Dustin Bird isn't trying to set the rodeo world on fire this year. He's got two boys to raise, more cattle than he'll admit, and a place to build in Arizona. Nebraska's Levi Tyan has a ranch to run, too. But watching them shatter the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo arena record with a 3.5-second run Feb. 11, you wouldn't know that rodeoing isn't either man's full-time gig.
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Coleman Proctor and Billie Jack Saebens had the fast time of the rodeo at 3.7 seconds back in 2017. That same year, Proctor and Saebens went on to capture the San Antonio Rodeo crown and qualify for the NFR.
Now, five-time NFR header Bird of Cut Bank, Montana and Tyan from Wallace, Nebraska are hoping for similar results after their run worth $2,500 in Round 2 of Bracket 3. They roped together in San Antonio for the very first time, after Bird, who winters outside of Wickenburg, Arizona, qualified for the winter rodeos on the heels of his 2019 Cheyenne Frontier Days win. Tyan, who is just circuit rodeoing this year while ranching in Nebraska, made the San Antonio cut thanks to a placing at the Denver qualifier and checks in the average and a round at Billings.
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Their outing in the first round of their set didn’t go well, and they came up empty. But with everything to gain in the second round, Bird opted for a horse change that he knew had the potential to pay dividends.
Bird got back on Yahtzee, the gray gelding now owned by Kaleb Driggers, who Driggers rode just a few steers later. Registered with the AQHA as Bar Z Nickel Olena, Trevor Brazile bought the unassuming gray as a heel horse, and then sold him to future Cheyenne Frontier Days Champion and businessman Brandon Webb. Webb sold the horse to Driggers, who then won the first $100,000 at the 2014 RFD-TV's The American on him. Driggers eventually sold him to Bird, but when Bird backed off his rodeo schedule to build a family after riding Yahtzee at the 2017 NFR, Driggers bought back the horse—jam-up and honest in small set-ups.
"One thing that makes him so effective and so easy in those setups is he leaves off your hand," Driggers, who estimates that he's won close to $400,000 on Yahtzee, said. "He's flat and easy to rope on and then also uses his feet really well to make them legal fast and get finished.
"Dustin is one of my best friends. I was just in his wedding a few weeks ago. With him coming in from Arizona, it just made sense that he rode Yahtzee,” Driggers continued.
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For Tyan's part, he knew what the plan was going to be.
"We knew we had a pretty good steer from the night before, when Clay Smith and Jade Corkill had him," Tyan said. "He kind of popped his head up when Clay had him and he waved it off of him. He's straight and honest and just a good steer. I knew Dustin had owned that horse, and with the set up, it's real fast this year. He said he'd get on the gray because he's real easy to be fast on, so I knew his game plan. We were up earlier last night, so I knew we'd be going at them."
Tyan was aboard an 8-year-old gray he calls Pepper. Despite being half Yahtzee's age, Pepper didn't miss a beat on the switch and let Tyan clean the run up easily on the back side.
"I just bought that horse two years ago this spring," Tyan explained. "I saw a kid riding him at a jackpot at home, and he was kind of green. He's 7 or 8 this year, and I just used him last summer. He got pretty solid. He's a special horse. I've never had one that stays as free and pushes through the corner like he does but hits the ground as fast as he does. The first one at the Denver qualifier he didn't even see the steer but I hadn't rode him. He sharpened up real fast and came back to the horse I knew he was."
Bird and Tyan will have their third steer on Wednesday night and are in good position to be back in San Antonio next week for the Semifinals. In the meantime, Bird will head back to Arizona for some Indian rodeos and La Fiesta de Los Vaqueros (as well as all the great jackpots surrounding it) next week, while Tyan will go back to Nebraska to help on the family ranch before the Semifinals at San Antonio's tournament-style rodeo.
Bird is outside this year's top 50, while Tyan has $7,352.80 to sit 11th in the ProRodeo world standings so far. Both Bird and Tyan plan to rodeo in their respective circuits in 2020, but a big hit upward of $20,000 at one of the winter's largest rodeos can change a lot of plans in a hurry. TRJ
Susan Kanode contributed to this reporting.
Full Results (IN PROGRESS):
First round: 1. Chad Masters/Wesley Thorp, 5.2 seconds, $2,500 each; 2. (tie) Kolton Schmidt/Hunter Koch and Garett Chick/Walt Woodard, 5.5, $1,625 each; 4. Paul David Tierney/Cody Doescher, 5.8, $750. Second round: 1. Chad Masters/Wesley Thorp, 3.9 seconds, $2,500 each; 2. Steven Duby/Jason Duby, 4.2, $2,000; 3. Brandon Webb/Kasper Roy, 4.6, $1,250; 4. Aaron Tsinigine/Kyle Lockett, 4.9, $750. Third round: 1. Kolton Schmidt/Hunter Koch, 3.7 seconds, $2,500 each; 2. (tie) Clay Tryan/Jake Long and Bubba Buckaloo/Cole Davison, 4.1, $1,625 each; 4. Paul David Tierney/Cody Doescher, 4.5, $750. Semifinals qualifiers: 1. Chad Masters/Wesley Thorp, $5,000 each; 2. Kolton Schmidt/Hunter Koch, $4,125; 3. Steven Duby/Justin Duby, $2,000; 4. Bubba Buckaloo/Cole Davison, $1,625.
First round: 1. (tie) Coleman Proctor/Ryan Motes and Cody Snow/Paul Eaves, 4.2 seconds, $2,250 each; 3. Jake Cooper/Caleb Anderson, 4.5, $1,250; 4. Quisto Lopez/B.J. Dugger, 5.2, $750. Second round: 1. (tie) Coleman Proctor/Ryan Motes and Garrett Rogers/Jake Minor, 3.9 seconds, $2,225 each; 3. Jake Cooper/Caleb Anderson, 4.2, $1,250; 4. Quisto Lopez/B.J. Dugger, 4.3, $750. Third round: 1. Riley Minor/Brady Minor, 4.2 seconds, $2,500 each; 2. Spencer Mitchell/Cesar de la Cruz, 6.5, $2,000; 3. Bradley Massey/Britt Bockius, 9.4, $1,250; 4. Cody Snow/Paul Eaves, 9.7, $750. Semifinals qualifiers: 1. Coleman Proctor/Ryan Motes, $4,500 each; 2. Cody Snow/Paul Eaves, $3,000; 3. Jake Cooper/Caleb Anderson, $2,500; 4. Riley Minor/Brady Minor, $2,500.
First round: 1. Jeff Flenniken/Tyler Worley, 4.2 seconds, $2,500; 2. Ty Blasingame/Brandon Bates, 4.2, $2,000; 3. Dustin Egusquiza/Travis Graves, 9.1, $1,250; no other qualified runs. Second round: 1. Dustin Bird/Levi Tyan, 3.5 seconds, $2,500 each; 2. Dustin Egusquiza/ Travis Graves, 4.1, $2,000; 3. Jeff Flenniken/Tyler Worley, 4.6, $1,250; 4. Jr. Dees/Lane Siggins, 6.7, $750.