants.
“This is the ultimate award,” Welsh said. “To be recognized amongst all of these outstanding horses and to come out at the top of the voting process is awesome. Custer is truly my best friend and I couldn’t be prouder of him. The support that we have is truly amazing.”