Thicker than water: Family members qualify to compete at rodeo in Minot, ND

Badlands Circuit Finals Rodeo
Farm Forum

MINOT, N.D. — Blood is thicker than water, they say, and horses and rodeo is thicker than most ... or at least stronger in holding family members together.

Among the 113 cowboys and cowgirls competing at the 2020 RAM Badlands Circuit Finals in Minot, there are six groups of family members: brothers, fathers and sons, a cousin, nephew and uncle, and husband and wife.

For bull riding brothers Ardie and Corey Maier of Timber Lake, S.D., they’ve been traveling to rodeos together, along with younger brother Rorey, for all of their adult lives.

Brothers don’t mince words, Corey said, noting they spur each other on to a higher level of competition. Brothers “aren’t going to let you get lazy on the road,” he said. “They hold you to a higher standard. If you don’t ride up to par, you’re going to hear about it.”

The brothers are very competitive, especially with each other. “You’re always going to try to outride them,” he said. “You darn sure don’t want to win second anytime, but with a brother, you definitely don’t want to end up second to your brother.”

Ardie, who is 40, has qualified for the Badlands Circuit Finals at least eight times and the Texas Circuit Finals a couple of times. The brothers lived together in Brock, Texas, for a few years. Corey, who is 35, has been to the Badlands Circuit Finals six times.

Another brother team comes into Minot in first place in their event.

Brothers Tucker and Cooper White of Hershey, Neb., team rope together. They’re having the best season of their rodeo careers, having cemented their lead with wins at Fourth of July circuit rodeos.

Tucker, who is 27, and Cooper, who is four years younger, roped together as kids and fought like kids do. Now they may argue, but it ends when they’re in the arena. “We can dicker back and forth, but when the gates crack, we both see blood,” Cooper said. “When you win with your brother, it’s pretty special.”

Tucker is a graduate of Hastings (Neb.) College. Cooper is in his last year of college at Otero Junior College in La Junta, Colo.

It’s a father/son duo for steer wrestlers Jason and Riley Reiss.

Jason has competed at about a dozen circuit finals, he estimates, and son Riley has traveled with him since he was a kid, and has learned from his dad. “It’s good traveling with Riley because he takes everything in, and he learns,” Jason said. “He’s been traveling with me since he could walk, and he loves it.”

Last year, the two traveled together a lot, competing at North Dakota Rodeo Association rodeos, and finishing the year as champion (Jason) and reserve champion (Riley). This year, Riley didn’t go to as many NDRA rodeos because he was competing in college rodeos. He’s in his second year at Laramie County Community College in Cheyenne, Wyo., studying business and entrepreneurship. If Jason is around, he hazes for his son. “I’m really comfortable with him (as a hazer),” Riley said. “He’s hazed more steers for me than anyone else.”

The entire Reiss clan will make the trip from Manning, N.D., to Minot: Jason’s wife (and Riley’s mother) Tina, their older daughter and her three daughters. The hotel swimming pool is a big draw, Jason said. The granddaughters “can’t wait to go.”

Team ropers Jade Nelson, his dad Tim Nelson, and Jake Nelson, Jade’s cousin and Tim’s nephew, will also be in Minot. Jade and Tim hail from Midland, S.D.; Jake is from Creighton, S.D.

Jake will team rope with his uncle; Jade will rope with Jade Schmidt.

Family is a great encouragement, Jake said. “We damn sure cheer each other on,” he said, “and hang out together. It’s a nice vacation for all of us.” Jake and his wife Trista have three daughters, ages 11, 6 and 4, “so we spend a lot of time at the pool.” Tim’s wife Denise will also be at circuit finals.

Other family members competing together in Minot Oct. 9-11 include father and son J.B. and Eli Lord of Sturgis, S.D., both in the team roping and Eli in the steer wrestling; and husband and wife Matt and Kristen Zancanella of Aurora, S.D., he in the team roping and she in the barrel racing.

The Minot Y’s Men’s Rodeo hosts the Badlands Circuit Finals Rodeo Oct. 9-11 at the State Fair Center in Minot. Performances begin at 7 p.m. on Oct. 9, at 6 p.m. on Oct. 10, and at 1:30 p.m. on Oct. 11. The Sunday matinee is Military Appreciation and First Responders Day, sponsored by EPIC Cos., Spicy Pie, Bud Light, Pepsi and the North Dakota State Fair. Discounted tickets are available at Spicy Pie in Minot.

More information and tickets are available online at

Eli Lord, left, and his dad, J.B., will both compete at the Minot Y’s Men’s Rodeo Oct. 9-11. The men, both from Sturgis, S.D., are perennial competitors at the rodeo.
Brothers Cooper, left, and Tucker White will team rope together at the 66th annual Minot Y’s Men’s Rodeo. The Nebraska men enter the rodeo in first place in the Badlands Circuit standings.