December 5-14, 2024


Mental Game – Josh Edwards

Feb 22, 2024

Mental Game – Josh Edwards

Josh Edwards isn’t one to settle for less than the best

Retirement comes at the pinnacle of pickup man’s career

Josh Edwards and his trusted horse “Wiggles” were recognized at the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo as Edwards announced his retirement from working in the arena. | FWSSR photo by James Phifer. 

I’m on a break from being at rodeos in 2024. I’m very grateful for the work that I’ve had at the National Western Stock Show Rodeo in Denver and the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo. I did the math and was physically at 41 performances from Jan. 6 until Feb. 3. It seems fitting that the culmination of those provided one of the most memorable experiences I’ve ever had. 

Many current rodeos have timelines that are preplanned, adjusted, critiqued, and shared that manage a performance down to the second. During the final round at Fort Worth, one of the presentations was for Josh Edwards who has been part of that rodeo for 25 years, most of them as a pickup man. 

What wasn’t planned or scripted was the respect that the bareback riders and saddle bronc riders showed Josh. Right after the saddle bronc riding, Fort Worth presented him a buckle. As he stood in the arena, with horse “Wiggles” by his side and tipping his hat, the bucking horse riders started filtering through the arena.   

“Jess Pope asked me if they could stand on the back of the bucking chutes,” Cal White FWSSR rodeo director told me. “I said why didn’t they come into the arena and stand behind him. Then, because it was right after the bronc riding, they were all in the alley, so they just started filtering out. It was completely unplanned.

Josh Edwards and the Roughstock contestants take a moment during Edwards in arena recognition. | FWSSR photo by James Phifer.

“When we get that human element into a rodeo like that and it’s unplanned, sometimes that can make the most impactful moments,” he added. 

And oh boy was that moment impactful. 

“That was about as touching as it could get,” Josh added. “It’s one thing to be recognized and tip your hat. When those guys came from behind the bucking chute and shook my hand, every one of them said something different. It was so meaningful. We usually don’t get the opportunity to know how you have impacted somebody’s life or career until an opportunity like that presents itself. For most contract personnel, it never does. It’s not wasted on me. I understand what a great blessing that was.” 

Josh’s decision to retire didn’t come easy, but once made, he never questioned it. That decision was based on timing, other ventures and foremost his family. 

“I’ve been doing this for 25 years,” he explained. “Every summer, my boys have been at the same five rodeos. Now it’s their turn.” 

Josh and his wife, Kristi, have two boys, Blevin and Brinnon. Blevin is working on his pilot’s license, following in his father’s footsteps. Yes, Josh is a pilot. And Brinnon has been competing in the saddle steer riding at rodeos. And while he’s not going to be in the arena anymore, he is still going to be involved with rodeo. He is on the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Board of Directors and will be working hard to make rodeo better. 

Josh’s journey to being a pickup man started with the Rafter G Rodeo Company. He would go to Mesquite, Texas to compete in tie-down roping. It was there that he met his future wife, Kristi Riggs, who was working there. It was also at Mesquite that he climbed on his first pickup horse. 

At that time, stock contractors owned the pickup horses and hired the guys to ride them. That has largely evolved. Today, most pickup men are still hired by the contractors but own their own horses. That means that every time Josh loaded up to go to a rodeo, he had a pickup and trailer with four to six horses in it. He also had all of the tack for those horses and necessary feed and supplements to take the best care of them. It’s a healthy investment upwards of one-quarter million dollars for most. 

Days start early feeding their own animals as well as helping feed and care for stock contractors’ animals. They also spend time sorting livestock for performances. They might get a couple of hours in the afternoon to rest and get ready, but more often than not, those hours are spent bathing horses, cleaning tack and preparing for the rodeo. 

It’s not a thankless job for men who love It. However, there are days they get tired and sore. Pickup men can get just as banged up as bullfighters do. And thinking about riding around the arena at a high rate of speed, grabbing a cowboy off of the back of that bucking horse, it’s easy to see how they would get sore. It takes a toll on their bodies and to do their job well, they also have to have a strong mental game. 

The Wrights say thank you and congratulate Josh Edwards on his retirement. | FWSSR photo by James Phifer.

“The best part of being a pickup man is the two hours between the national anthem and goodbye,” Josh said. “To fully enjoy that two hours, you have to have a passion for what you are doing. I was always looking for ways to do it better. I’d be running cattle out during the steer wrestling going over the bareback riding in my mind and thinking about what I could have done differently to be better.” 

That mentality is going to serve him well as he pursues life outside of rodeo. He has several business ventures near his home in Terrell. He is also a stuntman and has big plans for his future. 

In 2020, he applied to participate in the Mongol Derby, a horse race that lasts 10 days and covers 621 miles across the Mongolian Steppe. He will do that on the back of Mongolian ponies that are about 13 hands high, weigh in at 900 pounds and know how to run – but little else.

Josh will be participating in that Derby in August. Along with it comes a hefty price tag and he’s taking his rodeo and business knowledge looking for sponsors to help him in this venture as well as others. He’s planning on public speaking and sharing his life stories to help others and the Mongol Derby will be a big tool in his arsenal. 

“I have a background in psychology and worked in the medical field for more than 10 years,” he said. “I read a lot of books and study things all the time. I have never settled for good – I’m not wired that way. It doesn’t matter if it’s rodeo or checkers. I’m always looking for the next mountain to climb.” 

After being selected as a pickup man for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in 2023 by the bareback and saddle bronc riders, earning the Pickup Man of the Year award and achieving a milestone of 25 years at Fort Worth, Josh knew it was time to make changes. One of the biggest highlights for him was riding horses that he trained to do the job. Wiggles was the reserve champion pickup horse of the year and will live out his days in a pasture with two of his friends. Josh’s other horses are already on track to take on the next steps of their careers. 

Josh’s rodeo career is filled with a lot of great friends and even greater memories. Deciding to make changes in his life had to be difficult, but he has a lot to look forward to as a husband, father and entrepreneur. And soon his focus will be on that horse race where I’m confident he will be riding for first, analyzing his progress, learning and figuring out how he can do his job better. It’s just how he is wired.