Columbia River Circuit header Jeff Flenniken won the 2018 Resistol Rookie Heading title.

Idaho’s Jeff Flenniken ended the 2018 regular season on a high note. He finished the season sitting 17th in the PRCA World standings, and he did manage to stay in the driver’s seat in the Resistol Rookie standings with $61,825.58. He has also qualified for the Columbia River Circuit finals, sitting fourth in the circuit with $18,979.81.

Kaitlin Gustave: How does it feel to have won the Resistol Rookie of the Year Heading title?

Jeff Flenniken: It was a long year. Back and forth with Brenten (Hall) all year was pretty stressful. It’s pretty exciting to accomplish that. It’s been a dream forever.

KG: What were your goals going into this season?

JF: For sure I wanted to make the Finals, but to win Rookie was the goal also.

KG: You just fell short of making the Finals. Going into that last weekend, what were your thoughts?

JF: I was nervous about it. We were close the whole time, but I didn’t think that we had a super good chance after we went to California. I feel many different ways about it, where you feel like you have a chance, but I don’t know.

KG: What was your biggest win?

JF: Probably San Juan (Capistrano, California). That’s the biggest thing that I’ve ever won—it was pretty crazy. We were one of the first teams to go and we took the lead and I thought that there was no way that we could win it. The best teams in the world still had to go. It was super exciting, and I was super blessed to win that and be in that position. When you go into the arena and take your picture—it was an amazing feeling.

Jeff Flenniken battled all season long with his partner Jake Minor. 

Jeff Flenniken battled all season long with his partner Jake Minor. 

KG: Did you get into any slumps?

JF: Oh man, those were actually pretty hard on me—the ups and downs. It was my first year rodeoing so I didn’t really know how to handle it. I just tried to realize that whatever happens, happens for a reason. I just honestly tried to pray a lot, as much as I could, all day every day. It was the only thing that would keep me from just like freaking out. I just tried to have peace of mind about those things all the time. Like, if I would break the barrier for a lot of money or miss one, I already feel okay. It’s hard to explain it but it’s hard for me.

KG: Were there any of the pros that helped you out this year?

JF: I talk to Junior (Nogueira) every day and we pray together. In the mornings we talk, and he explains things to me that I don’t understand. Every day we talk on the phone and he helps me with everything—in rodeo and outside of rodeo. It’s so hard when you’re rodeoing all the time and you’re never home, you get to where you start putting rodeo first in everything you do and your whole mind's in it. So when you lose it just tears you apart and you keep losing and spend money—it’s tough on your mind. I learned a lot this year about just trying to stay level.

KG: Who was in your support team?

JF: My mom and my grandpa. I called them both 100 times this summer and said I’m going to quit, and this isn’t what I’m supposed to do. My mom drove me all the way to Cheyenne (Wyoming) from Joseph, Oregon and I broke the barrier in the short round. I wanted to like freak out. I was so disappointed. I wanted to quit right there and go home. They have helped me with everything—always there for me with whatever I need.

KG: How was rodeoing with Jake Minor?

JF: I actually started out the winter with Bucky (Campbell) and we didn’t really do any good. I started roping with Jake in the spring. We both stayed at Cory's (Petska) this winter and practiced together. He was roping with Dustin Bird this winter, and it wasn’t going very well and he asked me if I wanted to rope in California and try it. We did and had some luck, so we decided to rope for the rest of the year.

Flenniken spinning one for Bucky Campbell this winter. 

Flenniken spinning one for Bucky Campbell this winter. 

KG: Who did all the entering?

JF: Jake did.

KG: What horses did you ride throughout the year?

JF: I rode a black horse most of the year that I got from one of my friends. I bought a bay horse form the McFarlands. He’s related to that bay horse that Brandon Beers rode and the horse that Kaleb Driggers had that Colby Lovell made the Finals on, Annie, he’s related to her also. My black horse started getting sore. He had some issues in his right front and I wasn’t going to get to ride him as much and he was the only horse that I had. I had talked to my mom and my grandpa and told them that I was going to get another horse. I’ve always wanted one of those horses from the McFarlands. I’ve seen this horse a lot. He was kind of green for the last few years. They just amateur rodeoed on him a little bit. Colby Lovell was supposed to come try him after the BFI and I called, and he said that Colby was coming to try him. Then he called me and said, ‘he hasn’t come yet so if you want to try him, you’re welcome to.’ And I did. So, I ended up buying him and rode him quite a bit this year. Then when we went to San Juan (Capistrano) we had some rodeos up in Kennewick (Washington) and Coeur D’Alene (Idaho), so we sent Steven Duby’s horse to San Juan and he rode my bay in the north. I rode his horse at San Juan and Pendleton (Oregon). He won Pendleton on that roan last year. I didn’t really know what my horses would be on the grass. But those were the only two places that I rode his.

KG: What are your goals for the future? Do you think you’re going to stick with it?

JF: Oh yeah, for sure. Jake and I are talking about roping again a little bit. I’ve talked to some other guys about it. I haven’t really decided yet. I’m just going to wait until this winter. Jake and I got into that Boyd Gaming deal. We both go to Cory Petska’s in the winter and rope with him so we’re going to go down there and practice with him and see how things go—jackpot.

KG: What was the best advice that you received throughout this year?

JF: Probably, the way that Junior explains it to me: It matters but it doesn’t. I don’t know how he worded it but it completely changed the way I look at it. It made me like it a lot more because it didn’t control me as much as it did when I started. He said that it’s what we love so we let it control us but really it doesn’t matter. We do this for one reason. 

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