Sydney and Birdie [Photo: submitted]

It’s a family thing; that’s the best way I can describe rodeo.

From where and who you learn from to cheering and succeeding, it’s a family thing.

From just the age of ten, most kids, including myself, have been taught what they think is everything there is to know about the sport in which we call rodeo. But by age 14, we figure out that simply isn’t the truth. Every day as a rodeo competitor, you’ll learn something new, whether it is giving your horse a bigger pocket on that first barrel or getting your tip down a bit more in the breakaway.

Some people come from a long line of rodeo athletes, like myself. My father was a high school and NDRA bull riding champion and qualified for the world finals in El Paso, Texas. My mother, on the other hand, was not only a wicked barrel racer and roper, but she also was Miss Rodeo North Dakota; both my mother and father taught me so much and got me to where I am today, and without them (my family) I wouldn’t be who I am today.

[Photo: Craig Maley Photography]

It is important in rodeo to have family behind you, supporting you every step of the way. Every time you walk up that alleyway or back in that box, you know that from the stands and behind the bucking chutes, your family has your back. Rodeo can be a very mentally and physically draining sport.

In Rocky Balboa (2006), Sylvester Stallone said, “It will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it.” This quote speaks a lot of truth in a very blunt way, which sometimes is the only way. You cannot let the negative thoughts and discouragement win with every missed calf and knocked barrel. However, with rodeo, tough times will come, and having that family to lean on helps; this is where you look for support from them.

[Photo: Craig Maley Photography]

“Surround yourself with people who make you happier and better.” That is some of the truest advice anyone has ever given to me. I used to think family was just a word used to describe the people to which you are related, but now that word has so much more meaning. The best way I could describe the word family is this: people who support you through thick and thin want only success for you and always seek only happiness; the kind of people that would tell you when you are wrong and stay up for hours breaking down runs just to put it all back together in the practice pen; the people we look for in the stands or behind the bucking chutes; and the people we ask to band our feet in or tighten our cinch. This is how I would describe family. And easily the most crucial part of my success.

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