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On the Trail with Colton Bugis
Written by: Michele Toberer< Back to Articles
‘Where did this guy come from,’ is undoubtedly on the minds of many team ropers in the IPRA that watched a rookie 21-year-old header, Colton Bugis, climb from the bottom to the top of the team roping leaderboard since June. With nearly $1900 separating him and the next header in line, Colton is excited to be traveling to the Lazy E Arena in Guthrie, Oklahoma for the IFR50 to see if he can finish the season as a world champion team roper.
Originally from Highland, Michigan, Colton’s start in horses didn’t give much of a clue that he would be where he is today. His parents Ed and Penny Bugis and younger sister, Eva, have a family farm where his dad sells grain, and also operates a septic company, King Septic; and none of them had a rodeo background. There was a love of horses in the family, and Colton’s grandma, Carol Redman, bred and raised Welsh ponies that became projects for Colton and his sister. “We were really young, but we would ride and drive the ponies she raised and turn them into show jumping and dressage prospects for other kids. My mom and sister were both really big into dressage and hunter jumpers, so I competed in that world growing up. I was in the Michigan Hunter Jumper Association and the Pony Club of America and did all that until I was about 13 years old.” In his heart however, he was a cowboy, “I always thought I was a little cowboy, running around with a rope when I was a kid. I went over to a roping school near us when I was young and learned to rope goats and got hooked. I started chasing everything I could on my pony, Lightning. A guy down the road, Tim Brown, took me to a roping pen at Rocky Alberts’ Blue Ridge Stock Farm one day, and that was all I wanted to do after that. My dad was glad to see me getting away from the hunter jumper riding and bought me a really good rope horse. It was a big deal for an old farm family to pay that much for a rope horse, but my dad bought me a black 7-year-old gelding named Player that really gave me a good start.”
Colton’s mom explained, “Roping is a better fit for Colton. He’s always been a little cowboy from a very young age. We are so excited to go watch him at the IFR50 in January. There is a whole group of his Michigan roper family going out to Guthrie with us to watch him compete. We are all extremely proud of him.”
Before graduating from Hartland High School in 2016, Colton competed in the Michigan High School Rodeo Association for three years, heading for Cale Johnson his sophomore through senior year of high school. The team won the MHSRA champion team roping title in 2015 and 2016 and qualified for national finals all three years they competed together. Colton also competed in calf roping and trap shooting during high school, but team roping was his main focus. Over the years, he’s even ridden ranch broncs for fun. “I come from a very supportive family, and even though my mom and sister didn’t like that I switched to roping, they still always came to watch me and support me in all that I do. They will be traveling to the IFR to watch me compete at my first IPRA finals rodeo, and hopefully watch me win the title there.”
Over the past few years, Colton has spent a lot of time at amateur rodeo associations and team roping jackpots. He attended a horse shoeing school in Purcell, Oklahoma in January 2017. “I didn’t stick with that as a profession, but I did learn enough to do some of my own horses when I need to.” He did, however, make a friend with Baker Roush while at the school, and Baker invited him to his family ranch in Dripping Springs, Texas for the winter. “He and I ranched cows, shoed horses, hauled cattle, and did odd jobs. His family had a wedding venue, so we helped set up things for weddings and maintain the property. I roped some, but mainly did whatever I could come across to make some money while I was there, and then I’d go back home to Michigan for the summer.” While Colton was riding a friend’s calf horse at a rodeo when he was in Michigan for the summer, Mike Culhain made a phone call that began a change in the course of Colton’s roping career. “I told everyone I talked to that I wanted to go back to Texas for the winter. Mike told me he was friends with Bob Masters, and that he would call him and put me in touch with his son Chad Masters. I ended up going out to Chad’s for the winter in 2018.”
Colton started out as the low man on the totem pole at Chad’s, mucking stalls, feeding cattle, and fixing fence. “I did whatever needed done, just trying to do my part. I also got to ride and rope with Chad and worked my way up. Chad taught me how he needed me to ride the horses and how he wanted things done. After winter, Chad went back to competing, and I decided to try rodeoing in the IPRA for the 2019 season. I didn’t really have a partner starting out, but I met Ty Parkinson at the Fort Worth Stockyards and we decided to start roping together in June. Ty is from Australia, and he’s a phenomenal heeler, he’s qualified for the IFR multiple times. We started out doing well together, and really went hard at the rodeos. From June until the end of the season we entered probably 75 rodeos and placed regularly. We won the team roping at St. Tite in Quebec, Canada, and just kept climbing in the standings as the months passed. Going into the IFR50, I’m leading the heading and Ty is leading the heeling.”
A little dark brown mare named Betty has helped Colton make his mark in the heading competition. “My good horse ended up having ringbone, and Chad had gotten Betty in from a guy and made me a good deal on her. I’ve been riding her since this spring. She’s a little mare, maybe 14.3, but she is such a good horse and has made my job so much easier. I’m so grateful Chad helped me out with her. Coming from Michigan to Chad’s ranch in Lipan, Texas was very eye opening. It’s a totally different ball game. In Michigan, roping is more of a hobby that you do for fun, but here it’s the real thing; this is what they do. You learn a lot! I learned how to ride my horses better, how to use a rope better, and how to rope smart.” Colton is currently at the Masters’ ranch for his third winter and honing his skills so that he is as ready as possible for the IFR in January.
“My main plan for the IFR50 is to get ready to catch them all so we can go for the average. I don’t get to practice with Ty much, he’s all over the place. But we’ll get together right before we head to Guthrie and make some runs together and we’ll be fine. After the IFR my goal is to just keep getting as good as I can get and see how far I can take it. I’ve been able to learn a lot from several people over the years, and I’ve been lucky enough that people have seemed to like helping me. I plan to take all of it and see where it leads. I may not have come from a rodeo background, but it’s in my blood and I’m here to stay.”