Northern Arizona University student and regional rodeo champion Stade Riggs will be heading to Casper, Wyoming, to compete in the College National Finals Rodeo.
Riggs won the saddle bronc event of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association’s Grand Canyon Regional Championship in April, qualifying to compete in the event during nationals, which takes place June 10-18.
“I’m not really nervous,” he said of the upcoming competition. “I’m going to treat it like the other rodeos. I’m not going to try to change anything that I’m doing."
Riggs has been riding from a young age, inspired by his parents and older brother, who are all involved in the rodeo themselves.
“I was just surrounded by it,” he said.
He began competing in high school and started doing his main event -- saddle bronc riding -- his sophomore year. Before that, he said, it was mostly team roping.
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“I kind of fell in love with the event,” Riggs said of saddle bronc riding. “ ... You get into the rhythm with the horse and the motion that it's bucking with. I think that’s pretty fun.”
The Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association calls saddle bronc riding “rodeo’s classic event.”
A saddle bronc cowboy needs to hold a rein with one hand while trying to stay in the saddle and synchronize with the horse in a fluid movement. Scores for the eight-second ride are split equally between the horse and rider, with judges evaluating aspects such as the horse’s action and the cowboy’s control and spurring.
“My favorite part is the feeling of riding up, covering my animal in my event,” Riggs said. “It’s kind of like the reward for myself. I feel like what I was training for, preparing for, really just paid off when I do ride up.”
To prepare for nationals, he’s been joining as many local events as he can find. The most important thing is to keep spending time on horses.
“I’m participating in local rodeos where I can get on horses, and I’m just making sure that I try to be physically ready as well,” he said.
Riggs is also a fitness wellness major at NAU, a field he said he chose because he wants to contribute to health in his home community of Tuba City.
“Ever since I was small, I’ve loved sport,” he said. “ ... I want to return to my community and give back by promoting physical awareness and physical activity in the community, and promoting that healthy lifestyle with them."
He thanked everyone who had supported him in his rodeo career.
“I’d just like to say thank you to everyone that helped support me throughout the season, that’s helped me on my journey to the College National Finals Rodeo ... everyone that’s behind me that's helping in any way they can,” he said. “It really does mean a lot to me."
More about the finals can be found at cnfr.com.