The Rodeo Hiatus – Part 2

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 fundraising, 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.

 

Saddle Bronc Riders –

Brody Cress – I’ve been working on a lot of projects around my place, building pens and a barn. And, I’ve been doing some things inside of the house. A big part of every day is spent working out. I’m staying active and continue to keep my body moving. When it’s time to go back, I’ll be ready.

I bought a place near Morgan Mill, Texas two years ago. Eventually I’ll sell it, but it’s a good place to be now. Next winter I plan to start riding some colts here, so it will be all set up and ready to do that. I’m getting close to having all of my college stuff done. (Brody is working towards his master’s degree from Tarleton State University at Stephenville.)

I’m trying not to get lethargic, because then you start thinking too much. I listen to motivational stuff while I’m working out and find a way to look at the bright side of things.

Lefty Holman – I’ve been spending time with my family. This time of year, we are usually getting ready for the summer. I’m still doing that, working out every day. But because we don’t know for sure when we’ll get started rodeoing again, I’m taking it easy too.

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The pasture turned golf course at the Holman residence

It’s taken away most of my circuit rodeos so it’s a bad time of year in California. I look forward to our California rodeos. They are so much fun. You get to see buddies that you went to high school with and even though some of those rodeos are six hours from the house, it still feels like they are a hometown rodeo.

This has all been a big eye-opener. When it first started, a lot of us though COVID-19 was a rumor. Now I’m thinking about the health of our fans and everyone involved.

Staying sharp is a real challenge. As a bronc rider, if you are a hair behind or ahead in your ride, you’re going to get bucked off. I’m spending a lot of time visualizing my rides. I lay in bed at night and make five bronc rides in my head with five different scenarios. I’ll get on some practice horses before we start back again.

We have a seven-acre pasture that I planted grass in. It was looking pretty good, so we turned it into a golf course. I have two brothers that are three and eight years old. We all spend some time golfing and it’s something my dad and I do every day.

Jacobs Crawley – I’m sharing the fatherhood duties more. Lauren (his wife) still has me beat, but I am contributing. (Jacobs is the chairman of the PRCA’s board of directors.) We have stayed pretty active as a board. It seems like everybody is in the wait and see mode. We’ve got regular calls and we stay up to date. We’re trying to be as informed as possible and as soon as it’s a safe environment we will be back in business.

For the rodeo world, the timing of this could have been a whole lot worse. There are definitely busier times of the year. That’s true for me personally as well. We just bought a new place outside of Stephenville. My hands are full with fencing and doing things there. We are building a new house, putting in an arena and putting in a couple of RV hookups. There was a barndo (barn condominium) on the place that wasn’t finished. One of those rooms has become the gym/shop. So along with stretching fence, I get on the bike and spend some time in the gym at least every other day. I have plenty to do here and I’m staying busy, but when rodeos are back on schedule, I’ll be ready.

Tie-Down Roping

Tuf Cooper – We are never going to have this opportunity again. Sometimes it gets me thinking that I’m doing nothing, when actually I’m doing a lot. It’s just not the things that have been normal. To take this opportunity to just set here and be still has been awesome.

I’ve been narrowing my time on social media and haven’t been watching TV. We have a family group text and I check the PRCA’s website to see what rodeos are moving around. I’ve tried to disconnect from the drama and craziness of what’s happening in the world. My wife is a terrific cook and we’ve been doing midnight dinners. We’ve been staying up late, sleeping in and being still.

I feel like this is a long version of the long drives. You know you have to drive from Texas to Washington. There is no way around it. Driving can not be fun, or you can make it fun. That’s part of rodeoing and you have to go the distance. You’ve got to figure out how to make that fun. It’s similar to what’s going on now. We all love rodeoing and competing. There’s no way around the travel and there’s no way around this. We’ve got to make the most of it.

Cory Solomon – I usually go to Logandale this time of year, go to Vegas, and spend some time at the pool. Houston and Austin getting cancelled were the biggest let down for me. Houston is an hour away and Austin is an hour and a half from the house.

I’ve been thinking about my retirement plan after rodeo and so I started Royalty I.D. This has given me the chance to really work on that. We’re about to launch a website and have been doing a lot with social media. It puts rodeo on a different platform.

I watch sports a lot and got this idea that I could tell my real story and give people hope. I wanted people to get to know the real me. I didn’t just get to go to the NFR and by sharing those stories maybe we can inspire others. I want young basketball players to understand that they don’t have to have the very best shoes to be successful.

We have a trainer and started a 21-day workout that will be part of the Royalty I.D. platform. I want to be stronger and quicker than I’ve ever been. I’ve been practicing too. I have some younger horses that I’ve been riding. I’ve been watching a lot of different church services. I’m working on my body and keeping faith that something positive will come out of all this. I have the best horses I’ve ever had. I have some cows here at home too. I’ve been enjoying this time with my family and making the most of it.

Haven Meged – I came home after the timed event championship. I went back to Stephenville where Ty Erickson and I had a clinic, then I got home March 14. I’ve wanted to come home and that part of this has been good. In the last four years, I haven’t gotten to spend this much time at home.

The college (Tarleton State University) let me have my internship up here, so I’ve been helping at the salebarn – Miles City Livestock. I still have a couple of weeks of class left and then I’m done. I can’t wait for that. I’ll be graduating. Rodeoing and going to college isn’t easy. (Haven will have his bachelor’s degree in Agriculture Industries and Agencies)

We’ve been calving out cows. I have some registered Angus and Simmentals and we have some commercial beef cattle. We’ll finish calving the middle of May. It’s all kept me rally busy.

I’ve got four really good young horses that I’ve been working with and it would be nice if we’d get to go to some jackpots. I’m just rolling with whatever happens.

Barrel Racing –

Amberleigh Moore – Well, my truck broke down, so after Houston cancelled, and it took me a week just to get home. Once I got home, I got really busy working on our family business (Emerald Outdoor Living). Our fiscal year ends March 31 and I do all the fine tuning for the accountant. Usually I’m trying to do it from the road, but this year I’ve been in my office at home.

I’m trying to get caught up on life. The garden center down the road was overrun with flowers so I bought some that were half off and planted them in my yard. It looks so good that I could start a yard service. (She said jokingly.)

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Amber Moore has been busy making her yard and some tack look pretty.

My days are filled with work for the business, riding and now spending time with babies. I’ve gotten some embryos out of Paige (her 11-year-old mare CP Dark Moon) to make babies. We just had the second foal and it’s very exciting. Then in the evenings I’ll work on my tack business. I buy all the leather, have a person that does the sewing to make it, then I put it together and make it pretty.

This whole (COVID-19) thing is disappointing for us, but it’s equally disappointing for the horses. Paige wants to go. Now she gets excited when she gets in the trailer to go to the vet. I think they get bored too.

Jimmie Smith — I’m riding 10 to 12 horses a day. They’re all mine and range from 3-year-olds to my rodeo horses. Nothing has changed as far as riding, but I have more time since I’m not going to jackpots, futurities and rodeos. They are starting to have a few jackpots now so that helps.

My mom is a realtor so she can work from home. I’ve been doing lots of cleaning and working out. Cleaning out trucks and trailers to be ready when we can go again. I’m working out on the plan that Sara Van Vuren of Barrel Racer Fit set out for me. I’ve been roping a little too.

It’s heartbreaking for the communities that hold these rodeos. I was so excited to go back to Calgary this year. I know that cancelling these rodeos isn’t their choice and that it has a big impact on their communities. I know we are all ready to get back out there and compete. And in the meantime, I did start watching that Tiger King show.

Tillar Murray – I graduated from business school last fall, but I still have a thesis and a history class I’m working on to finish a liberal arts program. I have been working on three majors in my undergraduate program from the University of Texas. I’m supposed to start work in a wealth management program in Fort Worth in July.

I made a trip to Kuala Lumpur (in Malaysia) working for a Christian non-profit this spring, but I had to come back early because of the coronavirus. Since then our whole family is at the ranch. I do a workout program ever morning then start riding horses, five to seven of them every day. It’s nice in the sense that I can ride more consistently. I’m prepping my older horses like we were going to have a rodeo every day. I work on the fundamentals at every stage, even doing drills with older horses. I’m trying to make them a better horse each day. I’ve been taking them on trail rides and getting them away from the barrel pattern too.

My family started breeding horses about six years ago, so we have had from three to eight foals every year since then. Martha Wright has helped tremendously, especially while I’ve been at college. Rayna Longway came from Canada and has been helping us so we all ride together. It’s been really fun to ride some of the young horses. Riding older finished horses makes me lazy in my riding. Riding young horses makes me a better horseman overall and not just a passenger. The natural talent that these young horses have shown me has been amazing.

I’m hoping to make another trip to Las Vegas this year to compete at the NFR again. I plan to go to as many rodeos as possible and if that doesn’t work, we will go to some jackpots and amateur rodeos to stay sharp.

Bull Riding –

Sage Kimzey — I’ve been working around the place. I bought a new house last year and I’ve been clearing out a bunch of brush. Fence building is next on the list. I’m not looking forward to that, but it is what it is. Working outside has been taking the place of a gym. That’s been nice.

This came at a good time. I tore the ligaments and injured my ankle at San Antonio. I had surgery and was back riding, but this has given me a chance to take a complete break. It has been a welcome time off. We go so hard and are all about rodeo 365 days a year.

This has given Alexis (Sage is engaged to Alexis Bloomer) and I quality time together. She has been planning our wedding, so I’ve been able to participate in that. She is awesome and I’m so excited to marry her. She’s doing most of the work, but I get to offer an opinion here and there. It’s been nice to be somewhat like normal people for a while.

Dustin Boquet – Mostly I’ve been fishing. I rent a house at Kaufman, Texas. Normally if I have some time off, I go visit family. But the virus is much worse there and with travel restrictions to Louisiana that’s not a good option. I’ve never been the guy that can sit in the house. I’ve always been finding things to do, so I go fishing or hunting.

There’s a guy here that I normally would work for. He moves a lot of dirt. He hasn’t had much to do, so until that picks up I haven’t been working. Mostly I’ve been catching large-mouth bass. I’ve brought some crawfish up too. The freezer is full, so I catch and release. It helps me to stay active. I’m not a big workout person, but throughout the day I’ll do some pushups and planks.

I get up about 6 a.m., drink some coffee then hook up my boat and go fishing. I’ve been fishing by myself a lot. I’m getting tired of that. I’d forgotten how bored I get. I’ve been watching the NFR some. I miss rodeo a bunch. I was having a great winter, then they started cancelling everything. It’s tough but it gave everyone a chance to heal up and get ready for summer.

I’ve always cooked, and I cook a lot when I’m home. I don’t know if the rodeo committees realize how much their hospitality means to us. The food is awesome and having them welcome us like members of their families means a lot.

Levi Gray – I had the highest-marked ride in my career at the National Western (Denver, Colorado) in January. I like where my mental game was when this all started, and I’ll use that experience when we get back.

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Levi Gray in Denver – PRCA photo by Ric Andersen

My girlfriend’s (Macy Smith) dad has a leather room and I’ve been able to get in it and use my leathercrafting skills. She and I work out together every day. They have a rope in their barn that I climb to keep my upper body strong. Macy has a planner that helps keep me on track.

I’ve been doing some things that I always wanted to do. I’m preparing to win, reading my bible daily and working on my spiritual mind. I’m enjoying the time, working to stay healthy and preparing to get going again. It’s all helping me stay sharp mentally and physically.

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Armitas made by Levi Gray

I’ve always wanted to make some armitas (a type of chaps) and I got those done. I’ve got some rodeo chaps started. My parents were moving to Arizona and sold their place in Oregon. Then they ended up staying here and rented a place that is a three-minute run from my girlfriend’s, so I have been running between the two.

Levi Gray 1

Levi Gray

We’ve been to a few brandings this spring and I’ve spent some time horseback. I think that helps with balance and just being around cows, working cows is great. It’s all about being a cowboy. I’ve gotten on a few practice bulls and hopefully when we get back, I can keep my momentum going and ride in those famous yellow bucking chutes in December.

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