COLOME -- When the bull is locked into the chute and the bull rider climbs on its back, genetics take over.
Not just for the rider, but for the bull as well. Just like genetics play a major factor in an athlete, they also have the same role in a bucking bull. It’s in their blood.
Growing up on a beef cattle ranch in Colome, Randy Shippy had a late start to his bull riding career at as a sophomore in high school. When he married his wife, Jennie, who grew up in the rodeo world on a beef cattle ranch in Wyoming, it was the start of a bull riding family.
Now with three kids -- Riggin, Riley and Charlee -- the Shippy family is not only still involved in bull riding, but they also raise and sell bucking bulls and bull riding now pumps through their veins.
Aided by an indoor arena on their ranch and healthy supply of practice bulls, recent Colome graduate Riggin became the 2018 South Dakota High School Rodeo Association champion, while Riley -- a sophomore-to-be -- placed third this past season and is set to compete at National High School Finals Rodeo, beginning Sunday in Rock Springs, Wyoming.
“The bull deal kind of took off and I decided it was easier on my body than riding them,” Randy said. “So, I retired from riding and went full-time raising bucking bulls. We started with pretty much nothing and grew it up from there.”
Shippy Rodeo Bulls was launched in 1996 when Randy purchased a Limousin bull calf named Ruby Red to use for practice. When Randy was injured, though, he decided to move from riding bulls to raising them. In 1998, he bought more bulls and began taking them to open bull riding competitions.
Ruby Red was chosen to compete on the Pro Bull Riding circuit in 2000 and went unridden, bucking PBR World Champion Cody Hart and World Finals Event Champions J.W. Hart and Tater Porter. He dislocated his knee before the PBR finals, but was the first in a line of successful bulls bought and sold by the Shippy’s.
The Shippys typically have roughly 100 bulls and 100 cows, depending on the time of year. They also trade them back and forth with partners throughout the year, while also selling them from coast to coast.
Although Randy and Jennie made a successful shift to a different side of the bull riding business, the riding aspect was still passed on to their sons, Riggin and Riley. The brothers began riding calves and steer as young as 6 years old, and despite a rocky start, they fell in love with it and moved on to bulls at the age of 9.
“When they hit the ground as hard as they did when they were little, we thought we’d steer them clear of bucking bulls,” Randy said. “But they decided they liked it more than we thought they would. I just told them when they started, ‘If you want to be the best, you every opportunity to do it. You’ve got the bulls, you’ve got facilities.’ They can get on bulls anytime, rain or shine.”
Both brothers have dabbled in other sports, including football and wrestling, but bull riding has maintained at the top of their list of priorities.
In fact, their preparation is no different in bull riding than after a football game or a wrestling match, which includes film review.
“When we were younger, we just kind of hung on and didn’t know what we were doing a lot,” Riley said. “As we got older, we started watching videos of drilling around the barrels and getting on the bulls. We’ll hook up our phones to the TV to see what we’re doing right and what’re doing wrong and fix it.”
While Riley still has three more years of high school, Riggin has parlayed his love for bull riding into a college scholarship at Odessa College in Texas. He will compete for a junior college that has produced two-time Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association champion Jim Sharp and seven-time World Champion Ty Murray.
As he attends a school that helped form two of the PBR’s 20 co-founders, Riggin begins a quest to achieve his dream of becoming a bull riding champion in his own right.
“I plan to be a world champion someday,” Riggin said. “I figured that if you’re going to do this, you might as well be the best, because it’s too dangerous of a sport to get into and put your life if you’re not wanting to do the best. That’s what aim to do. If you’re going to do something, you might as well be the best.”
Riggin also stated his desire to return to run the ranch when Randy retires, carrying on a family tradition.
All families have traditions and legacies, and for the Shippys, that calls for strapping onto the back of a 1,500-pound bull and hoping to last longer than eight seconds.
“We feel it’s just like any other sport,” Jennie said.