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 Lily Weinacht
Lance Ethridge has been living the rodeo lifestyle since childhood, riding bareback horses and steer wrestling his way across his home state of Georgia and beyond. When an accident last year nearly claimed the 36-year-old’s life, Lance was certain he didn’t want it to keep him from the arena. He was driving his tractor on the side of a four lane highway with the doors open one hot afternoon when a semi truck hit him going 70 miles an hour. “The tractor flipped six times, and I remember thinking if I could keep my hands on the steering wheel and not get thrown out, I might have a chance of seeing my wife and little girl again,” says Lance, who was conscious through the entire incident. It took nearly five months of recovery before he could rodeo again. “I had compression fractures pushing toward my spine, and my doctor didn’t think I should ride bareback horses anymore. People ask why I still steer wrestle, but you don’t have to get off a steer wrestling horse if something isn’t right. I might bull dog a bit more timid than I used to, but you hate to let someone else’s mistake change the rest of your life. And I think everything happens for a reason.”
It’s Lance’s second year steer wrestling in the SPRA since the event was added last year, but he’s also competed in the IPRA, PCA, and PRCA Southeast Circuit. Yet he’s equally passionate about sharing the sport with others, and serves as the SPRA’s steer wrestling director. “A handful of my friends started up the association several years ago, and last year they started leasing steer wrestling steers from me,” says Lance. “There are a lot of good people in the association, and my wife and I live in the middle of their rodeos. I try to make sure everybody has good steers and everybody is happy!”
Lance started out keeping steers for his own practice, but expanded his stock in the last few years for leasing. “A lot of people try to run natives or longhorns for steer wrestling, but you really need a straight Mexican steer, because they last longer and hold up better,” he explains. “But you pay dearly for them, and it’s a lot of work keeping them good. They need to be thrown down once a week. I have a couple young boys that come twice a week and we bull dog, plus I’ll let them run one or two off a horse.” He’s dedicated to providing a place for up and coming steer wrestlers and other rodeo athletes to practice, including Matt Smith, who won the NHSFR bareback riding in 2006 and 2007 and now pro rodeos, and Trey Moore, the IFR’s high money winner in the bareback riding at the last finals. Lance and his wife, Mary, open up their arena for breakaway roping and steer wrestling practice every week. “If I’m not home from work yet, she’s out there hazing for the kids,” says Lance. “I couldn’t have found a better fit. I met her 12 or 13 years ago, and it took her five years to go on a date with me. Then we got married three months later.”
The husband and wife now make their home in Franklin, Ga., with their three-year-old daughter, Lera. She rides her pony, Light Nin’, when they practice, but prefers bouncy houses to rodeoing. “Used to be we’d get to the rodeo early for the bareback riding, and now we get there early for the bouncy houses!” says Lance. During the week, he works in his family’s concrete business, either hauling concrete, driving a tractor trailer, or moving heavy equipment. He also helps with his family’s hay operation, while Mary works as a Speech-Language Pathologist.
Any free time is spent with their horses, including Mary’s horse, Cat, who won PCA Breakaway Horse of the Year in 2015, and Lance’s nine-year-old bay, Annie. His previous horse, Yella, has since passed, but won PCA Steer Wrestling Horse of the Year in 2014. “I want the young horse I have now to keep going in the direction she is, buy my pro card back, and make the SPRA finals,” says Lance. “And I want to help my wife get to as many rodeos as she can and achieve as many goals as I have. I think I’ll be 80 years old and still miss bareback riding – up until the accident I was winning every weekend – but I’m just glad to be alive!”
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