Flenniken and Minor, who are friends and neighbors in Idaho, also roped together in 2018 and 2022, narrowly missing the 2018 NFR (both at No. 17) but seizing the 2021 Columbia River Circuit Finals championship. This time, starting off the year with a circuit finals win will be a great way to get the ball rolling on their 2024 season together.
“We were pretty excited about it because it’s always a good chance to make money” said two-time NFR heeler Minor, 31. “We’ve been practicing a lot together and we were just really wanting to do good and make it to the [NFR Open].”
For 2020 NFR header Flenniken, 27, whose father and grandfather both were successful in the circuit, the ticket to the NFR Open is huge.
“If a guy can do good and get to the NFR Open, that’s a game changer,” Flenniken said. “I knew that I didn’t really have a chance to win the year-end, so I thought if me and Jake could make [the NFR Open] and have a good winter, I think that would help because Jake didn’t get into the best winter rodeos. Getting to go there is huge.”
In the first round, Oct. 19, Flenniken and Minor had a steer that had some tricks to him.
“When we got up to him, he kind of went left and then right and kind of tried setting up, and we were lucky to get by that one,” Minor said. “We weren’t very fast. We just caught him, and we were lucky he didn’t stop.”
They were fourth in the round with a 6.6 for $538 a man.
As the fourth-to-last team to rope in the second round, the team noticed there hadn’t been many successful runs. Minor fell short a leg, but because the rodeo fell apart, their 12.3-second run won them third in the round for $1,076 each.
By Round 3, only two teams had caught two steers, and Flenniken and Minor were one of them. They drew one of the best steers in the herd and were third in the round with a 5.3 for $1,076 a man. With a 24.2 on three steers, they won the average and both pocketed $3,228.
Flenniken cracked out a new horse at the circuit finals—a barrel horse of his wife Savannah’s. When the barrels weren’t working out a year ago, they decided to see how he’d fare as a rope horse. And even though he’s kind of green—Redmond was his first rodeo—Flenniken believes he may be something special.
“He is probably the best horse I’ve ever had,” Flenniken said. “I feel like I rope better on him than anything else I’ve ever had.
Minor was back on an old faithful he’d heeled on behind Flenniken in 2018 that he sold to MLB pitcher Madison Bumgarner in 2020. But with his main mount needing time off, Minor bought the 14-year-old gelding back.
“I kind of just have one horse that I’ve been rodeoing on, and he needed a couple months off,” Minor said. “I bought that horse back and I’ve done pretty good on him since I got him back. The other day I won the open roping at Reno at the ACTRA Finals. I figure I won $20,000 on him so far since I got him back In August. He’s a good horse, and I was glad to get him back.”
Flenniken and Minor have been practicing a run that allows Minor to throw fast.
“It’s kind of the plan we make: set him up, get control of the run and let him heel fast,” Flenniken explained. “We’ve been practicing quite a bit, trying to make a run that we can make consistently. And I feel like we can catch quite a bit now. I think it’s going to get faster and faster.”
As for the new year, Flenniken and Minor plan to just see how things go. Though Minor didn’t get into the major winter rodeos like Houston, they still hope for a strong winter going where they can. They also look toward the NFR Open to make a difference in their year.
“It’s a great chance to win a lot of money, and it’s a great rodeo,” Minor said. “It’s kind of cool, too, that everybody doesn’t have a chance to go there. You always hear of someone winning a lot of money, $20,000 or $25,000, there, and that could be a huge help in the season.”