Going Pro: Longtime Second Partners Dees & Ashford Rake in Redmond Win in NFR Pursuit
Jr. Dees and Ross Ashford went 5.2 seconds at the 20 High Desert Stampede in Redmond, Oregon, to take the win.
Jr. Dees and Ross Ashford went 5.2 seconds at the High Desert Stampede in Redmond, Oregon, to take the win. Roseanna Sales Photography.
Jr. Dees and Ross Ashford went 5.2 seconds at the High Desert Stampede in Redmond, Oregon, to take the win. Roseanna Sales Photography.

JR Dees and Ross Ashford turned their 2023 luck around in 5.2 seconds at the April 6-8 High Desert Stampede in Redmond, Oregon, to each win $3,751. 

The High Desert Stampede marks the first NFR Playoff Rodeo of the Northwest and, for the 25- and 24-year-olds, it marks a change in what Dees described as bad luck.

“Bad barrier luck, haven’t been heading very good, not drawing great at some places,” said Dees, a two-time NFR qualifier from Aurora, South Dakota. “We just haven’t had any luck go our way. And when we did draw good, we messed up and just kind of have been having heck getting the flow going.”

The Badlands Circuit cowboys got the flow going at slack Wednesday, April 5. They focused on fundamentals and made a run.

“We didn’t really have plans or expectations on that steer,” Dees said. “That morning, every steer was different; everyone kind of got a different go, and it was just a different run for every single team. So, I backed in there and told myself I wasn’t going to do anything out of the ordinary. I was just going to try to see the start and see what happened.”

The steers were fresh, so the guys were hopeful to draw a good one they could capitalize on. And thankfully they were given the opportunity to do so.

“He started really true and stayed the same speed, which gave us a good go at him,” said 2021 NFR qualifier Ashford, from Lott, Texas. “That was the key there. The steers that didn’t start, it was hard to get a good go on them. Honestly, that was really what made it for us. We just drew a really good steer in a herd of steers that were going to be good when they weren’t fresh, but they were hard to read because they were so fresh.”

Dees and Ashford decided to switch things up and lean less on planning and more on feeling.

“We’ve just kind of been going off of our gut feeling,” Dees explained. “If we think we need to ride a horse, we ride them and, if it’s a bad idea, it’s a bad idea. We’re trying to quit planning and thinking about everything so much instead of just kind of roping and letting it play out—seeing how the cards play out.” 


Dees was aboard a 13-year-old gelding he calls Too Short that came from Troy Ashford. And while Too Short suits Dees nicely, he isn’t for everyone.

“He’s really good to rope on, but he’s kind of a one-man horse,” Dees said. “Not just anyone’s going to get on him and make him do what they want. He’s dang sure a one-person-horse, from personality to everything. He’s just really easy for me. He’ll let me rope and keeps everything out in front of me.”

Too Short may not be his normal counterpart, but the atypical gelding allows Dees to only call up his main mount, Dillon, when it’s most important. 

“I’m going to ride him whenever I need to, or at the setups that are good for him,” Dees said of Dillon. “But it’s nice now because I’ve got a couple good head horses. I don’t have to just ride him everywhere. So, I can kind of pick and choose.”

Ashford, on the other hand, was riding one of team roping’s iconic equine athletes. The 2018 Heeling Resistol Rookie of the Year paired up with Remix, the famous 15-year-old gelding originally from Kory Koontz. Travis Graves acquired Remix last year from Koontz and, when Ashford—a good friend of Graves’—was looking for a new mount, Remix was thrown in the mix.

“He told me about one horse he had, and he said, or we could maybe do something on Remix, and I said, ‘Well, I want to ride that horse,’” Ashford said, laughing.  “So, we rode him, and he felt really good, and it was a good deal. I ended up getting him from Travis, and I’ve jackpotted on him quite a bit this winter and took him to some rodeos.”

Compared to Ashford’s other horses, he knew Remix was a better fit for the California run.

“I have a bay that I like a little better at the smaller pens, so I didn’t want to bring him out to California to all these long scores,” Ashford said. “Remix does really good, though, in those spots, too. He’s good all the way around. He’s just really easy.”

Perfect Pairing

The Dees and Ashford partnership may be new in 2023 to the ProRodeo scene but not to the rest of the industry. The pair has roped together at jackpots and as second partners since at least 2019.

“We’ve been second partners for a few years, and we’ve practiced together a lot,” Ashford said. “We’re good friends and we’re good friends with other guys that rope, and so we got to come together in Stephenville and rope together a lot and run a lot of steers together over the years. I think it’d have been fun to rope whenever we were younger, but I think now we’re old enough that I think we’re ready for it. We can take care of business.”

A good partnership takes two with similar goals, and goals could not have lined up better for the pair.

“We’re both on the same page,” Dees said. “We’re 24 and 25 years old, and we don’t have kids. Ross is about to get married but we’re not where we can’t do anything. I’ve had some other guys ask me to rope that rope really, really good, but they have kids and they’re 40 years old. And me and Ross are just kind of more on the same page right now and want the same things. He works at it really hard, I work at it really hard and it makes a big difference.”

The team will head to Logandale, Nevada, next for the Clark County Fair & Rodeo. For Dees, the rest of the year is full of excitement. 

“I’m pumped,” Dees exclaimed. “Ross and I, we both claim the Badlands Circuit, so we’re going try to clinch the circuit finals; we’re going to try to make sure we make that. And then, we’re going to rope all year and hopefully for a few years—who knows how long—but we’re going to rope for a while. And we’re just going to try to build a run together and try to make it.”

Getting the Redmond win sets the pair up nicely for the remainer of the Spring run.

“We also ended up winning the second round at Oakdale, so hopefully we can compromise on the rest of this California trip and have a good run and get ourselves in a good spot for the rest of the year,” Ashford said. “I think that doing good at Redmond, you can’t start your California trip any better. That helps us out a lot.”

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