Bray Fenoglio hasn’t been riding as long as his peers, but that hasn’t deterred the 18-year-old from climbing the ranks of the WCRA and gathering titles such as the WCRA DY Showcase Team Roping Champion in Fort Worth.
Hailing from Nocona, Texas, Fenoglio wrangled $25,000 in winnings at the Patriot and the Cinch USTRC National Finals on the heel side in 2022 alone.
Fenoglio first set foot in the stirrup when he was 13 years old, putting him years behind many of his peers who started roping before they began elementary school.
A last name like Fenoglio (pronounced fen-OL-ee-oh) could add to the pressure, too, since Fenoglio’s cousins own the Western brand Fenoglio Boot Company, also out of Nocona. Despite his relative inexperience and family name, the Texas teen is as cool as a cucumber.
Currently, Fenoglio has 1,955.75 points and is sitting in the No. 2 spot on the WCRA 2023 DY team roping heeler leaderboard behind Denton Dunning of Surprise, Arizona, who leads with 2,927.5 points. To get there, Fenoglio nominated his Texas High School Rodeo Association Region 3 rodeos and North Texas High School Rodeos. Then, on Jan. 14, 2023, he nominated a THSRA event in Graham, where he and header Conley Kleinhans finished second in the team roping.
His No. 2 heeler status has Fenoglio pointed at the WCRA’s Rodeo Corpus Christi, May 10–13. Then, he’ll head to the WCRA’s World Championship Junior Rodeo July 25–29 in Guthrie, Oklahoma, where $200,000 in added money is up for grabs.
Heeling with Hoverboards
Fenoglio first started showing interest in roping alongside cousin and current heading partner Kleinhans. The team started roping the dummy together in their driveway at 12 years old, even riding hoverboards to get the in-motion aspect.
“They got pretty slick about running a dummy down the driveway and roping him on those hoverboards,” said Fenoglio’s dad, Tony. “They even had these saddle horns that you put on your belt, and they dallied and everything.”
When he was 13, Fenoglio started riding 20-year-old grade gelding Chester. Fenoglio described Chester as a solid citizen that saved him from several accidents that came with being an inexperienced roper.
“Like any low-number roper, you definitely have your setbacks,” Tony said of Fenoglio’s learning process. “You have your good days and your bad, and you have to work through it and figure out why you roped eight out of 10 yesterday and you can’t catch two today.”
A year into heading, Fenoglio made the switch to the heel side.
“I feel like heeling is a lot more exciting,” Fenoglio said. “Heeling is also quite a bit harder than heading for me. [There are] more moving parts and you have more room for error. I always try to take my first confident shot and set my bottom strand on the ground.”
At 15, Fenoglio had gained about a year of heeling experience when he was bumped from a 3 heeler straight to a 5. He took the change in stride and was able to upgrade his horsepower from babysitter to something a little faster.
Bray Fenoglio’s String of Heel Horses
Fenoglio’s current string includes 15-year-old gelding Frosted Dun (Mr Poco Peppy James x Perry Frost) called “Kimbo.”
“Kimbo’s helped me take my heeling to the next level,” Fenoglio said. “He’s got good speed; he stops good and gives me a shot through the corner. Anybody could ride him.”
Rounding out the remuda is 16-year-old gelding Breeze Threw Cash (ER Hot Chex x Miss Two Way Jackie), called “Yellow.” Fenoglio says Yellow is smaller than Kimbo, but better on quicker, fresher steers.
With his two geldings in the trailer, Fenoglio not only advanced to the Texas High School Rodeo State Finals, but he also competed against PRCA giants like reigning World Champions Kaleb Driggers and Junior Nogueira, eight-time World Champion Speed Williams and ProRodeo Hall of Famer Bobby Mote at the WCRA’s 2022 Rodeo Corpus Christi. There, Fenoglio and Kleinhans advanced from a bracket of more than 40 teams to the Showdown Round and earn a total of $3,500.
The WCRA provides these opportunities to up-and-comers through their nomination-based ranking system, so ropers like Fenoglio can qualify for WRCA majors like Rodeo Corpus Christi to compete against the greatest team ropers in the world.
“I like the WCRA because it’s quick, easy and nominating costs money but, if you [get to a WCRA major,] you get back in the end,” Fenoglio said. “And their rodeos are awesome. They have a lot of energy and enthusiasm. They’re cool to be a part of.”