Jeff Flenniken, of Caldwell, Idaho, is no stranger to the No.1 position in the Columbia River Circuit standings as a two-time regular season circuit leader, and he recently took a $314.06 lead in the region on Riley Minor.
Flenniken, 25, teamed up with six-time NFR qualifier Russell Cardoza to compete in the Columbia River Circuit. The team placed second at the Cle Elum (Washington) Roundup with an 8.0-second run, worth $761 each, which moved Flenniken to No.1 in the circuit heading standings with $7,819.14 in season earnings.
“It honestly was a pretty bad run,” Flenniken said. “Right when I headed the steer, he stepped back to the right, and I got my hand in [my dally]. I almost cut my thumb off. It cut it deep. We should have won the rodeo easily, but I couldn’t find my dally, finally got it and he heeled him. I hadn’t done that in a long time, but it scared me bad.”
Flenniken teamed up with Cardoza, who was heeling for Brandon Beers, through a simple text message.
“I texted Russell and said, ‘Can we start at Joseph, please?’ and he texted me his card number. So that’s pretty much how that went.”
What made the partnership with Cardoza even sweeter was that Flenniken wouldn’t have to have a partner swap at the Columbia River Circuit Finals.
In 2020, Flenniken was leading the circuit standings, but had to pick up a partner since his regular season partner, Tyler Worley, did not designate the Columbia River Circuit.
“I thought I was going to win it, and I missed them both at the circuit finals,” said Flenniken, who qualified to his first Wrangler NFR in 2020. “I feel like roping with Russell this year, we’re going to have a really good run. I think we’re going to have a good chance on winning it.”
Flenniken’s focus for the 2021 Pro Rodeo season is to stay close to home and circuit rodeo, with one of the reasons being that he sold his good horse, Sherwood, the horse he made the 2020 NFR on, to Kaleb Driggers.
“You kind of need something that you’re confident in and I didn’t have anything else,” Flenniken said. “I figured it’s not really that good of an idea to go. I don’t have Worley, and I don’t have my good horse.”
Flennkin isn’t afoot though, after purchasing two young horses from a ranch in Jordan Valley.
“They have just been jackpotted on,” he said. “I’ve been taking them to all of the amateur rodeos that I can take them to, just to get them seasoned and ready for next year. I figured I might as well stay home and season them.”
Flenniken, having won the Resistol Rookie Heading Title in 2018 and qualifying for his first-ever Wrangler NFR appearance in 2020, is content with his decision to stay close to home.
“The Rookie is huge for up and coming [ropers]. It helps a lot and getting to have that buckle is awesome. You only get one chance to do it.
“I always wanted to make the Finals, but I like being home a lot. It was awesome to rope with Worley, but it’s hard to rope with somebody that’s in Texas. I would have stayed and rodeoed, but I didn’t really want to. He knew that. I really wanted to make it one time and just come back to Idaho.”
Flenniken is still working on his heading in case he does decide to crack back out.
“I’ve been cocking my rope and trying to get sharper and faster. That’s what I felt like with this year, I didn’t have the horse to be fast as I need to be and I felt like I needed to gain some ground before I go back. I feel a step behind.”
For now, Flenniken is staying hooked in the Columbia River Circuit and local amateur rodeos, owning cows and helping his mom and stepdad’s gravel truck business.
“I am satisfied,” he said. “I love roping and it’s my favorite thing. I enjoy being home. It was a dream come true to make the finals. I don’t know if I’ll try it again for sure, but I’m satisfied with it. If I do good in the winter next year, I’ll rodeo again.”