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This year has definitely been one I will never forget. I’ve been rodeoing for 6 years, and always wanted to make the NFR. This year I achieved that dream, and what an experience it was. I realized there’s quite a few things you need to make it. Things like a horse, help from friends, and a little bit of luck.

First, I’m going to give a brief background on my career up to the start of this year. I joined the PRCA in 2010 with big dreams and lots of confidence. Well my first year was a learning experience, I had to lease a horse because I didn’t have one, I had no idea what rodeos to go to, and I was a tiny fish in an ocean full of sharks. So, after that year I learned from my mistakes and moved on. I continued to rodeo, and ended up having a great horse sitting right in front of me that I thought wasn’t good enough at first.

The key to anyone’s success in rodeo is their horsepower, period. I bought a 3 year old gelding in 2006 from Bill Caudle off Sawyer Road right here in Oakdale. I just thought he was a nice colt, but never expected him to be a great one. I trained him the best I knew how while going to college, and he started to get better with time. After my 2010 rookie season, I blew through all my money, and decided that I was going to sell him and move on. I never got him sold, and that was the luckiest thing that ever happened to me. He ended up being the horse I rode from 2011 until now. I’ve won the California Circuit on him 5 times, qualified for the Canadian National Finals, and won several major rodeos on him including Ft. Worth, Greeley, and Sisters. It’s safe to say he’s my best friend, and we’ve been together through the highs and the lows. 

I’ve always been hovering around the NFR finishing in the top 20‘s and 30’s the last few years, but never got over the hump into the top 15. 2015 was rough and I finished lower than the previous year, and was in the low 30’s in the standings. But the best part of 2015 was I got married to my wife Nika in December 2015! It was great, and afterwards we decided she would come with me to the winter rodeos. So, there we were Nika, myself, Ziggy (her dog), Sullivan (our dog), and Trouble (my horse) loaded up and heading to Denver to kick off the season. I roped in Denver to win a small check, and then down to Texas for the rest of the winter.

I arranged for us to stay at a friend’s house in Comanche, TX where I could practice and camp out for the next couple months. We had no idea what we were in store for! I went to a big roping once I got down there and won third. Then made it to the Champions Challenge in Rapid City, SD where I won 4th, then at Ft. Worth, TX … the biggest payday of my life at that point in my career. I placed in the second round, won the short round, and the average at Ft. Worth. I put together over $15,000 there, and went straight to number one in the world. That’s when things changed for me, I had some money and confidence. I went on that winter to win second, and an additional $8,000 at Tucson, AZ. Then I got a phone call saying Clint Cooper hurt himself, and I rolled up in to Houston Rodeo as an alternate. Houston pays $50,000, doesn’t count for the finals, but still what an opportunity?  Houston went great, I made it to the final four, ended up winning second, and pocketing $28,000! I couldn’t believe how great things were going, and the best part was me, my wife, my horse, and the dogs would cruise around to all these places and left with some money.

I came home to Oakdale after Houston and got back to the spring rodeos going on. I went from Red Bluff to Reno which spans from April until the end of June, and put together another $13,000 in winnings which had me at $40,000 at the first of July. Nika stayed home over the month of July because it’s so busy, and I rodeoed with long-time friend Jake Hannum. He just purchased a horse he let me ride occasionally named Red, and I won a lot on him. I won $5,000 over the 4th of July which was just OK. I should’ve won a lot more, and slipped in the standings. I figured I had to get to $70,000 to absolutely guarantee my spot at the finals, so I had time but I needed to keep winning. I was fortunate enough to go to Calgary Stampede in July which was great experience. I won $5,000 there then headed back South to keep rodeoing. I didn’t win anything the second week of July, but the third week I went out Salinas, and won $4,000 which was nice. I was now right at $50,000, and only $10,000 won in July, but I was still plugging away. Then the next week was bad, I let a friend ride Trouble at Grace, Idaho and they got into a freak accident. The next day I’m up at Preston, Idaho, and my horse is crippled. So, I borrowed a friends horse at Preston to win second. Long story short Trouble was out for an entire month! Talk about nerve racking, I was worried. Could I keep winning riding other horses? Is he done forever? Will he be the same? What am I going to ride? I called my friend Jake Hannum, and he said take Red. He had 3 head of horses and he wasn’t using him. I took Red during August and won around $8000 on him which was alright. Now its towards the end of August and I have $58,000 won times ticking, one month left and the seasons over, and I’m not there yet.

I finally get Trouble back at Kennewick, WA the end of August, I ride him that week and win nothing. The next week starts September I go to Walla Walla, WA, Pueblo, CO, and Ellensburg, WA. I have no luck at Walla Walla, WA, and I really wanted things to turn around. I fly to Pueblo, CO and Chase Williams’s mare and win $2500, man did that feel good. I made a good run, won some money, and not I’m knocking on the door of $58,000 very close to qualify. It usually takes somewhere around $60,000 to make it. I fly back to Ellensburg, WA and that’s when things turned around. I drew some good calves, Trouble felt like his old self, and I won about $5,000 there! The announcer said it there, that I had made it, I made the NFR. I was happy because I had $64,000 won, but I wouldn’t believe it until it was over. I went to the next rodeo even hungrier to win, because I hadn’t got to $70,000 yet.

Nika and I went on to the rodeos the rest of the month, stuck it out until the bitter end. I ended up with $67,000 won, 13th in the regular season world standings, and I made it. I couldn’t believe it, I’ve watched guys try and try and never make it, they would buy this and that every year trying to get there. I had one horse that I bought from a friend in Oakdale, I had some friends that I made over the years that stepped in when times were tough, and my wife stay behind me through thick and thin. And yes, my family at home was pulling for me the whole time. I can’t wait to go to the Finals in December, and I can say my dream has come true!

Ryle Smith

Ryle Competing in Tie Down Roping in CHSRA District 5

at the Oakdale Rodeo Grounds

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