The only timed-event cowboy not from the 805 area code to win in Redding was up-and-comer Stetson Vest. Vest is 2008 World Champion Tie-Down Roper Stran Smith’s nephew. With a Wrangler Jeans ad campaign in magazines before his first Wrangler NFR qualification, the expectations have been set high in his sophomore season.
“Last year was my rookie year, I went pretty good but didn’t get to go to all the building rodeos in the winter,” he said. “This year I’ve had a pretty good, winter. I plan on making my first Wrangler Finals this year, that’s one of my goals. Everyone wants to be a world champion, but I want to get to the Finals this year for sure.”
Part of that early success comes from the confidence of riding a bay horse he calls SportsCenter. In fact, it’s the same horse his uncle Stran won RodeoHouston on earlier this year. However, just before the trip to California from Childress, Texas, SportsCenter came up lame with an abscess and couldn’t make the trip.
“I was actually dreading going out there and taking a backup horse,” Vest said. “But me and Stran and Clif and Tuf all loaded up and drove 1,600 miles and showed up out there to rope.”
Vest’s cousins are Clif and Tuf Cooper. Their rig was broken down, so the veteran uncle took his nephews on a family road trip.
“It was a fun trip with us four in the rig,” Vest said. “We hung out for a couple days in Vegas on the way back. We’re one of a few families that goes and shows up at every rodeo all year and competes.”
Not only do they compete, they win. Vest saddled Juice, the horse he rode in high school and college at Texas Tech where he rodeoed while earning his degree in animal science.
“My first run was a pretty good run and it was, 8.5,” he said. “Then on my next one, I was 8.8. It worked out and my horse worked good. I drew two pretty good calves. My second one they had missed. Stran came up and said, ‘Tie him in under 10 and it’ll be pretty good money.’”
And it was, Redding Rodeo paid him checks worth $3,092 for tying two head in 17.3 seconds. The win bumped him into the top 15 in the world standings. Vest knows winning one rodeo doesn’t give him the chance to rest on his laurels.
“Stran and my granddad, Clifton, we break things down,” Vest said. “He’s always said I roped good, but my flanking and tying have been my biggest things I need to improve. Plus staying consistent and being able to win on the good calves when I draw them.”
When he’s not in Childress with Stran and Clifton, he’s in Decatur, Texas, with Trevor Brazile, Clif and Tuf working on his game in an effort to live up to a lofty family legacy.
“You’ve got to do your own deal and make your own name,” Vest said. “The only way to do that is to perform. There is pressure on me every day, but I get to rope with my family, which is the best, every day in the practice pen.”