story by Michele Toberer Anna Jae Griffin goes by AJae, and the Mississippi native has been a cowgirl for a lifetime, and a Southeastern Professional […]
Association MemberJoin Rodeo News
Meet the Member Stephen Bland
story by Lily Weinacht
Team roper Stephen Bland is only a few dollars and some pocket change away from leading the heeling standings in the SPRA. It’s an accomplishment the 36-year-old from Billingsley, Alabama, wasn’t sure he’d achieve when he started his fourth season in the association. “I just planned to go to a few local rodeos around the house. I didn’t intend to go as hard as we have, but we’ve gone pretty much all year long and things started falling into place,” says Stephen, who also competes in several PCA rodeos and USTRC ropings. This will be his third time competing in the SPRA finals. “This year I’m working on my master’s degree, and school takes up a lot of time, but I feel like the Lord opened the door for me to go all year long, and at the same time keep up with my schoolwork. My family has been real supportive too.”
Stephen is primarily a team roper and a heeler, competing with Tyler Hoagland, and Seth Thomas, whom he won the team roping with at the Alabama High School Rodeo State Finals their senior year. However, he took up steer wrestling this year to put him in the all-around standings. “I’d chute dogged some before, but the first time I jumped a steer was at the Tuscaloosa rodeo and I won third. It wasn’t pretty, but it worked out! Some of my buddies bulldog, and they talked me into it and helped me out,” says Stephen, who is sitting third in the all-around standings. He also rode bareback horses for several years when he was in his 20s, but he eventually returned to his roots of team roping, especially after he and his wife started their family. “Team roping is something I’ve been doing for a long time. I have four guys I travel with primarily, and I like the team aspect of it a lot and traveling together. Another pretty neat thing about the SPRA is that there’s a lot of really good guys that rope. I’ve learned a whole lot from them, and they really do take an interest in everybody and make sure that everybody does good.”
Stephen mounts out on friends’ horses when he steer wrestles, and he rides a 9-year-old mare named Foxy in the team roping. He purchased the mare two years ago as a backup horse and trained her for team roping, but when Foxy took to it so well, Stephen sold his main horse and switched to her. He goes to Millbrook to rope with his friend Brian Roll, or to Harpersville to practice with his partner Tyler Hoagland.
During the week, Stephen is an engineer assistant for the county, and his master’s degree, which he’ll finish next year, is in geographical information systems. “I’ve worked for the engineering department for 16 years and we use geospatial mapping to map flood plains and different things like that,” Stephen explains. The rest of his time is devoted to his family, including his wife, Lynn, and their 9-year-old daughter, Kayden. “My wife teaches at the high school in Billingsley. We met at church, but when we were younger, her brother was a bull rider the same time I was riding bareback horses, so we traveled some together. Kayden loves to play soccer, and we love to go hunting now and then. She also likes to go watch the close rodeos.
“I’ve had a lot of people help me in so many different ways, and I owe a lot to my family and the contestants themselves,” Stephen finishes. “I’d really like to make the SPRA finals in the steer wrestling. I didn’t set out to win the SPRA, but I’ve had a lot of people help me with my roping and instill in me to make the best of each steer. That seems to work better for me than saying I want to win this or that. We’ll see what happens at the end of the year.”