Event Competitions Offer Opportunities For Growth

Apr 28, 2022

Event Competitions Offer Opportunities For Growth

As a rodeo fan, I’m hard pressed to pick my favorite event. I love the classic saddle bronc riding. The horses in the tie-down roping amaze me. Great runs in the team roping and steer wrestling are so much fun. And, I love love love watching the barrel racing and breakaway roping. It’s no surprise that bull riding is a fan favorite. It certainly is exciting and has evolved into an event of its own. 

That’s not just because the Professional Bull Riders and other bull riding organizations. Bull riding got its start in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA). It’s growth and popularity have also been enhanced by competitions for the animals and opportunities for non-riding competitors to get involved in major ways. 

A few years ago, the PRCA started sanctioning other stand-alone events and now opportunities for bareback riders and saddle bronc riders are growing. The first saddle bronc riding was in 2015. For bareback riders, those opportunities largely started in 2021 because of a world champion bull rider and steer wrestler – Bobby and Sid Steiner who just happen to be father and son. 

Rodeo is a family affair for the Steiners. When Rocker developed an interest in bareback riding, the family was all in. Rocker competed in the mini bareback riders event during Cheyenne Frontier Days and the family made it a vacation to support him. His grandfather, Bobby Steiner, is on the right and father, Sid Steiner, is on the left.

Bobby won his gold buckle in 1973. His family was in the stock contracting business with Steiner Rodeo Company. When Bobby achieved his ultimate prize, he walked away from competition. Bobby and his wife Joleen (an NFR barrel racer) had two boys, Sid and Shane. The boys are 14 months apart and hadn’t hit double digits yet when the Steiners sold the rodeo company. 

Fast forward and Sid found his way to the arena in the steer wrestling earning the gold buckle in 2002. And, like his father, it wasn’t long until his focus went from competing to raising a family. He and wife, Jamie, also have two children. Daughter Steely was less than a year old when her dad got the gold buckle. Rocker was born in 2003, started wakeboarding when he was three years old and wasn’t even thinking about rodeo. 

Bobby Steiner holds his world champion bull riding buckle next to the steer wrestling buckle that Sid won in 2002.

As Rocker was growing up, he asked his dad if he was built like a bull rider. Sid’s reply, “Your built more like a bareback rider.” The seed was planted. As soon as Rocker turned 18, he bought his PRCA card and is currently inside the top 15 working his way towards his first Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualification. He hurt his knee during the final round at RodeoHouston but is expected to return the beginning of this summer.

Sid had been buying and selling real estate. That venture saw the family moving close to Weatherford, Texas. Jamie and Steely were riding horses and staying involved in barrel racing. Rocker wanted to get on bareback horses so Sid called on the expertise of competitors and friends. They had horses at their place to practice on and pretty soon, Tilden Hooper was a regular at the house. When COVID hit and rodeos were cancelling, Sid and Tilden collaborated to start a stand-alone bareback riding event. 

“We like to buck horses and we like to have fun,” Sid said. “We decided that we could get a group of the guys together and do what we like to do for some money. Tilden did a lot of the groundwork, called the bareback riders, we got horses together and started the Riggin’ Rally. Sponsors got on board. Taylor Sheridan is my neighbor and was at our first event at the ranch. Then he suggested we have one in Darby, Montana.”

Tilden Hooper is one of the original organizers of the Yellowstone Riggin Rally. At this past event in Weatherford, Texas, he was on stage with Anthony Lucia picking the horse that he would ride in the competition.

That event was held Labor Day weekend of 2021. Because of that relationship with Taylor Sheridan, the events are now the Yellowstone Riggin’ Rally. And while the Steiner family is still involved, the Yellowstone Riggin’ Rally is now owned and being produced by Championship Pro Rodeo, a partnership between Jimmy Roth and Will O’Connell. 

Will is the older brother of three-time world champion bareback rider, Tim O’Connell. Will has appeared in many arenas as a pickup man and has used his experience to study bucking horses. He is especially passionate about bareback riding. 

“When we got the company, we set a goal of being one of the elite stock contractors in the industry,” Will said. “We saw the Riggin’ Rally as an opportunity to help us accomplish our goals. We want to see rodeo and especially bareback riding grow. We have plans to have three to four events a year. And we are working towards a finale where bareback riders are riding for $100,000.”

They had an event in April at the Parker County Sheriff’s Posse Arena in Weatherford, Texas that featured more than $40,000 in prize money.  The events are two days with the first day giving six non-seeded competitors the opportunity to advance. Then they ride on day two against 24 invited contestants for the lion’s share of the prize money. On that championship day, there were three sections of 10 bareback riders who all participated in a draft to choose the horse that they would ride. The top three in each section advanced to the Yellowstone Championship Finals. 

At the end of the event, Mason Clements had won the title thanks to a 90-point ride on Frontier Rodeo’s Southern Star. It added $11,400 to his checking account. Clements started his rodeo career riding bucking bulls and dreamed of introductions like he watched bull riders get on television when he was growing up. He and the other bareback riders are now getting to experience that. 

Mason Clements of Spanish Fork, Utah won the 2022 Riggin’ Rally Xtreme Bareback Riding at the Parker County Sheriff’s Posse Arena with a 90-point ride on Frontier Rodeo’s Southern Star. Photo by Steve Wrubel.

“I’ve wanted to win one of these since they started,” Mason said. “It’s awesome to be here with these bareback riders and have the opportunity to help grow our event and see it gaining in popularity.”

Traditionally at a rodeo, bareback riding is the first event. It gives fans an opportunity to get excited. For those attending the Riggin’ Rally, that excitement lasted through the afternoon. 

“Bareback riding is the roughest event in rodeo, it’s the most physically demanding,” Tilden said. “It’s wild and crazy, so the number of guys that do it are a little smaller. So, the chance to showcase the top guys like this is very exciting. And we are confident that with more opportunities, we’ll be helping the popularity of our event.” 

The next Yellowstone Riggin’ Rally will be back in Darby on June 4 & 5.  Looking at the PRCA’s upcoming schedule there are quite a few of these events coming up – Xtreme Broncs to cover saddle bronc riding and bareback riding and even some with Xtreme Broncs and Bulls. There are timed-events galore and while they may not be part of the PRCA, they also are fun to attend. 

Bareback riders lined up in the arena as part of opening ceremonies. As they are normally the first event of the rodeo, they are usually busy getting ready and don’t participate in the openings.

One that I’m looking forward to is being produced by nine-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo bareback riding qualifier Wes Stevenson. He has been working with the Hood County Stampede in his hometown of Granbury, Texas. It will feature bareback riding as part of the Xtreme Broncs tour and with stock from Smith Pro Rodeo and Pickett Pro Rodeo over Memorial Day Weekend, it’s going to be good watching. 

Every one of these events helps us to showcase the Western lifestyle in new and exciting ways. If you get the opportunity to attend one in person, I strongly encourage you to go watch it live. I promise it will be worth it. 

My name is Susan Kanode, and I am a rodeo fan.