By Angie McDonnell
Invited to compete in the rodeo at The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth, Rhett Fanning, son of Andi and Jason Fanning, found himself surrounded by the best in the nation.
It all began back in May of this year, Fanning submitted his application to be considered. After his required criteria was reviewed he received the news that he had officially been invited to perform on July 8 in the novice saddle bronc riding at the Calgary Stampede Rodeo.
He then made the trip to Alberta, Canada. On the morning of July 8 Fanning walked out, behind the chutes, to see the enormous grandstands setup, holding what looked to be very few people. A friend of his told him to wait until the later performance, claiming the stands would be filled to the brim. In disbelief, Fanning climbed on to the back of his first drawn horse, Xtremely Frisky. Following his nod and an eight second ride, he acquired a score of 67 points.
Later that day, his preparations for his second ride began inside the locker rooms. Fanning scanned the room. Amongst him were those who sit high in the world standings. Richmond “Richie” Champion, professional bareback rider, and Jake Watson, professional saddle bronc rider, happened to be sitting right next to him. Taking in the moment, he reminded himself that he must treat this experience like any other rodeo and not get caught up in who was surrounding him, thinking of them as just other guys. Looking back, he relates to the situation, “It’s kind of like that saying ‘Practice until your idols become your rivals’.”
Fanning eventually returned to the back of the bucking chutes for his second ride. In complete awe, he observed the grandstands filled to the max, just like his friend had mentioned. An estimated 40,000 people found themselves attending the Calgary Stampede that day.
Fanning was unable to meet the eight second requirement on his second drawn horse, Zeatin Walls. He explains the ride, “I drew a good horse, started good, relaxed for half a second, and I paid for it.”
At the end of the day, despite being bucked off, Fanning ended up winning the day with his 67 point score being the highest. He finished third in the first go and missed making it back to finals, but managed to bring home a check. “Being on that caliber of horses and with those guys,” Fanning appreciates the, “Stepping stone for my career.”
He has made many other steps in his rodeo career including being a part of the Gillette, Wyo. college rodeo team. As part of the team, he competed in saddle bronc, team roping, and calf roping. Coming into the 2017 spring season he was sitting within the top ten in saddle bronc in his region. The season continued to go well as he drew good horses and rode good.
At the end of the season the top three individuals in each event automatically qualify for the College National Finals Rodeo. Fanning trailed behind the third position by ten points. However, through the men’s points team, who sat second in the region, he qualified for the CNFR in Casper, Wyo. June 11-17 in saddle bronc. Fanning had some tough luck and an issue with his saddle, missing out all three of his horses and his chance to come back at least top five in the nation. Even though the results weren’t what he wanted, Fanning had underwent an amazing experience. He plans to return to Gillette in the fall on his rodeo scholarship.
Since college rodeo has finished and for the rest of summer, Fanning has and will continue to compete in numerous amateur rodeos and a few pro, traveling to various places in South Dakota, Nebraska, and Montana. He currently is sitting second in the SDRA, sixth in the NRCA, and eight in the NFRA saddle bronc riding standings. Riding like he should, he has found much success, bringing home valued experience and several checks.
With so much to be thankful for, Fanning claims he owes his success to, “Family always behind me, hard work, and my coach, Marvin Garrett.” Garrett is believed to be big in Fanning’s progress in his career. Hard work and an open mind will always be on his side as long as he allows it to be and a world of endless opportunities awaits.