‘There’s No Better Sport for My Kids,’ Say the Parents of Rodeo Competitors

Hard work, long hours, plenty of time on the road — and yet these two families would not change a single thing about it

In pursuit of rodeo greatness, the Boyd family of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, leaves home for days at a time. When they return, there is a ton of laundry to do, the horse trailer needs to be cleaned out, the animals needs to be tended to, and house needs to be tidied up. The entire family returns exhausted.

Yet the family of six can’t wait to do it all over again.

The Boyds are on the road — like countless other rodeo families — nearly every weekend between early spring and late fall. Wherever one might want to travel, especially throughout the upper Midwest and the West, there are rodeo events worth entering. And right now, 14-year-old Maddy Boyd is the one the family is entering into competitions.

Rodeo can be draining, both physically and financially, but the Boyds are just fine with that.

“Parents are much more active in rodeo and we’re with them day and night, which I love,” mom Christina Boyd told LifeZette.

“There’s always a fear factor with rodeo, but there’s a respect, too, for the sport, the animals and the parents — which is important. I think there are just different values in rodeo than in other sports that are hard to explain until you’ve experienced it.”

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Among other things, Maddy Boyd is learning concentration before an event. “I have a routine before I go into the arena — basically I take really big deep breaths so that my horse is calm and I’m calm, and then I plan my run in my head so that I know what I’m doing before I take off,” the teen told LifeZette.

She also will usually sing a song for both herself and her horse, to keep their minds off their run until their names are called.

Maddy Boyd runs poles, barrels, and does breakaway and ribbon roping, using different horses for different events: She uses Appy for poles (running a weaving path around six poles), Chicago for barrels (racing around barrels), and Doc for breakaway (a type of mounted calf roping). She knows she’s fortunate to get to do what she does; she does not take it for granted. She works hard, trains hard, helps care for her horses, and is up early every day to practice on her own. It shows.

At her young age, this teen is already a two-time State 4H pole bending champion, a two-time National Junior High Rodeo (NJHR) qualifier in pole bending, and a 2017 National Junior High Rodeo “Short Go” qualifier in pole bending. Last year ,she was ranked NJHR 13th in the world in pole bending.

Maddy Boyd hasn’t come this far on her own — it’s a family affair, and she comes by the sport earnestly, following in the footsteps of her sister, Kassidy, and dad, Scott — both of whom have rodeo careers of their own. Her little brothers, Treyson and Braxton, aren’t far behind either, already entering 4H rodeo events. They help with the horses every weekend the family is out on the road.

“There is so much work and dedication that goes into rodeo. And in order to be successful, the kids have to have a passion for it. It’s not a sport you can ‘just get by’ in,” said Christina Boyd.

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But it’s not just their own kids she and the other parents cheer for on a regular basis. “They are competitive — yet they are rooting for their competitors,” Christina Boyd noted. “You won’t meet any other better people than rodeo families. They just want to see their kids and your kids do what they love and succeed.”

The Housemans of Canby, Minnesota, are just one of the families the Boyds have grown close to over the years. Jenna, 18, Delaney, 14, and Jaryn, 11, are usually hanging out somewhere between the families’ horse trailers and living quarters each weekend.

“When our oldest daughter, Jenna, was five, we bought her two miniature horses,” mom Jessica Houseman told LifeZette. “When she was seven, we bought her a nice ‘grandpa horse’ to trail ride on. At age eight, we did our local 4H county show and she was hooked on the speed events. When she was nine, we found a gaming pony named Radish and we hit the rodeo trail doing Little Britches.”

She added, “We’ve met many wonderful families along the way that took us under their wings and taught us the ropes of rodeo. Almost 10 years later, we are still loving it and still learning.”

“You truly gain a ‘rodeo family’ and will never regret the time, memories, tears and joys you will experience along the trail.”

As a parent, she says one of the biggest lessons the kids can learn through rodeo is how to fail. Having a bad run or not being as fast as the kids’ peers offers them experiences that will serve them well in life.

“Never give up. Even the best in the business have bad runs. It’s not about winning every time — it’s about working hard enough so winning is a possibility,” Jenna Houseman told LifeZette.

She says it also takes a lot of dedication, effort and sacrifice to keep everyone moving forward. The sport is a true family affair, and even the girls, at their young ages — and unlike many of their peers — seem to sincerely relish the time together.

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“Getting to ride amazing animals, getting to see all my rodeo friends and getting to spend time with my sisters in the road — it’s not your average sport,” said Delaney Houseman to LifeZette.

Jenna Houseman echoed those sentiments, adding that her favorite part of the rodeo lifestyle is “getting to spend time traveling and competing with family and friends. The environment at rodeos is something you don’t get to experience in any other sport.”

Rodeo kids have more responsibility than most other athletes. They have to get up before the sun to feed, muck and ride their horses every day.

“If you are new to the sport, there are so many wonderful people ready and willing to help you get started,” explained Jessica Houseman. “You truly gain a ‘rodeo family’ and will never regret the time, memories, tears and joys you will experience along the trail.”

Carly Wilson is a freelance writer and photographer from South Dakota.

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