story by Siri Stevens Kayson Jensen started riding bareback bucking ponies at 7 years old at his house in Elmo, Utah. “They weren’t intentionally supposed […]
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Meet the Member Ethan McNeill
story by Lily Weinacht
Ethan McNeill of Grantsville, Utah, is the 2018 RMPRA Bareback Riding Champion. The title is the 29-year-old’s first in the association, made even more momentous since he was just recovering from surgery on his collarbone four weeks prior to the finals. “I’ve been with the association as long as they’ve been around,” says Ethan. “I won the average the last two years. I used to ride at pro rodeos too, but last year I focused solely on the RMPRA’s and I think that helped. I broke my collarbone riding a dirt bike and almost didn’t go to the finals, and I was a little nervous riding on an injury, but I thought I’d at least win a little bit to keep the average in my back pocket.” Ethan finished fourth in the average, but first in the year-end standings, cheered on by his wife, Jessica, and their two sons, Sawyer (3) and Knox (1).
Before he became a family man, Ethan pro rodeoed all over the country with fellow bronc riders Morgan Wilde and Morgan Heaten. “As soon as I turned 18, I bought my permit, and rodeo’s been the center of my life since I was 9,” explains Ethan, who saw a flyer for the Little Britches Rodeo Association in Tooele as a child and entered the calf riding straightaway. The mini bucking horses soon turned his head, however, and he found his niche in bareback riding, going on to high school rodeo for Utah four years. He qualified for the NHSFR twice and finished in the top five in the nation his senior year, as well as winning the bareback riding at the Silver State International Rodeo in 2007.
While he’s considering buying his PRCA card again and circuit rodeoing, Ethan enjoys the close proximity of the RMPRA rodeos to his home, which also gives his family opportunities to watch him compete. His dad and sister, Jeff and Abby, enjoy riding, and Ethan also has the support of his mom, Teresa, and his brother and sister, Winston and Emily. “I like that everything is close, and the hometown feel of their (RMPRA) rodeos. When I go, all the stock contractors and personnel know me and talk to me, and they know my kids and my wife. I always look forward to Duschenes because it pays good , and the one in Tooele because it’s the hometown rodeo, and everyone you know is there.” says Ethan. “I just love riding bucking horses, but more than that, the whole lifestyle around it. I’ve always loved that in rodeo, your number one competition could be your best friend or a person you’re traveling with. I’ve met a lot of people and traveled a lot of places just because of rodeo.”
When he’s not rodeoing, Ethan works in his family’s company, McNeill and Sons Construction. “We do everything from excavation to framing to finish work, and we do residential and commercial,” says Ethan, whose sons love coming to work with him. “It’s awesome—I talk to my mom and dad and brother every day, and it keeps the family close. I like being outside, and I love the change. One day I’m digging a hole for a house, and another I’m framing or putting windows in.” Ethan also enjoys camping with his family on the weekends he’s not rodeoing, and riding dirt bikes.
“I’d love to win the RM’s again this year, win as much as I can, and be able to do it for as long as I can health-wise and financially. Hopefully one day I’ll watch my son do it, and maybe he can win that gold buckle.”