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Twisted Rodeo

Rodeo clown living his dreams

Twisted Rodeo - Tue, 09/09/2014 - 12:33pm

HARRISON WILL BE ONE OF THE MANY ENTERTAINING ASPECTS  OF THE AMERICAN ROYAL PRORODEO

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – For 10 December nights in the City of Lights, John Harrison rolled out an oversized protective barrel that served as his front-row seat for bull riding during the 2013 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

As the barrelman selected for ProRodeo’s super bowl, Harrison’s job was to man the specially made steel keg as an extra piece of protection for bull riders, bullfighters and just about anybody else inside the Thomas & Mack Center’s arena at the time.

“It’s an awesome feeling for me and my family because it’s a position that’s voted on by your peers,” said Harrison, who will serve as the barrelman, funnyman and entertainer during this year’s American Royal PRCA Rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 26, and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 27, at Hale Arena.

John Harrison

John Harrison

“You feel it’s something you deserve. I’m tickled to death I got it. As a trick rider, I got to perform at the NFR three other times, but to be there every night and be part of the NFR personnel was just amazing.”

Harrison has been nominated as one of the best in the business for much of his clowning career. The Soper, Okla., cowboy joined the PRCA as a trick rider in 2001, then transitioned to clowning in 2008. The grandson of world champion bull rider Freckles Brown, rodeo always has been part of Harrison’s life. Being part of the NFR is just a big part of a family legacy that makes Harrison special.

“I love packing the barrel and being there for the cowboys, but I wasn’t there to be part of the entertainment,” Harrison said. “I didn’t get a microphone or anything I’m used to doing at a rodeo, but I’m glad I was selected to be there.”

He will be a big part of the entertainment that is the American Royal. In addition to hysterical acts that showcase Harrison’s talent and athleticism, the Oklahoma man serves as a valuable piece of the puzzle that helps make for a near-flawless performance each time he speaks.

“We’ve heard many great things about John and are very excited to have him part of our fall festival,” said Bob Petersen, president and CEO of the American Royal.

Until recently, Harrison traveled the rodeo circuit with his family: His wife, Carla, and their three children, Addison, Cazwell and Billie. Now that Addison is in school, the family outings take place less often; still, family is a big part of who the clown is in and out of the arena.

The key to his job is to reach fans with a variety of entertaining items. Whether it’s a trick riding display that will leave fans in awe or his parody of rodeo queens, Harrison has a lot of ammunition in his bag.

“The one thing I love about the American Royal Rodeo is that with three performances, I can do something fresh every time,” Harrison said. “I do this for the love of the sport. Growing up with it, you enjoy it. Now I can actually make a living at it, so that helps.”

While family is a big part of who Harrison is, he realizes that rodeo serves as a foster family of sorts.

“The friends and the ‘family’ you meet on the road is a big deal for us,” he said. “Plus if it wasn’t fun, I wouldn’t do it.”

Not only does he have fun, he brings a lot of it with him. That makes him the perfect fit for the American Royal Rodeo.

Categories: Twisted Rodeo

A Kansas championship

Twisted Rodeo - Mon, 09/08/2014 - 7:03pm

WORLD’S BEST STEER ROPERS TO COMPETE FOR GOLD BUCKLE AT KANSAS STAR ARENA

MULVANE, Kan. – For the first time in Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association history, a world championship will be crowned in Kansas.

The Clem McSpadden National Finals Steer Roping will crown the first world champion of 2014 during its two-day run Nov. 7-8 at the Kansas Star Arena Mulvane.

Trevor Brazile

Trevor Brazile

That means the very best steer ropers in ProRodeo have been competing all season for one of 15 spots in the championship. They will continue to battle for the coveted gold buckle during the 10-round affair inside the state-of-the-art arena just south of Wichita, Kan.

“I think change is healthy,” said Trevor Brazile, the four-time and reigning world champion steer roper who owns a PRCA-record 19 gold buckles. “Why not see what a venue change can do for the roping. I think it’s pretty exciting for steer roping.”

Since it first began in 1959, the NFSR has taken place in New Mexico, Wyoming, Oklahoma and Texas.

“It’s going to be nice to be in the state where I grew up,” said Mike Chase, who was raised in Beloit, Kan., and is heading to the finals for the fifth time in his 18-year career. “My friends will be closer to come watch, plus it’s very important that we have this event continue to grow.”

Mike Chase

Mike Chase

Kansas has a pretty solid rodeo history in general, and recently it’s been especially well represented in steer roping. Rocky Patterson of Pratt, Kan., is a three-time world champion who has been in a tight battle for the coveted gold buckle each of the past five seasons. He is just inside the top 20 in the world standings and will need to move into the top 15 to qualify for the 20th time.

Brazile is solid in his quest to return for the championship and looks to build on his record 11 all-around gold buckles. He is a virtual lock to qualify for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in team roping and tie-down roping.

“I would love another world title in steer roping,” he said. “The challenge for me every year is to try to get to enough of them. It seems I get stuck at going to 25 to 30 steer ropings when everybody else is going to 60. It’s hard to plan on winning a world championship like that, but when the opportunity presents itself, you try to capitalize on it.”

The opportunity will come in early November at the Kansas Star Arena.

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Horse lovers enjoy the Challenge

Twisted Rodeo - Fri, 09/05/2014 - 4:57pm

UDALL, Kan. – Bill Stiffler saw the Colt Starting Challenge USA competitions as the perfect opportunity for his horse rescue operation.

Stiffler, president of Friends of Horses in Centennial, Colo., needed good trainers to work with the horses that are at his complex. He found the right people through the unique competition, which matches trainers with young horses that have had limited handling, had never been saddled nor bridled and needed, and needed the understanding of great horsemen and horsewomen.

It’s that very competition that will take place from 6-9 p.m. Friday, Sept. 19, and 6-10 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 20, at Broken Y Indoor Arena in Udall. Patrons will need to provide their own chairs.

Bill Stiffler

Bill Stiffler

“When I first became aware of it, it came at an opportune time for me,” Stiffler said. “I had a number of younger horses that had never been started, some as old as 5 or 6 that nobody ever did anything with.

“Those horses don’t have very many options.”

Enter Russell and Cristy Beatty, who founded the Colt Starting Challenge USA. Competitions take place over two days and showcase some of the best trainers in the country. By the time the contest concludes on the second day, trainers will take their horses through a series of challenges to show just how far the animals come in a short time frame.

“I love it,” Stiffler said. “I think it’s very entertaining. When they first contacted me, it was to enter some horses, so I entered two. One had been turned out in a ranch next to an Indian reservation. The other came from an animal hoarder, and she was probably 4 or 5 years old and had never been touched.

“The guy that won the competition did so on her. I didn’t think there was ever any way they’d ever get to ride that mare, much less do what they did on her that second day.”

The trainers utilize natural horsemanship techniques, which utilize each animal’s natural instincts. Mike Major is a horse trainer now living in Texas, and he has served as a Colt Starting Challenge judge – each trainer receives markings by judges to decide the winners of each competition.

“The one thing about it is they give a lot of people an opportunity to get some recognition that would’ve never gotten it before on their ability to start colts and other things, too,” Major said. “The good thing, too, is that it gives the public some more awareness of other methods to start colts. I think that’s what everybody’s looking for: knowledge on how to do this without getting killed.”

This isn’t the old-school style of breaking horses to work under a saddle, whereby cowboys would saddle a young horse, then ride through the bucking and kicking in order to teach the animal to work. Natural horsemanship allows the horses the opportunity to understand its surroundings while gaining confidence.

“What you look for as a judge is for the trainer’s ease around horses, being comfortable and confident,” Major said. “The horse feeds off that. You also judge on the ability to accomplish what you need to accomplish.”

That’s what makes it exciting, not only for the contestants but also horse owners and those viewing from the audience.

“I’m an old-time trainer,” Stiffler said. “I have a cowboy, and I put a horse with him for 30 days, and that horse comes back dead broke. Now I’m looking to expedite the process. That’s what I enjoy, seeing them take a green horse and ride them through the event. They work the crowd, and they make it more interesting.

“I think for anyone who loves to see what horses can do, this is an opportunity for them to see something really special.”

Categories: Twisted Rodeo

New challenge accepted

Twisted Rodeo - Fri, 09/05/2014 - 11:14am

AMERICAN ROYAL TO CONDUCT FIRST BUSINESSMEN’S STEER CHALLENGE DURING RODEO

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The American Royal ProRodeo has found a new fan-favorite event.

The 2014 rodeo will feature the inaugural Businessmen’s Steer Challenge, which will have a preliminary round during the Friday, Sept. 26, performance of the American Royal ProRodeo at Hale Arena.

AmericanRoyalThe top two teams from Friday will then advance to the finale during the second performance, which will begin at 2 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 27, where they will be matched against a team from Bayer HealthCare Animal Health Division.

“This is going to be an exciting new event I think everyone will love,” said Mariner Kemper, chairman of the American Royal and participant in the challenge. “Friday night of the rodeo is corporate night, and what is a better way than having your colleagues cheer you on as you get an opportunity to show your cowboy skills. I think the audience will have a greater appreciation for the professional cowboys and how easy they make it look,”

The Businessmen’s Steer Challenge will feature 12 two-person teams. One will hold onto a lead rope attached to the steer, while the other ties a ribbon around the animal’s tail. The first team to complete the task and cross the finish line is the winner.

“I think everyone should come out and see the fun,” Kemper said. “Even I am going to compete; it will be a great event that I plan on winning.”

In addition to the Bayer HealthCare Animal Health Division and Kemper/Bichelmeyer teams, others will be sponsored by the BOTAR’s, Hilton Garden Inn, Kennedy & Cole LLC, Cerner Corp., Sprint, Livestock Marketing Association, Conway Farms, Raphael Group and Commerce Bank.

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Wards gunning for circuit titles

Twisted Rodeo - Thu, 09/04/2014 - 3:24pm

DUNCAN, Okla. – Andrew and Reagan Ward’s goal was simple from the start: Get to Duncan in October, then move on.

While the mindset was straightforward, the path was steeped with landmines. From roping competitors to tough-to-handle steers to long drives and little sleep, there have been many challenges in the 2014 season for the team roping brothers from Edmond, Okla.

ChisholmTrailRPCFThe Wards have secured the first step of their plan, qualifying for the Chisholm Trail Ram Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo, set for 7:30 p.m. Oct. 16-18 at the Stephens County Fair and Expo Center in Duncan. The next step is to perform well in the arena and earn spots in the Ram National Circuit Finals Rodeo, which will take place next spring in Ocala, Fla.

“What we’d really like to do is to make it to Florida,” said Reagan Ward, 27, the No. 1 heeler in the Prairie Circuit, the ProRodeo region made up of events and contestants primarily in Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska. “I don’t care if we win the year-end or the circuit finals average, but the goal is to get to Florida.”

Only the year-end and average champions in each event qualify for the national championship, which will feature the top two contestants in each event from each of the 12 circuits nationwide.

“That’s why we go to rodeos; we’re trying to make it to Florida,” said Andrew, 24, who has virtually clinched the region’s heading year-end title. “We went to more circuit rodeos just trying to make it to Florida.

“You want to do good at the circuit finals. We’ve (finished) second in the average two years in a row and didn’t go to as many circuit rodeos as we did this year.”

The Wards have done quite well over the last few seasons, and this year is no exception with each earning more than $16,500 in circuit cash through labor Day. They won rodeos in Woodward, Okla.; Hastings, Neb.; and Topeka, Kan. They also fared well at big-money Kansas rodeos in Dodge City and Phillipsburg. Andrew owns a $5,700 lead over the No. 2 header, Troy Boone of Mutual, Okla.; Reagan’s lead is just $1,100 over Billie Saebens of Nowata, Okla.

“Getting to Duncan and giving us a chance to win the average is important for us,” Reagan said. “It’s just important that we go in there and catch three.”

The circuit finals features three go-rounds, and the team that posts the fastest three-run cumulative score will be crowned average champion. Each dollar counts, too, with the season’s top money-earners at the conclusion of the finale winning the year-end titles.

“We’re just trying to get better while competing in the circuit,” Andrew said. “That way you can stay closer to home and keep your money around while still rodeoing.”

What’s even better is that the siblings do it together.

“He’s really the only guy I’ve ever roped with,” Reagan said of his younger brother. “It’s still fun. We high school rodeoed together and college rodeoed together.

“I think one of the reasons we’ve been successful is because of the work we’ve put in together. I’ve got a lot of confidence in him.”

That assurance goes both ways.

“We really don’t know anything different,” Andrew said. “It’s fun when we win, because we’re winning double.”

The brothers are just two of the circuit standings leaders with about two weeks remaining in the 2014 season. Other leaders are bareback rider Caine Riddle of Vernon, Texas; steer wrestler Cole Edge of Durant, Okla.; saddle bronc rider Wade Sundell of Boxholm, Iowa; barrel racer Gretchen Benbenek of Aubrey, Texas; tie-down roper Jerome Schneeberger of Ponca City, Okla.; steer roper Chet Herren of Pawkhuska, Okla.; and bull rider Sage Kimzey of Strong City, Okla.

They’re all locked to compete during the finale in Duncan, a showcase of the greatest ProRodeo stars in the game aligned in one three-night championship.

Categories: Twisted Rodeo

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