Somewhere out there is a photograph of Stace and Sheila Smith taken at their first ProRodeo as PRCA stock contractors in Goliad, Texas in which Sheila is holding their young son, Riggin, in her arms.
Flash forward two decades to the final Sunday of the 2023 edition of the Goliad County Fair and Rodeo and now-twenty-year-old Riggin is running the show on behalf of Stace Smith Pro Rodeos.
“I was nervous as could be,” Smith admitted with a laugh. “Once that gate opened on the first horse, I knew we’d be good but being back there during the opening, timing off the videos, sending the girls with the flags . . . I had so many notes on one piece of paper!”
At the end of the performance, Smith took a look at the total production time and found it was right in line with the previous performances, which ran under the direction of Stace Smith Pro Rodeos’ General Manager Cody Kidd.
“I looked at the time and thought, ‘heck ya!’ It was the same as Cody,” Smith said. “It was great to have the first time be in Goliad. That committee is super supportive and down to help.”
Ten days later in Huntsville, Texas, Smith ran his second solo performance, giving his dad and Kidd the day off.
“It was a piece of cake,” he joked.
Clearly, the younger Smith is primed to continue the legacy begun by his father, which has included tying Harry Vold for the most all-time PRCA Stock Contractor of the Year awards at 11. But despite his lineage—and most appropriate rodeo name—Riggin wasn’t totally immersed in rodeo for a big chunk of his life.
“When I was real little, I wanted to rodeo so bad,” Smith said. “But my dad wouldn’t let me until I got older. He said rodeo would be there forever.
“By the time I got old enough to try, I had discovered sports.”
Instead of riding bucking horses or throwing steers in high school rodeo, Smith became an elite athlete, all-state in football and baseball. During his senior year, he helped his baseball team win a state title. He also got heavily involved in motocross to the point his dad built a course on their ranch outside Malakoff, Texas alongside the rodeo arena.
“Stace stepped back some (from the rodeo company) when Riggin was playing sports; he didn’t care if he (Riggin) rodeoed or not and just super backed him in whatever he wanted to do,” Kidd noted. Kidd has been with the company for about 15 years and has watched Riggin and younger brother Rylan grow up.
When Riggin graduated, he had choices to make.
“His dad gave him the options and he said he wanted to learn all the aspects of the rodeo business,” Kidd continued. “He never competed — or at least hasn’t yet—but he was in the back of that big old truck with Stace and Sheila in the beginning.
“He’s been going to rodeos longer than he knows.”
Smith has been flanking, hauling trucks and learning how to run the production from both his dad and Kidd.
“We’ve been going over what to do when you get there, the managerial role, and he’s been our main flank guy for a bit now, he learned the horses and how to talk to the contestants,” Kidd said. “He’s been in the production meetings and learning about committees, which is where I come in.
“I guess you could say he’s in college for learning the rodeo business.”
Flanking has come easy to Riggin, who has a passion for bucking horses. He’s been around bucking colts on the ranch and the annual Thanksgiving rodeo school his whole life.
“I love bucking horses, especially when you raise them,” he said. “We have the rookie saddle bronc riding at Cheyenne (Wyo.) every year and we buck the colts there. When they roll out there and crack their feet over their heads, it’s just awesome.”
Learning to network with committees has been a different challenge.
“Going to these meetings with the committees where you’re telling them what you’re going to do but also working with them, asking them at the same time so that everyone agrees,” Smith said of some of his most difficult lessons so far. “And the production side. My dad always said, once the first horse bucks, producing a rodeo isn’t that hard but it’s all the other stuff before.”
The stuff before is also what the younger Smith says is his favorite part.
“The opening, national anthem, hot song — it’s all your hook to grab people,” he said. “I love that part, light it up right off the bat.”
After years of involvement in other sports, Smith really appreciates the camaraderie of rodeo, something he witnessed at the highest level behind the scenes of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo the last two years.
“We hung out in the bareback riders’ locker room and it’s different there. They are all business, super focused,” he said. “When they’re riding, they’re trying their best to win but as soon as their feet hit the ground, they’re back up on the chutes, helping the next guy try to beat them.
“There is not another sport out there where that happens.”
The younger Smith also subscribes to his dad’s “cowboys first” mentality of rodeo production.
“His deal, what I learned, was that the right way at the end of the day was always to keep it about the cowboys,” he said. “How he ran the rodeo, having even draws, he doesn’t care about the profit above the rodeo being good for the cowboys.
“I agree fully with that and am ready to be that guy too. Dad said to always have their side because, without them, you don’t have a rodeo anyway.”
As Smith steps in to help give his dad the freedom to be there for his younger brother, who is also becoming a star athlete, he has his own goals for the future of the company, including breaking that pesky tie with Harry Vold by capturing a few more PRCA Stock Contractor of the Year awards. He’s well aware of his father’s spot in the history of the sport.
“I’m trying to fill them shoes and they’re pretty big.”
Article Courtesy of PRCA
Photo By: James Phifer