Come June, we, along with cowboys and cowgirls from all over the world, travel from our small town of Simonton, Texas, to descend on the cowboy concrete jungle that is Will Rogers Memorial Center.

Every year in the middle of June, as the steam rises from the red-hot concrete and the Texas nights still have a cool breeze, our family of four plus three of our favorite ponies saddle up for the haul to the Will Rogers Memorial Center in Fort Worth, Texas.

As I drive through the gate, I immediately feel as if I’ve been transported to the movie lot of a modern-day Western. Weaving my diesel through the throngs of horses and golf carts, I get a sense that I’ve just entered a new world. The cast and crew are hustling about, the forklift operators moving hay, the tractors moving dirt and shavings. Everything is coming together. I feel like the paparazzi looking for a glimpse of John and Beth Dutton. The scene unfolds around me, the swine and cow barns like soundstages and the John Justin Arena as the mainstage, all prepped for the latest episode.

It’s 2023, and the Ranch Sorting National Championships are celebrating their 16th year of cowboy competition. Competitors come from all over for the chance to win that coveted buckle and, of course, the prize money and bragging rights. In 2022, the Cinch RSNC paid out $837,202 in total cash and prize payouts, $280,000 in added cash and prizes, and $110,000 in Cinch bonus money.

For the past eight years, my family has enjoyed the camaraderie and competition this sport has to offer, as well as the priceless time we’ve shared with our two boys.

Our Story

As every parent experiences, we desire to help our boys find their passion. Our youngest son fell in love with baseball early on; however, our oldest son could not seem to find his groove. We tried all the things. Karate, baseball, football, you name it. At the time, he also struggled through junior high school to find a place to fit in. Then, the bullying started. Desperate for a solution, we prayed for a way out.

Changing course 360 degrees, we pulled our kids out of public school and moved to the country. We stumbled upon some land in Simonton and decided to pursue the farm life, which included home-schooling our sons.

At the time, my sister-in-law owned a horse farm and welcomed our son to come ride. He decided to give it a shot, and we saw his eyes light up as he loped that horse around the arena for the first time.

Our first real cowboy friend gave him pointers and lessons, and nature took its course. He quickly became a competitive rider, instinctively knowing how to communicate with the horse. The whole family started to take notice and follow his adventures.


His first horse, “Cody,” probably saved his life. The bond and the time they shared gave him the confidence and strength we knew he so desperately needed. Our son spent hours a day carving a path with Cody in the grass around our newly built home until we could get our riding arena up and running.

We were immediately introduced to the RSNC and were hooked. We noticed right away that this was a family sport. The community is amazing. We also noticed that other, more experienced riders invested in our son and coached him up, wanting to see him succeed.

RSNC quickly became our weekends, and of course, Momma wanted an RV so we could comfortably do the overnights. We traded our two-horse trailer for a four-horse trailer and decided to get serious. We followed all the shows across Texas and went to as many as we could. Our son won the $10K scholarship money at the RSNC show in San Antonio in 2018, which was proof that this hobby was going to stick.

Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and San Antonio were some of our family’s favorite shows, as we could meet up with extended family, which doubled our cheering section! Eventually, our youngest son and our nephew joined in on the competition as well.

RSNC

The RSNC began in 2007 to preserve the heritage and integrity of the ranching lifestyle while providing a family-oriented, competitive riding experience at the grassroots level. With 31,000 members and still growing strong, ranch sorting is one of the most popular equine sports.

Why is ranch sorting so popular? It’s competitive and affordable. Young and old can participate in any level of competition. One of my favorite things about this sport is how everyone rallies around the beginners. The youth class is also a particular favorite, and many skilled riders have emerged from their ranks.

Our first year

Our first year at the World Finals in Fort Worth was so eye-opening. We camped in the main lot with neighbors to the left and right. Our neighbors on the left were from Colorado, and we easily made friends with them and their son, a champion from his state.

Cookouts, music and hang-out time make for a fun family event. Water balloons and golf cart rentals are a must. Bring a cooler, plan on making friends — plan on making LIFELONG friends. Bring running shoes — I got all my steps in on the first day! The seven pens running at a time kept this momma on her toes. Sweet tea and plenty of snacks kept my boys happy. Hundreds of teams mean tons of fun and the chance to reunite with friends every year.

Transportation around the complex could be a minibike from Massimo (a prize for one year), a mini golf cart, a bicycle or a scooter. I honestly wish I had a dime for every cowboy I’ve seen riding a bicycle or a scooter to and from the horse stalls to tack up his horse. I still get a chuckle from it!

Dave Wolfe, president of RSNC, and his family hold the values and represent what the RSNC stands for: good family fun. You’ll also meet other wonderful producers in attendance and find them coaching and encouraging beginners and anyone who looks like they may need it. Everyone is there to win, but they are willing and want to help everyone succeed.

We are hooked!

Our boys are now in college, yet we still visit the concrete jungle every summer. We have perfected the art of concrete camping and are hooked. Familiar smiling faces and the chance to be together as a family will keep us coming every year.

Photo courtesy of Kendall Hotz Photography, Inc

The friends we meet here at the RSNC are like the “Cheers” gang to us. Our boys drive over for a day or two to ride and hang out during their time off. We’ve hosted pizza parties, cooked steaks, had water balloon fights and enjoyed the ever-popular afternoon “porch time” under the awning of our trailer. If you are looking for something to do as a family, this is it. Everyone can participate, from grandbabies to grandparents.

Now

Our youngest will attend college in the fall to play baseball at a small school outside of Dallas, Texas. Our oldest boy has just finished his first year of veterinary school at Texas A&M University. (We’re grateful for that scholarship money!) Yes, the one who struggled to find his way has decided to pursue his DVM.

Who knew that this journey would lead him here? Was it the RSNC? Was it his horse Cody? Was it his family? Was it friends and coaches who encouraged him along the way? Was it plain hard work and daily dedication?

To me, it is proof that God has a plan for all of us. Even through hard times, when it is hard to see it, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Looking back, I would say, don’t be afraid to change course. The 360-degree change made all the difference for my family. I’ll forever be grateful.

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