story by Michele Toberer Currently reigning as the 2021 International Miniature Rodeo Association Reserve Champion Senior Barrel Racer, Abbey Lanier has already started setting her […]
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Meet the Member Tony McDowell
story by Michele Toberer
There’s luck, then there’s beginners’ luck, and Tony McDowell may just have both. Although the argument that luck is just preparation meeting opportunity, might be true for him as well. No matter how you look at it, the 17-year-old cowboy from Woodstock, Georgia has found success in rodeo and a plan for his future in a very short time.
The International Miniature Rodeo Association competitor is just now in his second year of rodeo competition, and currently competes in two events, bareback riding and bull riding. After getting bucked off his nephew’s trail horse, Tony decided he wanted to enter rodeos. “I was visiting my nephew, Ikaika Hopeau, and got bucked off his horse. In the moment, it was kind of scary, but then I thought it was kind of fun! So, why not do it for money! A bareback rigging was a lot cheaper than a bronc saddle, so I figured I’d start there. Riding bulls just fell into place after that. I went to a Sankey Rodeo School clinic, and learned a lot, and then my buddy Christian Cagle introduced me to other rodeo kids who all helped me learn more about the sport.”
Forever etched in his memory, is the first rodeo Tony ever entered, at 16 years old, in the middle of a cow pasture, in the middle of nowhere. It was just outside of Franklin, Georgia and in that arena, Tony almost made a full ride on his very first bareback steer. He had found the adrenaline he was hoping for, and because he was in the middle of the age range to ride either steers or horses, he rode bareback steers until transitioning to horses later last year. Tony was excited to compete in many of the IMRA events around Georgia and finished 4th place in bareback riding after competing at the 2020 IMRA finals in Guthrie, Oklahoma. “I really appreciate that at IMRA rodeos they put you on a good level of animals for the level you’re competing at. It really gives you a chance to show what you can do at your ability level.” Tony also competed in the Georgia High School Rodeo Association, finishing as the 2021 Rookie of the Year, Bareback Champion, and Bull Riding Champion. Although Tony qualified for the 2021 IMRA finals, held in Gifford, Illinois, some bad luck fell into his plans, and he was instead recuperating from a broken back. “A bull stepped on me last July and broke my left wrist and hand; then my first rodeo back in October, I got stepped on again and broke my back in three places. So unfortunately, I didn’t get to compete at the 2021 IMRA finals in November.” Tony is glad that he has some time to heal before the rodeo season gets underway this spring and has every intention of making the 2022 season one of his best. “I know my parents hoped I’d go back to dirt track racing after I got hurt. But I’ve learned a lot of lessons from rodeo, and one of the most important is not to give up and stay determined. Fresh determination can even help a kid that hasn’t ever rodeoed compete against kids that have been doing it before they could walk.”
Tony’s mom, Lynne, is a school bus driver, and his dad, Tony Sr., is a plumber. His parents, along with Tony’s two older sisters, Brittany Hopeau and Brandy Rosa, his brother-in-law Devon Rosa, and a team of nephews and nieces, are extremely supportive of each other and have enjoyed their time traveling the country to rodeos as a family.
Tony is a senior at Mountain Ed Charter High School where his favorite subject is science. After graduation this summer, he hopes to make a full-time career out of rodeo. “If it doesn’t work out, I might join the Marine Corps. Currently, besides rodeo and school, Tony spends his time working at Cox Sanitation, “I work as a trash man, and I’m getting a trailer to start my own junk removal business.”
Tony is very appreciative of many that have helped him, especially stock contractor, Troy Lanier, and pickup man, Josh Brooks. “They’ve both taught me so much, and that means a lot to me.”