Meet the Member AJae Griffin
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 […]
story by Michele Toberer
Kody Rinehart was only 16-years old when he made his first attempt at riding bulls; with borrowed gear and a heart that yearned for adrenaline, he sat down on a bull in Lexington, Tennessee and instantly knew that he was right where he was supposed to be. Life has taken him several places in the years since, and he now steps down onto saddle broncs rather than bulls but knowing that he belongs in the rodeo arena has never changed. “I’m so grateful that I can do what I love, and chase what I love.”
Kody feels blessed that he and his older brother Korry were born and raised with a strong foundation in Rienzi, Mississippi; where they went to the same school their whole upbringing and grew up in the house his parents, Marty and Patsy, built and still live in today. The family had horses, and although they used them for field trials and hunting, when there was a young horse to train or questionable mount, Kody was the family “test dummy,” and they often put him up on anything they thought may buck. Although nervous, they weren’t surprised when their son couldn’t get riding bulls off his mind. “I’m the only one in my family to try rodeo, but my parents saw how hungry I was for it, and if they see us put the effort in, and really want something, they will back us.”
At 17, Kody went to a Gary Leffew bull riding school, and has carried the lessons he learned about mentality in rodeo with him since. The positive thinking techniques have helped him even on saddle bronc horses. Following high school, Kody attended Northeast Mississippi Community College while competing in college rodeos as an independent. After receiving his associates degree, Kody transferred to Blue Mountain College, where he graduated with his bachelor’s degree in Christian ministry, with a minor in business. Kody ventured out from riding bulls to broncs through these years, but by his senior year he had settled on saddle bronc riding. His senior year he qualified for the college national finals in saddle bronc riding and was the 2014 Champion Rookie cowboy of the Professional Cowboy Association that same year. Kody competed on the East Mississippi Community College rodeo team in 2015, where he qualified for the college nationals again, and left at the end of that year with a welding and fabrication degree.
Kody learned of the Cody Stampede Arena, from friends as well as watching a documentary on RFD-TV. After the college finals in 2015, he found Cody, Wyoming to be a place that seemed like a bronc rider’s dream. “It’s really tough in the southeast to get started in bronc riding and there are not a lot of places to get on horses. It took me nearly 3 years to get on 100 head of horses, so I had to stretch my time frame of really trying to make it as a bronc rider.” In Cody, they have rodeos every night for three months in the summer. Not only do the nightly rodeos give the cowboys a place to enter every night, but also the PRCA and Mo Betta Rodeo Company have partnered to give the cowboys and cowgirls instructors, practice dummies and excellent stock to improve their skills with. There’s a bunkhouse for cowboys right next door to the Cody Cowboy Church giving the perfect combination for Kody to put his degree to work as the leader for the bunkhouse ministry. “The bunkhouse gives these guys another option of someplace to stay with a clean atmosphere, and I get to build relationships with the guys; the best way I can share the gospel is to live it, and sometimes use words.”
Kody plans to hit the end of the SPRA season hard when he heads back to Mississippi in September to qualify for the season finals. In 2019, he will be gunning for a title as an IPRA world champion saddle bronc rider. After that, he dreams of making it to the NFR one day. “Ultimately, we all want to make a living at this and not have to have a real job. My ultimate goal would be to work 8-seconds at a time, and at the end of the year get a gold buckle.”
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