Living Legends School improves skills, expands culture

CODY DEMOSS, of Crowville and 13-time National Finals Rodeo qualifier, instructs a student during the two-day school in Winnsboro. (Sun photo by Monica Huff)

The Louisiana Living Legends School is more than an event where young and experienced cowboys come to improve their skills, but an event where instructors hope to spread the love and culture of the bronc rider.

The free event focused on saddle bronc and bareback riding and was held at the Franklin Parish Activity Center Dec. 27 and 28.

“This is just like other sports such as baseball, basketball or golf,” said Buckshot Sims, one of the event organizers. “These students are getting tips and advise for improvement in their sport.”

Seventy-two students were taught by 13 instructors, all of whom were National Finals Rodeo (NFR) qualifiers. The school covered fundamentals, dummy work and getting on livestock.

“In the heart of a champion, the desire to win burns right alongside the passion to help keep the culture alive,” said Lori O’Harver, public relations director for Bronc Riding Nation (BRN). “This is why I love this event. We are spreading the culture of bronc riding.

BRN is a non-profit organization whose goal is to “promote, protect and support the bucking horse community.”

Majority of the students were from Louisiana but some traveled many miles in order to be a part of the school, including Pennsylvania, Illinois and Florida.

One hundred and eighty applications were received for the event, said Sims.

Sponsors include Franklin Parish Tourism, Franklin State Bank, Preifert and Cinch Jeans.

“Everything was donated,” Sims said. “We couldn’t have done this schools without the great support from our sponsors.”

Many of the instructors said they took time out of their schedule to give back to the sport they love.

“We want to see the sport grow,” said Taylor Broussard, instructor and NFR qualifier. “I love to see the kids here, and I would love to see Louisiana have more riders.”

Some instructors were retired from their sport while others still competed. Their ages ranged from 21 to 67 while students’ ages ranged from 12 to 39.

Saddle bronc instructors were Cody DeMoss, 13-time NFR qualifier, and Heith DeMoss, nine-time NFR qualifier. The DeMoss brothers hail from Crowville. Additionally, Mike Fletcher, IPRA World Champion and Joey Sonnier, NFR qualifier, were saddle bronc instructors.

“The guys out here instructing are my idols,” Broussard, who qualified for his first NFR this season, said. “I grew up watching them. By being an instructor, I am also learning. I’m still learning something new everyday.”

Bareback riding instructors were James Boudreaux, six-time NFR qualifier, Winn Ratliff and Eric Mouton, four-time NFR qualifiers, Phil Smith and Shawn Frey, three-time NFR qualifiers, Jared Lavergne, Todd Little and Glen Webb, all NFR qualifiers.

Bareback and saddle bronc styles are very different. In saddle bronc, the rider uses a specialized saddle with free swinging stirrups and no horn. The saddle bronc rider grips the simple rein braided from cotton or polyester attached to a leather halter worn by the horse.

The rider lifts on the rein and attempts to find a rhythm with the animal by spurring forwards and backwards with their feet in a sweeping motion from shoulder to flank.

The bareback rider does not use a saddle or rein, but uses a rigging that consists of a leather and rawhide composite piece often compared to a suitcase handle attached to a surcingle and placed just behind the horse’s withers.

The rider leans back and spurs with an up and down motion from the horse’s pint of shoulder toward the rigging handle, spurring at each jump in rhythm with the motion of the horse.

The horses used in events are loosely categorized as warmbloods, O’Harver wrote in an article published in Cowboys & Indians. The horses are a cross between draft horses and hotbloods like Arabians and thoroughbreds.

“The foundation of their breeding program incepted in the 1930s by Feek Tooke in Ekalaka, Montana, built on that theory and the results are seen today in every horse appearing at the Wrangle National Finals Rodeo,” she wrote. “We still see the occasional crop out, a horse who was bred for show or work but instead, chose the outlaw path. Without rodeo, those horses would be destroyed as too dangerous to handle. For them, rodeo is rescue.”

Along with the bucking horse culture, BRN hopes to educate people on the bronc horse.

“BRN’s mission is to win hearts and fans for this rare breed of horse that few people will have the opportunity to experience beyond eight seconds in the arena,” BRN officials published on their website.

Sims said there are already plans for the event to re-visit Winnsboro perhaps annually.

“This is a great event for the kids, Winnsboro and Franklin Parish,” Sims said. “This brings revenue to our area and is great for bronc riding.”

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