Strike the Spark. Fan the Flame.
Updated: Nov 19, 2020
Every fire has to start from the smallest spark. Whether you start with twigs and grass or jump to gasoline to start your inferno. It all begins with that one spark.
The same is true for any action we take in life. It takes that one small piece of inspiration or information that will cascade into life decisions and actions.
I can still remember my spark, my inspiration to start riding bareback horses. I didn't come from a rodeo family. I had some friends growing up that competed but till I turned 18 my life was filled with school, sports teams, 4H, band plus living on a working cattle farm. I grew up working, training and riding horses. I'm pretty sure I was on a horse before I was walking thanks to my dad, something that I have also done with my son. I grew up with a donkey as my first mount, then a mule, and finally my appaloosa gelding. My wife likes to say that me riding those breeds growing up says a lot about my character (mule headed? stubborn?). Long before I ever crawled across a bucking chute I had taken some hard falls and stuck through some wild rides. And without a doubt it is those experiences that have helped me to persevere in my rodeo career. But that first spark, that moment that inspired me to ride bucking horses happened at the WRA Finals when I was around 10 years old. It was Friday night, rank pen night. And a horse named Midnight Delight with a trip that still ranks as one of the most powerful I have witnessed. A couple of words come to mind when I replay watching that trip in mind. Purity. Fierce. Fearless. Controlled Chaos. That ride still sticks out in my brain, even more than some of my own. Bareback riding to me has a more savage element than other rodeo events. Some guys compare bareback riding to a fist fight. In my opinion, it's a full body, full contact event. You need to have every fiber in your body tuned to fight.
It would be eight more years till I would step across my first horse. And the only way I can describe that one, is a blur. It was a Dave Shield's Sr school at the Thorsby Haymaker arena in 2009. I had been collecting gear and doing physical training all winter. I went to the school with the two people who would be my traveling partners that summer; my older brother and his friend Jared, both who rode saddle bronc, some bulls, and bareback was their only untried roughstock event. I was determined to learn all I could and test myself. Being 6'4", I've always had naysayers telling me I didn't fit the profile of a roughie; too tall, too big, too heavy. There was two things I knew: I was pretty sticky on all the horses I rode growing up, and as hard as I ever got bucked off, I always got back on. I would go on to ride five horses over the course of that weekend. To say I was hooked would be an understatement.
The summer that followed would be filled with rodeo. Pulling three association cards and traveling from Manning to Taber. I would make two sets of Finals in the fall and win the Rookie of the Year award in the WRA. The naysayers still talked, a little quieter though. I would test and prove just how tough I was in the arena. Or foolish. I would also be in ten hang ups that summer. Trial by fire would be the best way to describe that summer. And I loved how hot it burned.
What inspired you to start? What was your spark?