DARBY, Montana – Labor Day 2020 held a special meaning for the top 24 bareback riders and 2,100 roaring fans in the tiny town of Darby when the first officially PRCA sanctioned Riggin’ Rally brought its own brand of fireworks to the standing room only crowd in the town that boasts 752 in its entire population.
The Riggin’ Rally is rodeo’s hottest new entity. It brings together the top 24 cowboys on hand-selected bareback horses in a two-round format. In the qualifying round, the top three rides from each of three sections of eight advance to the ‘sudden death’ championship. Scores from the qualifying round are dropped and the championship is decided on just that last ride. Just like bareback riding itself, there’s no safety and all extreme, risky effort.
Tilden Hooper and Kaycee Feild have been in from the very first Riggin’ Rally held on the Steiner Ranch outside of Austin, Texas. When COVID 19 pulled the plug on rodeo back in March, bareback riders had nowhere to go. Both champion riders are helping coach talented, young Rocker Steiner on his dedicated quest for bareback riding gold. The Steiner’s are no strangers to great productions, visionary by nature, and fearless when it’s time to step up and fill a need.
“I thought hosting a bareback riding was a great idea and said so to Tilden,” Bobby Steiner said. “He immediately started calling the cowboys to see if they were interested. Without a single hesitation and not knowing if they were riding for 5 cents or $5,000, they all showed up two weeks later. Sponsors like Hooey and Resistol felt the momentum and got on board. The riders were thrilled with the chance to get on and stunned when we gave those who didn’t make the short round $500 for coming. We didn’t charge an entry fee and never will. It paid $10,000 to win, $2,500 for second and down through five places.”
“What we saw that day was exceptional,” Steiner said. “We used Rocker and Tilden’s practice horses and a few from local contractors like Stace Smith and United Pro Rodeo. The cowboys were fired up like it was the 10th Round of the NFR and didn’t just love the ride but the chance to get together at a slower traveling pace than they’ve ever been used to. They fell into it like a wild family reunion and we all knew that stand-alone bareback riding was here to stay.”
The Yellowstone TV series connection to Steiner’s brought bareback riding to mainstream television last season and cowboys like Kaycee Feild, Tilden Hooper and young Rocker into the homes of fans of the modern day western set in the mountains of Montana. Hosting the first official Riggin’ Rally in the cast’s base camp town of Darby with it’s recently rebuilt, state of the art Darby Rodeo Association arena was a natural fit. The history making event came together in three weeks.
“It’s one thing to have a great contest, but another to have them at destinations that bring a character of their own to the production,” Sid Steiner said. “We’re only limited by our imaginations in where Riggin’ Rally will take us next. Back when we produced rodeos, they were always family affairs first – a reason to get together and enjoy each other and what we do. That will always be at the core of what we do for our fans, the contestants and everybody connected to Riggin’ Rally.”
The day dawned cold and soon turned to driving rain. By performance time, the rain that never had a chance of dampening the spirit of the event had stopped and by the time Orin Larsen went to war for the $10,000 win on Brookman’s Famous Dex (a gelding who turns it up in the mud) it was almost warm.
Every rider gave everything in the effort and not one horse from the roster hand selected from J Bar J, Brookman’s, Fettig Pro Rodeo and Smith Rodeo had an off night. Bob Tallman and Anthony Lucia brought Bruce Ford to the microphone who told the crowd he couldn’t say the date he got on his last bareback bronc because it hadn’t happened yet. Larry Mahan made the trip from Texas to be part of the groundswell happening and J.R. Vezain took part in helping the seasoned announcing talent go a little deeper into the bareback riding than we’ve ever been before.
Like the Xtreme Bronc Matches, a seasonal tour and finals is in the Riggin’ Rally future. The bareback riding has finally arrived.
By Lori O’Harver, Bronc Riding Nation
CLN Community & Event Sponsor