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Meet the Member Brandon Leo
story by Michele Toberer
Brandon Leo is living his dream, the dream of being a rodeo cowboy. Despite growing up in a family void of rodeo ties, his desire for the lifestyle was strong enough to help the first-generation cowboy overcome obstacles that might keep many from it and he has now been a member of the Southeastern Professional Rodeo Association for two years. In 2014, when Brandon graduated from Carrolton High School in Carrolton, Georgia, he used all the graduation money he was gifted to buy a head horse, despite the fact that he didn’t know how to rope. “I had always wanted to rope but never had anyone to teach me. I bought a sorrel gelding named Chuck when I graduated, and a friend, Dennis Jordan, that lived nearby helped me so much to get me get started.”
Brandon team roped at different amateur and open rodeos for almost two years as he became more comfortable as a header before moving on to his next horse, a sorrel gelding named Goose. “I bought Goose as a heel horse and wanted to start heeling. But heeling wasn’t working out as well as I hoped, and a previous owner told me he could also rope calves. I was so excited to find that out and felt like I had bought a diamond in the rough. I had always wanted to rope calves, but calf horses were so expensive. Finding out I could rope calves on Goose was great news, it was like a blessing.” Brandon once again learned a new set of skills to rope calves, and things were going fairly well until he was in Shawnee, Oklahoma for the International Finals Youth Rodeo and Goose had to be put down while he was there, after getting kicked by another horse in the back pens.
Brandon saved all the money he could for the next 6 months, and bought another calf horse, sight unseen from Louisiana. The transaction required quite a bit of trust, because the Nugent family had to trust that he was going to follow through with the set of 4 payments they agreed to accept; and Brandon had to trust that the 15-year-old sorrel gelding, Caesar, was going to be the horse they promised him to be. “I probably looked through 100 horses on Facebook, and when I saw Caesar’s ad, and knew he was the horse I needed. The deal worked out on both ends and he’s been really great, and I still stay in touch with the Christy Nugent and her family. Brandon joined the SPRA last season and started competing on Caesar, and although he was learning more and more as he went along, the pair made no money during the season. So, they are back at it this year and hoping to win the rookie title. Brandon appreciates all the roping help Glen Freels has given him this past year.
Brandon moved to Hogansville, Georgia last year, after graduating from the University of West Georgia with a marketing degree. Living just an hour away from his hometown, where his parents, Mark and Angela Leo, and younger brother, Austin, still reside. Mark is in the timber business, and Angela is an elementary school teacher; and although the family comes to support their cowboy son at rodeos occasionally, he’s still the only one in the family with rodeo blood running through his veins. When Brandon isn’t working or rodeoing, he’s grateful to be taking care of his own commercial Angus herd of cattle.
He spends much of his time with his employers, Cody and Lauren Pringle, whether he’s at work at Wheels for Dollars, a small pre-owned car dealership in La Grange, Georgia; or if he’s in the truck hauling with them to rodeos. “Cody and Lauren both compete in the SPRA and I travel with them to rodeos which helps so much. I live on their farm and keep my horse there also, so they are a big part of my life and they’re great people. My job at the dealership has been great, it allows me to us my degree and flexible hours. I can work through the week and rodeo on the weekends. I’m so glad to be living this life.”