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Meet the Member Morgan Heaton
story by Lily Weinacht
A member of the RMPRA since he started riding at 19, Morgan Heaton is sitting fifth in the bareback riding. The 33-year-old from Grace, Idaho, won the RMPRA finals in 2011 and finished second in the year-end standings, while he’s also a 12-time PRCA Wilderness Circuit Finals qualifier.
“We had a ranch when I was growing up and we had a horse that no one liked to ride because it would buck you off,” Morgan recalls. “It bucked me off, and I got up and thought it was fun!” He started entering all three roughstock events, but when a bull stepped on him and spiral fractured Morgan’s leg, he had to reevaluate his competition. “I couldn’t get on a saddle bronc and put my foot in the stirrup, but in the bareback riding I could just get off on the pickup man, so when my cast came off, I started climbing on bareback horses shortly after.”
Through the rodeo series they produced in Hyrum Utah, Morgan met Hans Peterson and Lan LaJeunesse, who invited Morgan to come ride their practice horses. Starting his rodeo career in his late teens came easy for Morgan, who says the steep learning curve didn’t come until later. “It came so easy, I don’t think I worked for it, and later I realized I had to work hard for it to get better,” he explains. “I made goals when I started and now that I haven’t reached them yet, I have to work harder. I do the little things that matter, and now that I’m older, I don’t bounce back like I used to, so if I want to keep going, I can’t afford not to work out.”
Morgan has traveled with fellow RMPRA bareback rider Ethan McNeill in the past, but these days his 10-year-old son, Hudson, is his traveling partner. Hudson is interested in riding mini bulls, and particularly enjoys playing basketball and football. “He travels quite a bit with me, and he’s been to rodeos all over. We visit a lot, and we listen to audio books,” says Morgan. “I like Louis L’Amour and right now Hudson is listening to Harry Potter.”
Their travels have taken them to Houston, one of Morgan’s favorite PRCA rodeos, while the RMPRA rodeo in Morgan, Utah, is his local favorite and often a successful one, having won it for the last four or five years. Morgan’s personal best score of 90 came on Ben German’s bronc True Grit in Hooper, Utah, several years ago. “A lot of guys struggle with her, but we always get along really good. My attitude is figuring out how to get along with all of them, because there’s horses I don’t like, but I have to change my attitude and figure out how to like them,” Morgan explains. “I like the RMPRA rodeos. There’s good horses, and it’s a lot of fun going to those rodeos.”
While Morgan took three or four years off of rodeoing, he’s returned to the sport and wants to compete full time. He also does farm work for his friend Rory Lloyd outside of Grace. “He’s pretty good about letting me come and go and giving me work when I need it.” Morgan and Hudson also enjoy fishing and hunting together, and just this year set a goal to visit all of the LDS temples in the country.
“One of my main goals is that I’ve always wanted to make the NFR and be a world champion,” Morgan finishes. “I haven’t gone hard yet this season, but I’m trying to stay healthy and discipline myself with small things every day like waking up, working out, and getting on the spur board. I just try to be the best me I can be and keep the big picture in mind.”