On The Trail with The Hinrichs Family
Written by: Michele Toberer< Back to Articles
The National Little Britches Association was founded in 1952, and sanctions rodeos in over 33 states, giving children 5 to 18 years old opportunities to compete in rodeo events across the country. For kids in the central part of the country, NLBRA is one of few choices they have when it comes to being a rodeo competitor, and they couldn’t be more grateful. The Hinrichs family from Ellsworth, Minnesota have only been involved with the NLBRA for a few years now, but much of their time is now centered around the rodeo schedules in both the Dakota Prairie Little Britches and Minnesota/Eastern South Dakota Little Britches rodeos.
“The Big Deal Land & Cattle Company, that’s what everyone likes to joke about and call me around Minnesota and South Dakota,” laughs Steve, patriarch of the Hinirichs family, who supplies all the timed event cattle and goats for Little Britches rodeos across Minnesota and South Dakota. The fact is, the busy family hasn’t slowed down enough to give the stock-contracting business an actual name since they started rolling along three years ago. Not only do Steve and his wife Bridget work jobs outside of the family’s horse training business, but all three of their children, Paige, 18, Tanner, 15, and Kiana (Bubbles), 8, compete in the Little Britches Rodeo Association with quite a bit of success. In 2016, the Hinrichs children became more involved in rodeo and started in the MN/Eastern SD Little Britches Rodeo Association. Word spread that the family kept stock for the kids to practice on and train horses, and it wasn’t long before the requests started coming to bring livestock to the rodeos. “A contractor backed out right before a rodeo a couple years ago, so they asked if we could bring some stock. People were happy with what we brought, and it’s grown to full-time from there. We bring stock to rodeos in both states and will supply cattle and goats at approximately 50 rodeos this year.”
Paige competes in all 7 rodeo events available to a senior girl competitor; breakaway roping, ribbon roping, team roping, barrel racing, pole bending, goat tying, and trail. She recently graduated from Adrian High School, and will be attending the Southeast Technical Institute, where she’ll be studying Invasive Cardiovascular Technology. Besides maintaining a 4.0 GPA, which helped her obtain a full-ride scholarship to the school, Paige has worked for two years as a CNA at Parkview Manor, a nursing home in Ellsworth. Paige also helps with farm chores and attends the Salem Reformed Church in Little Rock, Iowa with her family on Wednesday nights. “I’ve enjoyed competing in the Little Britches Association. I really like the leadership role I can have as a senior in the association and cheer on and mentor the little ones.” Paige favors roping the most, “At home I normally break in the tie-down calves, so the kids often ask me how they’re going to run at the rodeos. It’s been nice competing with Tanner and we’re fortunate we can practice together.” Paige hopes to continue roping in the future and looks up to Trevor Brazile as a competitor, although she doesn’t get much chance to keep up with his career. “We don’t have time to watch much television because we’re always outside. Friends will talk to me about something that was on television and I’ll tell them ‘I have no idea what you’re talking about,’ we just live a different lifestyle than most people do.”
Tanner, a sophomore at Adrian High School, likes math and playing guard for the school basketball team. He competes in calf roping, and as Paige’s partner in both ribbon roping and team roping. He spends time watching rodeo runs on YouTube and especially likes to watch his favorite calf roper, Cory Solomon. He agrees with his dad that he lives in a rodeo paradise and appreciates the opportunities he has to practice whenever he wants. “I can tie goats or rope when I need to, and if it’s raining, I can rope in the indoor arena. I’m pretty competitive, so It’s great being able to have the tools I need to get to the top of my game.” Tanner enjoys hanging out with his friends at the rodeos and has learned a lot seeing the backside of rodeo production through the family’s involvement. “Being involved in the Little Britches Association has been great, my family enjoys the time together and everyone in the association has been so good to us.” Tanner likes getting to drive within a 20-mile range of the farm with his newly acquired farm permit but looks forward to turning 16 in July, so he can have more freedom on the roads. “It’s not bad having all the chores on the farm; my dad says if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.”
The youngest of the Hinrichs crew, Bubbles, may have been born with the name Kiana, but since her dad started the nickname after noticing she blew little bubbles laying in the hospital bassinet, Bubbles is what she’s gone by her whole life. As a second grader, her favorite school subject is reading, and she especially likes to read stories in the Biscuit series. She loves to compete in barrel racing and pole bending the most and likes practicing at home with her siblings. Bubbles likes riding Henny Penny, her 13-year-old black mare in all her events. “The Little Britches rodeos are giving Bubbles a great environment to grow as a competitor. She was a little hesitant to go too fast at first, but her confidence is growing, and she’s getting faster at each rodeo. She recently won the flag race and that used to be the event she dreaded the most.” Her favorite chore to help with in the afternoons is bottle-feeding the baby goats and calves.
The family’s settling into their new home at Hinrichs’ Arena, on land where Steve grew up as the youngest of four children belonging to George and Leona Hinrichs. The farm is in the southwest corner of Minnesota, just one mile from Iowa and 30 miles from South Dakota. “My parents were very involved in showing horses and my mom was the secretary and treasurer of the Southwest Minnesota Trail Riders’ Club where we showed horses in halter, pleasure, and game events. When they passed away, I bought their 80-acre farm, and we’re raising our family here.” The farm has an outdoor and indoor arena that Steve used after he graduated from Ellsworth High School in 1989, to train outside horses while helping operate their dairy cow business. Bridget, graduated from Ellsworth High in 1997 and is grateful she’s just three miles from her childhood home, where her father, who remarried after her mom passed away, still farms and raises stock cows. Steve and Bridget have been married since 1998 and appreciate raising their family in their hometown with so much family history surrounding them.
Currently, Steve works for a neighboring farm managing 4,000 head of swine. Besides that daily work, he spends three days each week riding horses at the sale barn, sorting and bringing livestock up for auction. “I work at the Sioux Falls sales barn on Mondays and Wednesdays, and the Sheldon, Iowa barn on Thursdays. I ride horses I have in for training while I work at the auctions and it gives me great opportunities to train horses for my clients.” Bridget who team roped, and barrel raced before family responsibilities took over, also works at the sale barn with Steve on Thursdays but spends much of her time managing the family and farm, where she takes charge of raising bottle calves and goats.
The family keeps approximately 25 head of roping cattle, 30-40 goats, and 50 calves ranging from those still on milk, up to 350 pounds. “Right now, we’re bottle feeding 20 calves and get new calves in from the dairy twice each week. We use lots of Jerseys for the Little Britches rodeos; people thought they’d be too weak and wouldn’t run, but we feed them heavy and they work great for the kids. The cattle we use give each of the competitors a chance to win and we work hard to keep them as even as possible. If one of the cattle or goats don’t work well, we don’t bring them back again. We can’t always predict what they’ll do, but we want to bring the most user-friendly stock we can to the rodeos. I’d much rather see the kids beat each other on times rather than beat another contestant just because they drew better.”
It’s said that a family that plays together, stays together; and for the Hinrichs that’s what their life is about. When they aren’t taking care of business, they like to take their dogs out for coon hunts and go bow-hunting for deer. They enjoy their time together on the road; Tanner shared, “On the way to rodeos, Paige and I put in the aux cord and get jamming with dad to get pumped up. We mostly play old country music that dad will recognize, and he gets crazy with all that stuff.” One of the family’s pre-game traditions is the kids all praying together before the rodeo competition gets started. Steve explained, “It’s not all about blood and guts, of course we all want to win, but it’s more about making good horses, learning from our mistakes, and helping each other get better. We’re glad that the Little Britches association gives us a great opportunity to watch our kids grow in rodeo and enjoy the members and the comradery we share. If we’re not having a good time while they’re competing, what’s the point in doing it?”