Buckin’ horses and Bailey Rodeo
North Dakota stock to national events
KARLSRUHE – With 80 bulls and 350 bucking horses to choose from, it still takes a special animal to be selected for the National Finals Rodeo. Yet Bailey Rodeo has become well known on the national scene for producing elite rodeo stock.
“We’ve sent a couple of bulls and bucking horses to the national finals in Las Vegas,” said Shane Gunderson, Bailey Rodeo. “They start with a list of over 700 to pick from in the U.S. so getting there is a pretty good deal.”
Gunderson was part of a group of investors who purchased David Bailey Rodeo out of Oklahoma five years ago and moved it to North Dakota. Bailey Rodeo had been involved in Professional Rodeo for 40 years. Gunderson also purchased a line of bucking horses that were bred by the late Calvin Nelson of Kenmare.
“I had that opportunity to buy them. Thirty-five years of genetics went a long ways,” said Gunderson. “Calvin had sent 17 horses to the national finals before we even started with the Bailey thing.”
With a solid group of foundation mares, Gunderson and Bailey Rodeo were soon raising 20-30 colts a year near Karlsruhe. Today they have about 350 bucking stock on hand.
“You don’t see that many horses much any more,” remarked Gunderson. “We’ve got a pretty good set of horses. That’s what got us to those rodeos, buckin’ horse power. It’s a pretty good deal.”
A top performer in the Bailey Rodeo line-up is H46 Spider, a horse that provides plenty of excitement in the arena and has earned a reputation nationally.
“Good guys can score 85-90 on that horse,” said Gunderson. “He’s not ridden a lot but when they do they win money on him.”
Gunderson estimated Spider tossed his riders about 70% of the times he left the chute.
“He bucks every day of his life and he loves it,” said Gunderson. “Those good horses eat out of a bucket, no different than a saddle horse but they get acquired for their job and actually like it.”
Bailey Rodeo purchases a few horses every year but, said Gunderson, “90% are born and raised right here in North Dakota.”
Bucking horses don’t get introduced to a rider until they are three or four years old, and then just to see how they perform. At five or six years of age they can find themselves at a rodeo arena.
“For pro rodeos they need to be five to six years old, big enough and strong enough,” explained Gunderson. “Spider’s been to the National Finals Rodeo three times. We bought him at 18 years old and he was 23 years old at the NFR.”
While Bailey Rodeo keeps about 80 head of bucking bulls year round, they do not have an extensive breeding program. The reason why is pretty simple.
“We buy most of those bulls because there’s such a surplus in the country,” said Gunderson. “You can buy them cheaper than raising them.”
Bailey Rodeo provides bucking stock for several rodeos in North Dakota, including one of the state’s top arena attractions.
“The Winter Show in Valley City is one of the bigger rodeos we do,” said Gunderson.
Whether or not Bailey Rodeo stock will be called upon once again for the national finals has not yet been determined. The selection of top stock isn’t made until October, several days after the annual Y’s Men’s Rodeo, the circuit finals, in Minot. However, as with many other events, the coronavirus pandemic has been altering a lot of plans.
“They’re still planning on that one,” said Gunderson. “But I know there’s some questions there. The National Finals Rodeo is the first week in December and it is also scheduled to go on but time will tell.”
Included in Bailey Rodeo stops this summer have been Killdeer, Steele and New Town. The latter turned out to be on a date where it was one of only two rodeos held in the U.S. due to coronavirus concerns elsewhere. It turned out to be a perfect opportunity to expose Bailey Rodeo stock to some big names in the business.
“The biggest percentage of good cowboys in the U.S. showed up at the rodeo in New Town,” said Gunderson. “That helps. That’s what gets us stock in the finals.”