Rider Kiesner has performed in every state and 15 different countries. “When I turned nine I got a Will Rogers trick roping kit for Christmas,” […]
Written by: Lily Weinacht< Back to Articles
“I’ve always wanted to rope since I could walk and be around horses, and it’s what I’ve always done,” says Caleb Smidt. “I watched the NFR on TV and it’s what I’ve always wanted to do.” The four-time WNFR qualifier and 2015 World Champion Tie-Down Roper is the first of his family to travel the professional rodeo trail. But the horse training and roping he learned growing up, particularly from his dad, Randy Smidt, gave him the foundation of skills that took him from Bellville, Texas, to the arena floor of the Thomas and Mack Center.
Caleb, the All-Around and Tie-Down Roping Rookie of the Year in 2013, competed at the WNFR for the third consecutive year in December and won $60,000. Although the 2017 season didn’t have gold buckle returns, he finished fifth in the world standings and split first place in Round 8 with his high school friend Cory Solomon. “I had a really good year all last year leading up to the finals, and then got to the finals and just didn’t do very good,” he says. “It’s been really wet here all winter, so hopefully it dries up and we can be roping and practicing and back into the swing of things. Justin Maass has a covered arena and I’ll go over there. He tunes me up and keeps me in line and always has good advice for me. We rodeoed together in 2013 and he’s been my coach through the whole thing.”
Caleb credits riding good horses just as much with his success as his motivation. “A good horse is a big part of my success, and being able to have my family up here with me rodeoing and joining in. I don’t like the driving part, but when you have a good horse and family with you, it’s a lot easier. It’s been successful for me the last four or five years.” He continues to ride Pockets, the horse that carried him to the WNFR and the world title in 2015. The pair won $130,000 last year, and Caleb also rode Walter Johnson’s horse Iron. The latest member of his equine team is Bart Hutton’s horse El Gato, who carried Caleb through his winning run at the Dixie National Rodeo in Jackson, Mississippi, in February. “He’s a smaller horse, and he’s got a lot of try and a big heart. He gives it everything every time you ride him, and he can run and handle big cattle. He’s still a touch green at the bigger and louder rodeos, but he’s getting better,” says Caleb, who set the horse on his biggest stage yet at The American in February.
Between every one of Caleb’s horses and his saddle is a 5 Star Equine pad, which he started using in 2015 and rode at the WNFR. He officially joined the 5 Star team in 2016 when time and hard use proved that the pads should be a staple in his tack room. “I like them. They last a really long time and seem to fit my horses good, so I’ve ridden them ever since 2015,” says Caleb. Along with spreading the word about their products through his social media, he also signs autographs at the WNFR. They’re also put to use for everyday jobs like working cattle and riding colts, which Caleb enjoys doing when he’s home. He also enjoys team roping, which he’s done professionally in the past. Caleb tried his hand at steer wrestling, but that set him back almost a year in 2014 when he broke his leg, so tie-down roping remains his primary focus.
“I love hunting,” Caleb adds. “My father-in-law has a few places to hunt, so I do a lot of deer hunting and hunting wild pigs.” Hunting will take a back seat by March and April when the PRCA Texas Circuit rodeos pick up, followed by the summer run. “Dodge City is one of my favorites and I always seem to do good there. Coming out of the head box at Salinas is always pretty exciting, and Deadwood, South Dakota, is another good one. My family has been with me (rodeoing) every year since I got married,” Caleb says of his wife, Brenna, and their son, Cru. “Now that we have a 2-year-old kid, we might start seeing more stuff on the road and doing more things. He likes horses a little bit, but he likes tractors more than anything, and big machinery.
“Since I make a living doing this, I want to make the finals and try to win another gold buckle,” Caleb finishes. “I’ve always kind of had the mindset that it’s what I do for a living, so I have to make a living at it. It’s what I do to support my family, and always my main goal is to be successful and rodeo.”