By Susan Kanode and Johna Cravens
Looking at the standings in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and the Women’s Professional Rodeo Association it would appear that rodeo has come to a standstill. And in fact, it nearly has as events across the country were cancelled or postponed. Social distancing and shelter in place protocols have seen rodeo’s cancelling, changing their dates and waiting to see what happens.
No rodeo wants to cancel, and many communities depend on them for local fund raising, boosts to their economies and as a sure-fire way to go somewhere and have a good time. So until that happens and rodeo contestants can make their way across North America’s highways to participate, they have found themselves with time on their hands. We checked in with a few of them to see what they are doing.
Here’s part 1 —
BAREBACK RIDERS —
Tim O’Connell – I’ve been getting quality time with my family. That’s huge. And I’ve been doing a lot of cooking and that’s fun. Well maybe I shouldn’t say cooking but grilling. We’ve got a freezer full of meat. I grilled pork chops last night with a bourbon butter glaze. I’ve also got back to woodworking. I made Hazen’s crib and we have friends that are expecting so I started on a crib for them.
We just got into the twos with Hazen (Tim and Sami’s son). We are taking a lot of walks. I don’t think people understand how much we miss when we are gone. When we are home, we don’t have to do anything special, we can make everyday activities fun. For me, just being an active father is fun.
After they closed the gym I started working out at home. It’s not the most fun, but we have to make do. My trainer is sending me workouts and we are doing our best to be ready.
Tilden Hooper –This has given me the opportunity to get a lot of stuff done around the house. I’ve been getting organized. It’s kind of like a minor injury where you make the most of your time and do what you can. I’ve got a gym in my garage so that hasn’t changed. We know we have at least a month and probably more before we get back to riding, so I don’t want to train super hard. My training regime has really changed and it will change again to get “rodeo ready.”
I’ve always had injuries, so I learned a long time ago not to depend on being able to rodeo. This has been similar to what I’ve been doing the last five years. I would pick and choose my winter rodeos, then take time off and get ready for the summer.
Bill Tutor – I broke my collar bone at the NFR in 2018. I was out until the end of February. Then in June, I tore my groin away from my pelvis and had surgery in Philadelphia. I came back in October and it wasn’t good. Then this winter, things started picking up. (Bill is 25th in the standings).
We are having our first baby the end of July and I have a lot of projects going. We bought a house about five miles from ours from a guy that was in the middle of flipping it. I’d been working on that all winter and now I’m finishing it up. I’m excited to get it off my to-do-list.
I’ve been working on our house too getting ready for the baby. And I keep a handful of horseshoeing clients, so I’ve been shoeing horses. My wife (Ashlynn) has transitioned to working at home so that’s been different for us.
I’ve been going to the gym three times a week when I’ve been at home and now that’s changed. Sean Ready with Justin Sportsmedicine has designed workouts that are event specific, so I’ve been depending on those to keep me in shape. And I’ve been riding the bucking machine. I’m trying to stay on top of things.
I’ve been talking to my rodeo buddies quite a bit and it sure is going to be fun when we get to compete again. We’ve thrown every possible scenario out there. No one knows when, but I think everybody will be eager to get back to it.
Steer Wrestlers –
Matt Reeves – I’m having a guy look at our HVAC while I can afford it and I’m home. It wasn’t going to make it through another Texas summer. Timing is everything. We’ve got a lot of cattle work to do to.
My wife still has a job. She’s a nurse and that ain’t going away. I’m going to keep practicing, run cattle and work calves. Before this, I didn’t practice a lot. At my age, 100 steers on the ground are too much for me. I run a few a week to keep my horses in shape and stay ready. When we start back everybody will be fresh and we will all be figuring out how to make things work.
I’ve been on the tractor, getting hay fields ready and planting sudan. There’s always plenty to do and no matter what I seem to find ways to keep busy. I don’t like farming, but it’s part of the deal around here. I like having cows and they like to eat, so I farm.
Tyler Pearson – Right now, I’m headed to town for groceries. This is the first time I’ve put my wallet in my pocket for two weeks. We’ve had a lot of rain and the weather’s been so nasty we just started practicing again. We also have 100 head of cattle and it the time of year that cows are calving. I have been tagging calves with my kids helping.
Scooter has been turned out. With the weather getting better we will be exercising him a lot more or he’ll get fat. He’s an easy keeper, I think he could gain weight just from dirt. That’s not on his diet, but we’ll work to keep him in shape until we’re ready to go again.
Tyler Waguespack – I haven’t been doing too much. No businesses are open here in Louisiana. We’ve been staying around the house. The only people I’m around are my wife, my mom and dad, and my sister. We’ve been practicing, checking cows and fishing. We had a wet winter but lately the weather’s been nice, so the routine is wake up, feed, check cows, practice.
Jacob Talley – My mom runs a gym that had to close to the public. But I’m lucky that I can still work out there. We’ve been doing more of an off-season workout since everything is suspended. My traveling partner Justin Schaefer lives just down the road. We have all our horses and 35 steers here, so we still get plenty of practice time in.
Team roping Headers –
Kal Fuller – My girlfriend, Hallie Webb’s dad, Brandon, has a ranch in south Texas that I’ve been staying at. We’ve been working cows and practicing every day. I’m trying to keep myself busy and keep everything ready so when we get to go back, we’ll be prepared. We’ve branded bulls and some cows, and I help with whatever needs to be done.
The weather here is a lot better right now than it is at home in Montana. Last year, I set a goal of winning rookie of the year. I accomplished that and now have a new set of goals. I’ve been roping with Reagan Ward. He’s one of my best friends and we talk every day. We’re still making plans and working towards our goals, just a little different than we had expected.
Luke Brown – I’ve got a lot of things going on around our place and have accomplished some things that I usually don’t have time to do. It seems like I’m always in a rush to get to a rodeo or jackpot, so getting to be at home and do things besides rope has actually been pretty fun.
This couldn’t have come at a better time for me. (Luke is number one in the world standings and won RFD-TV’s The American with Joseph Harrison.) We’ve been pretty conservative with the money I’ve won this winter. Most of our projects around here needed more work than money so that was good.
I still rope three or four hours every day and keep my horses in shape. I’ve been roping with Patrick Smith and we plan to enter together again as soon as we can.
Ty Blasingame – I was in the third set at San Antonio when I cut my finger off. I was ready to come back at Houston and Austin. I’m not sure I was 100 percent, but I was ready to try. Now, that’s been put on hold and maybe it’s a good thing. I’ve been working, building fence, putting in waterlines and riding outside horses. I’m also trying to ride my horses every day and keep them tuned up.
A guy takes what he does for granted, then something like this happens and it’s a challenge. I don’t want to go get a full-time job and not give it 100 percent because as soon as I can I’ll go back to roping.
I haven’t run a steer in competition since I cut my finger off. That’s been driving me up a wall. I reach a lot when I rope, and it doesn’t feel like I’m comfortable yet. When my rope goes to running along my saddle horn, it sets me back a little bit. It’s amazing what a difference the end of that finger makes. Just doing little things like picking up change is different. It’s a game changer for sure and it’s mental. I’m ready to get back in the game.
Dustin Egusquiza – I’m in Mineral Wells, Texas, staying with my girlfriend and her parents. The toughest part is that it’s been too wet to rope. Hopefully that will clear. We’ve been fishing in the ponds around here and hunting coyotes.
This has been a good time to focus on health. I’ve been trying to eat a little better and I’ve been roping the dummy a lot. When the weather gets better, we’ll do more practicing in the arena and the dummy will get a break.
Team roping heelers –
Joseph Harrison – My finger is in three pieces of the pie of our industry. I show horses, I ride horses for trainer Bobby Lewis and I train heel horses, so my routine hasn’t changed much.
This break has given me more time to get some of my young horses ready. My wife keeps my good ones legged up and runs a few steers on them. I feel bad right now for sponsors. We can’t help promote them when we’re at home. They are feeling the impact much more than I am and I hope they can all hang in there.
Logan Medlin – I’ve been roping with Charly Crawford for about a year and we’ve had a good winter. I finished 17th one year and making the finals (WNFR) is definitely a goal. But I’ve been doing this long enough to know that a good winter might not get you there so I’m looking forward to competing again.
Charly and I have both been roping at home. I’ve been riding some young horses of mine and have a couple of outside horses too. I turned my good horses out just to let them chill. I haven’t swung a leg over my main horse for three weeks.
There is nothing like competition to keep you sharp. When I’m in the practice pen, I focus on fundamentals and I think that’s the best I can do until we are competing again. I’m looking forward to that and seeing my friends. I still talk to them on the phone, but it’s not the same. I love to compete, not just in the rodeo arena, but I play basketball and do other things too. Now that’s all shut down.
My wife and I have been enjoying time here at home together. She’s expecting, so when our daughter, Kamryn Lee Medlin, is born in a month that will change everything. I was going to be here when she was born no matter what, but now I won’t need to juggle my rodeo schedule for that. I’m looking forward to being a dad.
Wesley Thorp – It’s still kind of hard to believe that I ended last year as the world champion. Every time I think about it, it still feels pretty cool. My wife, Susanna and I have two boys, Matthew and Charles. Normally I go out to the California rodeos in April. Last year I didn’t because Charles was born, so this year I’m home celebrating his birthday with him.
They get up pretty early, so my day starts about 6:30. We all have breakfast together. Then I’ll start riding horses. Chad Masters (Wesley’s current roping partner) lives pretty close so we practice together. He comes to my house a couple of days and I go to his. In the evenings, I’m home with the family.
I’ve got some young horses I’m riding; some outside horses and I’m fine tuning my seasoned horses. I also rope the dummy and practice tracking steers. I do basic drills on all of the horses. This has given me a chance to take a step back and evaluate what I’m doing and really break down my roping. I feel like I’m seeing benefit from that and it will help me get back in the groove when we do get started back up.
My family has travelled with me most of the time. Depending on how things look, they may stay home this summer. It will just depend on when and where we get started back, but I think we will be going so hard trying to rope as much as we can that I might be making some of those drives on my own.