By: Jolee Jordan
While most teenage boys are thinking about . . . well, girls, hanging with their friends, cars and girls, the Ford boys are pretty well preoccupied with rodeo. For Jackson, 17, and Kashton, 16, nothing beats matching talents against bucking horses every chance you get.
They’ve followed in their dad, Joe’s footsteps. Rodeo is definitely a family sport, with the love of the game passed from generation to generation, but there’s not too many households that can boast of multiple world champions.
The Fords hope to add their names to that short list by winning World Championships offered through the World Champions Rodeo Alliance’s (WCRA) Division Youth (DY) in 2023.
The WCRA recently announced its partnership with the Cinch World Championship Jr. Rodeo (WCJR) to be held in July 2023. The event is hosted at the world famous Lazy E Arena in Guthrie, Oklahoma and will have $200,000 in added prize money for competitors in WCRA DY.
Through this partnership, the WCRA will be recognizing World Champions in every discipline and both their Youth (ages 13-15) and Junior (19 & under) Divisions. World Champions will receive cash bonuses along with prizes and braggin’ rights.
“That’s pretty cool,” Kashton said. He’s the younger brother and rides bareback horses like his dad did. “You get to ride with the best guys and awesome horses [at the Cinch WCJR] so we definitely want to go next year.”
“That would be pretty awesome,” Jackson, the bronc rider of the family, added. He also competes in steer wrestling at high school rodeos.
The boys nominated their efforts at the 2022 edition of the Cinch WCJR through the VRQ (Virtual Rodeo Qualifier) to kick off the new season for WCRA DY. Kashton won both long rounds and the average, eventually finishing second in the sudden death finals. Jackson also placed in both rounds, landing fourth in the average.
Thanks to their nominations, Jackson took the early lead in the race for the 2023 WCRA DY World title in saddle bronc riding while Kashton sits second in the bareback riding.
Both boys say they’ve wanted to compete for as long as they can remember.
“We both wanted to rodeo and Dad wanted us to do two different events so we weren’t competing against each other,” Jackson noted of his choice of events. “Dad asked me if I wanted to try saddle broncs.”
Jackson said he was drawn to the classic event of rodeo due to the longevity of the riders.
“Dad said that bronc riders often compete into their 40’s,” he said. “So, it was something I could do longer.”
After trying it out first while in middle school, Jackson was hooked.
“I just liked it,” he said. “Plus, there’s a lot of saddle bronc riders where I’m from.” The Fords make their home in Sturgis, South Dakota, long known as bronc riding country.
“I wanted to be a bull rider when I was younger,” Kashton admitted. “My folks didn’t like that.”
It sorted itself out, though.
“I wasn’t very good at it,” Kashton laughed.
Their father, Joe Ford, Jr., rode bareback horses; in fact he was a South Dakota High School Champ and made trips to the Finals at the collegiate level as well as the ProRodeo circuit level while competing in the Badlands Circuit.
“That’s getting on a long time ago now,” the elder Ford joked. “The boys grew up around it, of course, but I never wanted to push it on them.”
By the time they hit junior high school, Jackson and Kashton started asking to try it out.
“I helped Kashton because I was a bareback rider too but I really wanted them to learn from current pros,” Ford said. “So we took them to Stace Smith’s Thanksgiving school.”
“Mostly from my dad,” Kashton said of where he learned the trade. “We’ve been able to get on a lot of practice horses and there’s been a lot thrown in along the way.”
Both Kashton and Jackson cite long-time pro Louie Brunson as a big help to their budding careers in the sport.
“We go down to Louie Brunson’s in New Underwood and we get to get on whenever we want,” Kashton said of Brunson’s herd of horses. “That’s pretty awesome.”
“We’ve gone to lots of practices at Louie’s,” Jackson agreed. “And JJ Elshere, he is one of my buddy’s dad; he’s been great.”
The boys have gotten help from and attended schools taught by some of the best in the business including leading PRCA riders Sage Newman and Chase Brooks. “That’s helped a lot,” Jackson said.
The Fords have taken advantage of their great location, attending practices at Gillette College under coach Marvin Garrett (another cowboy who knows something about competing alongside a sibling) and Dickinson State College.
“They get to get on Burch horses at Gillette,” Ford noted. Though he is divorced from the boys’ mother, Marsha, they’ve worked together to give the boys the best opportunities to succeed.
“We’ve invested a lot in having them get on appropriate horses,” he said. “Their mom is really supportive and she’s helped haul them where they needed to be.”
In 2022, Jackson and Kashton have ventured out on the road themselves more.
“In the beginning, it was my brother and one of our parents but this year, it’s mainly been us, maybe with a buddy or two,” Jackson noted.
They have been competing in youth rodeos like National Little Britches and the National High School Rodeo Association for several years but have branched out in 2022 to include the South Dakota Rodeo Association (SDRA), North Dakota Rodeo Association (NDRA), Mid-States Rodeos as well as the Indian National Finals Rodeo (INFR) qualifying events.
So far, they’ve been just as successful against adult competitors with Kashton leading the SDRA standings and Jackson sitting third. Not surprisingly, the boys are ranked 1-2 in the SDRA Rookie of the Year standings.
Both are eyeing their upcoming 18th birthdays and the chance to turn pro.
“I’ll be 18 this winter and I plan to buy my [PRCA] permit,” Jackson said. He has one year left at Sturgis Brown High School and has plans to go on to college. “I don’t know where yet or what I’ll study. Nothing piques my interest right now.”
Kashton is a junior who will homeschool beginning this fall. He plans to accelerate his schooling so that he can graduate with his brother.
He has one plan on his mind at that point.
“Riding bareback horses,” he laughed. When asked what he likes to do for fun when not riding bucking horses, Kashton has a quick reply.
“Ride the spur board, I guess. That’s about all I think about, riding bucking horses.”
It’s clear that both Kashton and Jackson are focused on being the best they can be inside the arena. But it’s the men they’re becoming outside the arena that makes their dad the most proud.
“I try to teach them the things they to know about going down the road and everything that comes with it,” he said. “The thing that makes me the proudest as their dad is when people comment on what good kids they are.”
Nominations for leaderboard positions to the 2023 Cinch WCJR close on June 25, 2023. Competitors can earn their spots at the Cinch WCJR either through the DY Leaderboard, through a series of Qualifying events, or by taking their shot through Open Entry qualifying rounds at the event. The number one competitor on the Leaderboard is automatically seeded into the finals Showdown Round.
For more information on DY, the VRQ, or the 2023 Cinch WCJR, visit https://dy.rodeo.