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Meet the Member Bonnie Rasmussen
story by Lily Landreth
Bonnie Rasmussen is in the business of bringing the West to the bucking chutes and roping boxes of rodeos around the Northwest. The founder of High Desert Rough Stock and owner of Tri State Rodeo Company together with Debbie Scott, Bonnie is passionate about making rodeo something to remember for contestants and spectators alike.
The 50-year-old from Burns, Oregon, grew up ranching in Enterprise, Oregon. An invasive plant specialist for the state of Oregon, she was acquainted with rodeo through her husband at the time, Thad Rasmussen. “We started getting a few retired PRCA bucking mares from Beard Rodeo Company and raising babies. In the beginning we sold the colts to other contractors, and after I took it over things really got out of hand,” Bonnie says with a laugh.
She and Thad moved to Burns in 1998, and after they divorced, Bonnie kept the bucking horse mares and continued the breeding program, later teaming up with Thom Davis to develop what became High Desert Rough Stock. “I had to come to some sort of decision about what to do with the horses as they matured. It dawned on me that the good Lord had given me all fillies and what a blessing that was. I soon connected with Sonny Hansen at Treasure Valley Community College, and we started bucking them for the college practices. I realized quickly that it’s an awesome dream to raise bucking horses and sell them, but the real challenge in bringing up those horses was giving them value, making them marketable. That became the driving force in our program.” She began subcontracting with rodeo companies at high school, ICA, and NPRA rodeos in Oregon and Idaho. This included Claude Rickman, who became a mentor, and while working with Claude, Bonnie was introduced to Paul and Marty Moyer, owners of Moyer Rodeo Company. They brought Bonnie into the rodeo Bible camp world and introduced her to working with kids. During the Buckaroo Rodeo Bible Camp at Pendleton, Bonnie met Debbie Scott, a partner of Double D Extreme Bulls, and realized they had very similar goals of what they wanted to bring to the rodeo world.
They merged their two companies and crews to form Tri State Rodeo Company in 2017, and became an ICA Prime Contractor soon after. “The first show we brought to the ICA was Grande Ronde Rodeo in La Grande. We were reviving a rodeo that had been gone for 20 years and brought it to the ICA. That show has continued to grow and we’re really excited about its success,” says Bonnie. “This rodeo company truly is a team effort. There is an amazing crew behind it with similar goals, strong family values, and a passion to bring something special to the rodeo arena. A pillar of our company goals is working with youth. It’s a really big priority for us to provide learning opportunities through camps, schools, and the ICA novice program—and providing good, consistent stock for these kids. We’re able to introduce youth and their parents to an amazing lifestyle full of history, patriotism, and faith. Taking care of contestants and building them up ultimately strengthens your associations, committees, and rodeo’s future.”
Bonnie in particular loves the loyalty of rodeo contestants, especially in the ICA. They are known to bring their families back to compete in the association, and pay it forward to future ICA competitors. “If you take care of your contestants, they will take care of you. It’s doing your best to provide them good pickup men and bull fighters, an even pen, giving them a chance to get on something they can win on. Starting a program and rodeo company from scratch was a huge challenge and we work hard every day to better ourselves and our stock.”
High Desert Rough Stock and Tri State Rodeo Company average 30 events a year, ranging from ICA Prime rodeos including the ICA Finals, to Western States Ranch Rodeo Association Events, Challenge of Champions Tour Stops, youth rough stock events and high school rodeos in Idaho and Oregon. They’re also involved with rodeo Bible camps in three states.
However, it’s not just all about youth. In 2019, they had the ICA bareback horse of the finals and bareback horse of the year, ranch bronc of the finals, and won the Ranch Bronc Remuda of the Year award. “Bucking horses are special creatures,” says Bonnie, who appreciates the long list of people who have supported her passion for growing a rodeo company, raising bucking horses, and helping youth. “Their mind and spirit are just different—it’s like touching something wild. We started from scratch in every way and we’re in this game 110 percent. Looking ahead, we’re all about helping to strengthen our associations, working hard for committees and the future of rodeo. Watching kids and colts grow up and turn into amazing athletes—it’s truly a blessing and so humbling to be a part of that.”