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Clayton Biglow: Hard Work, Self-Discipline and the Cowboy Way

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A split second of quiet before this cowboy gives a gentle nod of his head, his gloved right hand grips tightly to the 900-pound bronc between his legs. A hush is heard over the crowd as they hold their breath in anticipation. The gate swings open and this magical beast of a bronc horse begins to buck with a fierceness as if its life depended on getting this stranger thrown off his back. The rider’s left hand swings back and forth above his head; as the powerful legs of the horse come off the ground you can see the cowboy extend his legs straight as he positions himself lower on the bronc’s neck. The head of the horse is low and when its hooves crash into the earth, the impact throws the rider’s legs back like he is riding a swing. For a second, you might think the two strangers were dancing. The rhythmic extension of the cowboy’s body times perfectly with the flight of the horse before you see him quickly contract, bracing for impact. The cowboy makes time, somehow finding a rhythm during eight seconds of chaos, or he is violently thrown to the ground with the force of this bucking beast landing inches from his body. “Sounds fun, doesn’t it?” asks Clayton Biglow as he describes his love for this sport. 

More Than Eight Seconds
Bareback riding has a long history in the rodeo. The sport is dangerous, exciting and unpredictable. For as long as 24-year-old Clayton Biglow can remember, he dreamed of bronc riding in the professional rodeo circuit. He was raised in Clements, California; his parents moved there after they were married. His mother, Jessie, trained jumping horses and his father, Russ, was no stranger to competitive rodeo and bronc riding. “I grew up around horses,” Clayton continued as he described his idyllic childhood of riding and rodeo dreams. “I played baseball, basketball and football, but nothing compared to being on a horse,” he admitted. At the age of six, this young cowboy’s rodeo dreams came true and he started competing locally. “I couldn’t wait until I was old enough for bronc riding. I looked up to the professional riders and would go behind the chutes just to be close to them,” he said with a smile. 

In 2013, Clayton won the bareback riding championships at the National High School Finals Rodeo. He attended Feather River College and qualified for the College National Finals Rodeo in 2015. Clayton was named Rookie of the Year in 2016 by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. “When I turned 18, I got my professional permit and with the support of my parents, I began my dream of riding professionally,” added Clayton. 

Road Trips
The humble yet decorated cowboy steered the conversation away from titles and winnings. He talked about the fans of rodeo, the rodeo lifestyle and what it means to him to be a part of this sport. “You will never witness anything more patriotic than a rodeo,” Clayton stated proudly. “The rodeo is all about America, God and a life worth living.” He continued with examples of how rodeo has taught him so much more than riding. “Rodeo has taught me a lot about life, hard work and self-discipline,” he remarked. Clayton explained the sense of family and unity among members of the professional rodeo circuit as he told me about another rider who recently hit a deer while driving to a rodeo. Clayton turned his truck around and went back to pick him up. “We all support one another. Yes, we are competitors, but I think most of us have the mindset that we compete against ourselves,” pointed out Clayton. 

Life on the road is the reality for Clayton as he chases his dreams from Canada to Florida and across the Midwest back to California. He is on the road for close to 280 days a year. He laughed when I asked him about his windshield time. “We drive for a living and ride broncs for fun!” Clayton often partners with fellow bronc rider Kash Wilson as he makes his way across the country. “We get to see new places and meet different people across the country; we wouldn’t trade it,” he confessed. 

Family Strong
As for the physicality and danger of the sport, Clayton talks about the discipline required to keep his body strong and healthy. “You don’t have a team or a coach behind you; you have to push yourself,” Clayton remarked. His list of injuries, including concussions and a broken hand, doesn’t seem to bother Clayton. As he finished describing the laundry list of injuries, he paused and said, “Well, that’s the price we pay to do what we love doing!”

“My father is my biggest supporter. I couldn’t follow my dreams without my parents’ love and support behind me,” Clayton said proudly. “I love sharing this experience with my dad,” he continued. “My mom, well, I could be playing badminton and my mom would be just as proud,” he laughed. When Clayton returns home, he is surrounded by family and friends. Clayton’s fiancé, two sisters, niece and nephew look forward to his arrival and stories from the road. His fiancé, Annie Rose Seifert, is busy planning their October wedding. 

Clayton remains humble as he holds the title of World Champion for the 2019 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo. He calmly describes the feeling of winning and is quick not to get ahead of himself. “I focus on every ride, every horse. I can’t control everything, so why worry about it?” he said with confidence. Clayton thanks his sponsors for their commitment to him as a bareback rider. Wrangler and Resistol Hats are two of his biggest sponsors. With the uncertainty of COVID-19, Clayton waits patiently as rodeos make the decision to move forward or cancel. “This virus is hurting our country, and hurting rodeo pretty badly,” Clayton admits. “In the meantime, I plan on enjoying this time with my family.”