Meet three sets of brothers and sisters who know what it means to grow up “the cowboy way.”
Having stock to care for and chores to do—along with horseback fun—gives young people and siblings a good perspective on life. They learn to get back on when bucked off, to feed their horses before they eat and to congratulate someone whose time or score beat theirs.
When you add family dynamics to that, it might be challenging if your brother giggles when you get bucked off or you have to shake him awake to help with morning feeding, but the benefits are priceless: someone to dust you off, cheer you on and help get the work done.
We found three sets of siblings who work and compete with horses, and asked them how they handle life together on the ranch, at the rodeo or in the stock horse arena.
Ranching and rodeoing go hand in hand for Madilyn Todd and her two younger brothers, Colter Lee and Travon. From a young age this trio has developed a work ethic and sibling bond that can be seen in the practice pen and on their family’s ranch in Willcox, Arizona, where four generations currently raise cattle and horses, as well as rodeo.
Their father, Colter Todd, is a three-time Wrangler National Finals Rodeo qualifier in team roping with his partner and childhood friend, Cesar de la Cruz. Their mother, Carly, was raised in Cave Creek, Arizona, and is a former all-around champion in the Arizona Junior Rodeo Association and Arizona High School Rodeo Association. She met Colter through rodeo and they married when she was 18 and he was 20.
Carly comes from a ranching family, and her parents own and operate Dynamite Horseman’s Supply in Cave Creek. Colter’s parents, Larrie (“Rooster”) and Lori, moved from Montana to Arizona in the 1980s and started Warbonnet Ranch. Larrie also team ropes and Lori is a barrel racer and two-time Ram National Circuit Finals qualifier.
Now dedicated to ranching and raising their children, Colter and Carly haul their kids to rodeos most weekends and help them practice during the week on top of ranching. Like them, their children have developed a love for the Western lifestyle and horses.
“Madilyn has the most finesse with horses because she’s the oldest and most experienced rider,” says Carly. “But Travon’s timing comes naturally and he doesn’t even know it. Colter Lee is all cowboy and wants to be like his dad.”
What is the first thing you do when you get home from school?
Madilyn: Practice on our horses and do chores. Mom helps us out sometimes by having our horses caught and saddled.
Colter Lee: Sometimes we rope the dummy and have matches.
Travon: I like to go sit on the couch for a while and then go shooting.
Madilyn: He’s the oddball and would rather go hunting.
How are you alike or different as riders?
Madilyn: Travon is a really relaxed rider; he just goes along. Colter Lee is constantly going fast. I’m in-between. I’m usually riding bareback, and Colter Lee has a rope in his hand.
Travon: I’m usually looking on the ground for deer sheds, snakes, whatever I can find.
Colter Lee: I like to rope and lead the goats because I want to someday rope wild cattle.
Madilyn: He’s always begging Dad to let him go rope wild cattle.
What are some of your family traditions?
Colter Lee: Whenever we sit down to eat together we always pray. We like to give thanks to God for all he’s given us. Also, lots of our family rodeos and ranches.
Madilyn: During holidays we have huge family gatherings, like 50 people. We play lots of card games—our family is super-competitive and it gets intense. About everyone in our family has a ranch, and we all have brandings every year. Branding season is like a holiday in our family and we have 50 or 60 people there, too, family and neighbors.
Travon: Sometimes I get to rope at the branding and I’m good at it, and sometimes my horse gets too wound up. I like to hold the calves.
Madilyn: I like to give shots. It looks like you’re doing something but it’s kind of easy.
Colter Lee: I like to rope and have matches to see who can drag the most calves to the fire and pull off the coolest heel shots. Last year, I chucked my loop and heeled a calf; it was fun. I also like wrestling the calves.
Have you started any colts?
Colter Lee: I’m fixing to start my first one. I asked my dad when he started breaking colts and he said 10, and I just turned 10 on June 9.
Travon: I’d rather have a gun in my hand than be on a horse. My favorite things to do are hunt and sleep.
Madilyn: I like to start barrel horses. I have a filly out of one of my mares and I’ll hopefully try to start her. My dad has done most of it because she’s really wild. She was going to be my first one but she bucks, kicks and stuff like that.
What do you like to do while you are in the truck traveling to rodeos?
Colter Lee: I usually go with my dad and now Travon does, too. He likes to look up hound dogs on my dad’s phone and I like to look up wild cattle.
Madilyn: I usually draw or do fancy writing. I also talk to my mom. I like looking up horse tack on the Big Dee’s and NRS websites.
Travon: I’m usually either chewing gum or spitting seeds.
How do you help each other out at rodeos?
Madilyn: I have to saddle, bridle and boot up their horses.
Colton: My brother and me have to fill the hay bags.
Travon: We undo the cinches and put the saddles in the tack room.
Colter Lee: I unsaddle my own horse the most out of me and Travon, because I ride the most. Sometimes I have to help him unsaddle his horse.
What’s the best part of growing up on a ranch?
Madilyn: You don’t have to see anybody if you don’t want to, and we have all of this open space to ride and play. We love to play in a canyon, whether it’s hunting, building forts, making rope swings or crazy stuff like that.
Travon: We have one fort down there that’s so pretty. We don’t have to worry about city people or murderers.
Colter Lee: I like that you get to rope a lot, there’s no traffic and we can drive the Ranger without worrying about having a driver’s license.
What are your future goals?
Travon: I want to move to Montana and have a big ranch and go hunting all the time.
Colter Lee: I’ll probably take over this ranch, and rope.
Madilyn: I really want to rodeo and try to make it to the National Finals Rodeo in barrel racing. I love to be on the road traveling to rodeos.
Colter Lee: I want to do that, too. I want to make it to the NFR in team roping.
To an Etbauer, rodeo and horses are in the blood; just ask brothers Kord and Treg, and sister Jacie Etbauer of Edmond, Oklahoma. They grew up on the road with their father, legendary Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame member and five-time Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association saddle bronc champion Billy Etbauer, and mother, Hollie, a Women’s Professional Rodeo Association barrel racer.
While Billy set PRCA records, and Hollie proved their homebred and trained horses, the siblings became part of an extended rodeo family. Travel gave them new experiences, like sturgeon fishing in Washington, or their favorite, go-cart racing in Dodge City, Kansas. They shared horses and competed in everything from goat tying to mutton busting, always in the matching blue Express Ranches shirts of Billy’s longtime sponsor.
“We weren’t pushing them to do it; they were wanting to do it,” Billy says. “So we saddled their horses up until the point when they were able to saddle. And then it was, ‘If you’re going to do it, go get them saddled.’ ”
Hollie estimates that their combined earnings are $280,000, based on the spiral notebook logs she’s kept.
The siblings were homeschooled and helped with the family’s horse breeding operation, Etbauer Performance Horses. The family has a herd of approximately 65 competition horses, breeding stock and young horses. They stand top performance stallions PC Frosty Bid and Whistle At The Babes, market prospects, and manage a recipient herd for Embryo Transfer Services, a commercial embryo transfer program.
These days, Kord, 21, guides waterfowl hunts with Woodsman Waterfowl and is a videographer and photographer, spending several weeks a year on the road. Jacie, 19, has her WPRA card and rides all day, also helping at the neighbor’s kennel. Treg, 16, has school in the morning, and then ropes and rides with Jacie. All three help with the family’s recipient herd and train young stock.
“Everyone is starting to spread their wings and get out a little bit,” Hollie says. “When they were little we always had everyone with us. Now it seems that when we go it’s just half of us, roping or barrel racing.”
But when you do get them all together, you find they tend to brag on each other’s skills with horses rather than their own, and that it’s Jacie who’ll remember a horse’s registered name. And their best memories are those they made together.
You all share horses, between working, roping and running barrels. Do you ever get frustrated when you get on a horse after someone else has ridden it?
Treg: After Dad I really do. The three of us, I think are all the same [in how we ride]. Dad gets them so light to your leg, we touch them and—phffft—they’re flying that way!
Jacie: We also use each other’s saddles.
Kord: And then you’re playing saddle tag. You go to the trailer and are like, where’s my saddle? Treg has it.
Jacie: I don’t have to worry about my stuff getting stolen. It has sparkles on it.
Who is the most competitive?
Kord: It depends what sport. We have different takes on what we’re super passionate about. Treg’s going to try to not let anyone beat him in the roping. But for Jacie, getting beat in the roping isn’t going to hurt as bad as it would in barrels.
What have your parents stressed to you regarding your horsemanship?
Jacie: Whenever we’re riding, we get harped on for not using your leg. You use as little as you can with your hand, as much as you can with your legs. It keeps your horse light.
Kord: Dad’s really into moving left and right off of leg pressure without having to
touch your reins. So, if you’re opening a gate, he’s yelling, “Use your leg! Stop cranking them around!”
What is one thing you really admire that your folks have taught you?
Kord: Not giving up; you can do anything you want. We’ve always been taught that when you do something, go all at it, don’t be afraid of it, whether it was football, baseball, whatever. I might not be the best, but I’m going to try to be the best.
Treg: Humbleness is a big one, too.
Kord: Yeah, there’s not going to be any throwing your hat if you do good in our arena. Anytime we did good, it was never your first reaction to throw a fist in the air or your hat. It was your first reaction to go and get the next horse ready. Growing up watching Dad, he never did any of that.
Treg: It rubbed off. And, if you throw your hat, you have to buy lunch.
Kord: For a week.
Treg: Or until the next guy throws his hat.
Kord: [pauses] I’ve never thrown my hat.
Treg: I have not either.
Tell me about the horses you learned to ride on.
Jacie: We had good little ponies. They were all super broke and taught us to have really good hands. They’d train you up if you did something wrong.
Treg: Outlaw was ornery. If he didn’t like something that you did, he’d hop up, hit on his front end and duck right out from under you. And he would buck you off—there was no in-between. He bucked off all of us, several times. But it was always your fault if he bucked.
Is there an accomplishment you are especially proud of?
Kord: The horses we ride have been horses that we’ve raised and we’ve broke. Everything Jacie’s running now and Treg’s roping on—those are horses we’ve done the work on ourselves, our family.
Tell me about a family tradition, something the Etbauers always do.
Kord: We don’t take less than 10 horses everywhere we go. The biggest trailer or two trailers.
Treg: I think we always park the farthest out in the parking lot.
Jacie: Yep, so we can put our horses on grass.
Treg: There are all these spots up front and here comes Dad, driving all the way to the back, going, “There’s more grass back here!” Now we have to walk two miles.
What is one thing you admire about your siblings?
Treg: What I really admire about Kord is that he’s always following God and really trying to follow a right road. I really look up to him for that. But Jacie’s the same. I’ve always looked up to both of them that way.
How do you get along so well?
Kord: From the get-go, I knew if I ever hit Jacie I was going to die! It’s respect. Our parents taught us to treat others the way you want to be treated. Not getting along was just not an option for us. I’m thankful for that. We don’t try to push each other’s buttons, either. We help each other out. And we are going to have fun.
The Western Way
For some people, horses are a part of their lives. For others, horses are their lives. It’s definitely the latter with the Bushaw family.
The three boys—Charles Russell, 14, Will James, 11, and 7-year-old Wesley— are cut from the same cloth, although their personalities are different. Russell is the most businesslike of the bunch, while Will is full of laughter. Wesley has a sly grin that makes a person wonder what he’s been up to, or what he’s about to be up to. But when it comes to horses, they’re serious about being successful, all while having fun.
Chad and Amie Bushaw’s sons are following in the footsteps of their dad, who has won all three major National Cutting Horse Association aged events in the non-pro division—the 2001 and 2017 NCHA Futurity, 2008 Super Stakes and 2012 Derby—and tied for the non-pro title in the 2018 NCHA Super Stakes.
Russell has been showing for several years and won the $35,000 Non-Pro title and Junior Youth reserve championship at the 2018 NCHA Eastern Nationals, and took the Junior Youth championship there in 2017. Will first showed when he was just 3, and in 2017 he made the amateur finals at the NCHA Futurity. This year he made the NCHA Super Stakes amateur finals on three horses. Wesley started showing last year. They mostly ride horses that have been bred, raised and trained on the family’s Crown Ranch north of Weatherford, Texas.
For the boys’ parents, living this lifestyle is a dream of sorts. Amie’s family has long been in ranching, and Chad’s family history includes the original Crown Ranch, established by his great-great- grandfather in North Dakota. The ranch brand doesn’t only identify livestock; it symbolizes a family history and enjoyment of the Western way of life.
“Chad and I were very careful not to push the horses on them,” Amie says of the boys. “We’re fortunate that all three of them enjoy the horses.”
“It’s pretty wonderful,” Chad adds. “I couldn’t have scripted it any better, from marrying Amie to being blessed with these three boys. It’s easy to just go ride horses and train cutting horses, but all three of the boys can drive the hay baler and rake hay. We brand all our own, and we’re getting ready to brand 300 to 400 calves in the next couple of weeks. None of them were brought up roping, but by the time we were done branding last year, they had roped and dragged the last 50 to the fire.
“A lot of their friends that they cut with have one brother or sister who shows, and the other one might play baseball or do something else. We appreciate that they’re all interested [in cutting]. That sure could change. But it’s rare to find a family where they’re all passionate about it.”
Whether they’re going out to the barn to ride before school, or packing up to go to a show, the boys have demonstrated a sense of appreciation for their horses and the opportunities they have.
“This Western heritage is about responsibility, work ethic, respect for animals, respect for their fellow man, respect for nature, and for the gifts that God gives us,” Chad says.
What’s it like working with and riding with your brothers?
Russell: It’s fun and crazy at the same time. It’s fun when we all do good, but it’s crazy when we’re all trying to get to the show and get saddled.
Will: It’s kind of fun because you get to ride with your siblings. It’s crazy when you have to get to the show in time, get all your horses worked before you have to show.
What’s the most aggravating thing about traveling to shows with your brothers?
Will: Riding in the truck. We fight over a little bit of everything. Snacks, drinks. But we three all love the game Fortnite. And we watch movies and play games on the way.
What have you learned about winning and losing?
Will: When you lose you try to keep your head up, don’t get mad that you didn’t do good. Just say, “I’m going to show next weekend and maybe I’ll do better then.” When you win, don’t brag. If someone doesn’t do good, you say, “Sorry about your run. Hope you do better next week.”
What’s the best advice you’ve gotten about riding or showing, and who did it come from?
Russell: Don’t fall off.
Will: That’s a pretty good one. It probably came from Dad.
What’s the last thing your dad tells you before you go show?
Russell: He always says, “Show smart and have fun.”
Will: Sometimes he’ll tell us don’t cut this cow, or cut this cow.
Wesley: Keep your eye on the cow.
What’s the funniest thing or strangest thing that has happened when you’ve been hauling or at a show?
Russell: Probably one of the funniest things was when we were at Gonzalez, Texas, at a show. My dad ran over a huge rock and got it jammed underneath the trailer. We had to get a bunch of people to jack the trailer up and pull the rock out.
If you could give advice to somebody else who was going to start showing and riding with their siblings, what’s the best advice you could give?
Will: Keep trying and never give up. If you don’t do good this weekend, there’s always the next weekend and the next show.
Wesley: Have fun. And keep your eye on the cow.
What are your goals for showing or your horsemanship?
Russell: One of my goals is to win the [NCHA] youth world. It’s a cool title to win, everyone’s always trying to win it every year and it’s pretty hard to win. This is my last year in junior youth.
Will: I kind of want to try to win the world, too.
Wesley: I want to win the world, same as them.
Have you made a lot of friends through the horse shows?
Russell: Quite a few of them. It’s cool to have someone to talk to, and talk about your run and their run after you show.
Will: When you’re getting your horse ready, just trotting around, you have friends to talk to. Sometimes if you go to shows that are far away, after you show you can hang out with your friends. After the last show we went and saw a movie.
Who’s the craziest of the three of you?
Russell: Wesley. I don’t really know how to describe it.
Will: Wesley. He can get super hyper.
Wesley: Me. But Russell makes me crazy because he pulls my ear and calls it fish bait.
What’s something about your dad and mom that you admire?
Will: She’s pretty. And he’s good at training horses.
Wesley: He’s good at wrestling.
Who out of the three of you is the most serious?
Who gets ready to ride or show first?
Russell: I do. I’m the only one that doesn’t talk the entire time.
Will: Russell. I like to talk to my friends.
Who’s the last one to get his horse loped down?
Will: I’m socializing.
Wesley: Will, but sometimes it’s me.
Can each of you give one compliment about each other?
Russell: Will’s horse is quite a bit prettier than mine.
Will: [Wesley] has nice fish bait! My horse is pretty, Russell’s is cute.
Wesley: They’re cool.
This article was originally published in the July 2018 issue of Western Horseman.