When 24-year-old Cyle Denison decided to stay home over the summer and circuit rodeo, he made it a goal to go for the Texas Circuit year-end title. And at the midway point of the summer, Denison is in good shape, leading the heading standings with $16,367.32 won on the year.
After getting married in November of 2022, the Iowa, Louisiana, native realized he didn’t qualify for many of the winter ProRodeos. So Denison made the decision to focus on the things at home that would help in his future goals.
“I needed a couple more head horses, and we’ve got a bunch of cows and stuff now, so I haven’t stayed home to work and do all the stuff during the summer that needs to be done in five or six years,” Denison said. “So, I kind of made the executive decision that I was going to stay home and work on my horsepower this summer, work on my roping and just kind of get everything back right before we start next year to give myself the best chance I can.”
The decision to focus on circuit rodeos started with the goal of making sure he qualified for the Ram Texas Circuit Finals Rodeo, but that quickly evolved to the goal of walking away the circuit champion.
“One of my goals when I stayed home this year was just to try to make sure I got in the circuit finals,” Denison explained. “When I had the opportunity to kind of get ahead and stay home, it became one of my goals to try to win the circuit this year so I can at least make sure I have the NFR Open made next year because that’s such a good rodeo.”
Picking the right partners
Denison spent many years partnered up on the circuit front with 2003 NFR heeler Boogie Ray. And being paired up with a been-there-done-that guy taught Denison things he couldn’t have learned from anyone else.
“Roping with Boogie was a really good thing for me,” Denison said. “Especially this year, because that allowed me to just kind of sit back. Before my rookie year, I amateur rodeoed and circuit rodeoed with Boogie, and he taught me a lot and helped me a lot along the way throughout my career. And I don’t really feel like I was in a slump, but kind of at the start of this spring, before everybody left, I felt like I was maybe in a little bit of a slump. But I just told myself, ‘I’m going to stay home, I’m going to head these steers for Boogie and I’m going to get better and learn what I can and pick up what I can from roping with him again.’”
After this year’s Fourth of July, though, Denison decided to switch up partners and paired up with 33-year-old Dustin Davis from Terrell, Texas. Denison’s run with Davis aligns perfectly with his future goals.
“The run with Dustin works out pretty well for me for now,” Denison said. “He doesn’t want to rodeo next year, and he knows my goal is to rodeo next year. So, our partnership is really just until the end of the summer until I can kind of maybe get somebody that I feel comfortable rodeoing with next year. I’d like to have somebody else by October 1, but I’m very confident in roping with Dustin.”
Aside from looking down the road at his future plans, roping with Davis also works out nicely for Denison because of their friendship.
“All the rodeos are west of here a little bit,” Denison explained. “Me being in North Louisiana now, I can go hop on I-20 and run over there to meet Dustin at his and T-Wade’s (Tyler Wade) houses in Terrell. And he’s always got enough horses for us to ride and be able to practice on while I’m over there. So, we get that done pretty regular. We get to practice when I’m over there at his house and it’s fun roping with him. He’s been a really good friend for a long time.”
Though part of Denison’s reason for shifting gears to focus on circuit rodeos was based on horsepower, he sure isn’t lacking in that department. Denison has two main mounts he always calls upon: Beyonce and Gravy.
Denison’s 16-year-old mare SL Dainty Lena, whom he calls Beyonce, has been in his arsenal for at least six years now, and she’s been vital to a lot of his success during that time.
“She’s been an outstanding horse for me,” Denison said. “Over the last couple years, I haven’t been going too much and she’s just kind of lost a step. I guess she’s 16 now, but she’s still solid and I’m looking to ride her a bunch at the winter rodeos. I also plan to utilize her in the smaller, shorter, faster setups over the summer, next year, wherever I can.”
Sanjos Playgun, aka Gravy, is new to Denison’s lineup; he bought the 9-year-old gelding at the end of this spring on the recommendation of 2017 NFR heeler Tyler McKnight. After watching the gray gelding remain solid all day at a jackpot roping with Robert Fea, Denison was convinced. Once he gave Gravy a shot, it was a done deal and the horse went home to Louisiana. Now, Denison looks to use him a lot more in the coming years.
“He was a little bit green when I got him, so I started easing him around at some LRA rodeos in Louisiana,” Denison said. “Then he really started doing good for me when I was taking him over to Mesquite on Saturdays. It got to where the steers were just a little bit slower, and I could score light and go ease him on up there and make confidence-boosting runs for that horse. He’s been a blessing so far. I look to be able to run a lot next year on him.”
Denison’s decision to stay close to home doesn’t mean he’s stayed away from the winner’s circle. In the spring, Denison and Cody Hogan won third in the first round at San Angelo with a 4.0-second run to pocket $3,385 a man.
His biggest weekend, though, came at the beginning of June, when he and Boogie Ray won $4,506 between the Parker County Sheriff’s Posse Frontier Days and PRCA Rodeo (Weatherford, Texas), Johnson County Sheriff’s Posse Rodeo (Cleburne, Texas), Gladewater Round-Up Rodeo (Gladewater, Texas) and the Mesquite Championship Rodeo (Mesquite, Texas).
Having that successful weekend in the Texas Circuit meant a lot to Denison given the big-name Texans were still down in the Lone Star State.
“We did good that week and that’s kind of what got me up into the mix of everybody,” Denison said. “We got the win at Gladewater, and that was pretty important to me because that solidified that I get to rope at Fort Worth for sure next year. So that was something, that was pretty important. Just being able to go that week and place at all those rodeos and do good when everybody was still home, to me that meant that the work I’ve been putting in and long hours and investments of horses and everything else is paying off.”
It’s no secret that Texas is considered unparalleled team roping country, which makes Denison’s lead in the Texas Circuit even more special.
“It’s pretty important to me because like I said, it was one of my goals for myself this year whenever I stayed home, to be able to do that,” Denison. “And it means a lot for a guy’s confidence to be able to go and set a goal and start seeing your hard work pay off towards the accomplishment. But it doesn’t mean you can slack off, though.”
And while that fact alone may scare off some guys, it never stopped the Louisianan from claiming the Texas Circuit instead of the Southeastern.
“Since my rookie year, I’ve never claimed another circuit,” Denison said. “And the reason being, I grew up less than an hour from the Texas state line. Where I live now, I’m about 10 or 15 minutes from the state line, and I can go to an ungodly amount of circuit rodeos in Texas. So, it just makes more sense. And Texas is just team roping country, so if I can’t win in the Texas Circuit, I’m not going to be able to win out there.”