This year marks the end of a long era at the College National Finals Rodeo for the Ellerman family. Jay competed in 1979, followed by […]
Written by: Siri Stevens< Back to Articles
Thorpe and Shelly Thompson of Whitney, Neb., have six children: Turek (3), Hadley (5), Tiegen (7), Haiden (9), Jacey (14), and Jamie (17). Each child has a competitive side and they all like to express it through the sport of rodeo. At the National Little Britches Finals Rodeo (NLBFR) in July, this family alone accounted for 46 runs over the course of four days. And this doesn’t even include the short-go. In another year, all six will be competing in the NLBRA, from five to 18. They will haul 8 horses for them to compete on. “Finding horses is the hardest thing for us – each horse has to be able to do more than one event and have more than one rider,” said Shelly.
“It’s a team effort,” explains Thorpe, who owns a feedlot, farm, and has several other businesses going like AI, embryo transfer, and most recently a power washing business on the oil rigs in North Dakota. “The kids all pitch in. I’m proud of the kids from the standpoint they make their own decisions on ninety percent of stuff. Shelly and I help and provide as many opportunities as we can and the kids contribute by putting in the time and effort required to do well. They help with everything we do. They all understand what physical labor is and know what it’s like to put in an 18 hour day.” The days are long, but they’re spent together.
“We are big into practice at our house,” says Shelly. “Jamie and Jacey are usually up at 5 most days saddling horses. Our goal is to have everything warmed up by 6, then practice until around lunch.” Shelly home schools the kids and they work for everything they do. “They help dad ride pens, heat check, and anything else that needs to happen here. Thorpe was in a bad accident in March and was in and out of the hospital, so the kids had to look elsewhere for the coaching that Thorpe had started.” Shelly is on the Nebraska Farm Bureau Board of Directors and travels one week a month. “They have to be organized and keep the place up when I’m gone. There’s a lot of planning that goes on around here or it doesn’t work.”
The oldest help the youngest first. “We have them focus on one event and while they’re cooling off horses afterward Jacey and I will discuss what needs more work,” said Jamie. “Jacey and I are as close as sisters can get.” says Jamie.
“I use two horses,” said Hadley Jo, the youngest competitor. “Frosty and Spitty. “Frosty’s my favorite because she runs faster.” She likes Little Britches rodeos because she gets to compete with her brother and sisters. She loves going to the National Little Britches Finals Rodeo in July in Pueblo, Colo. “I had fun and liked the water fights,” she says. This past year was a challenge for Hadley Jo as she broke her arm while playing with friends. She still competed using one hand.
Tiegen’s favorite events are goats and flags. “When I do goats, I just go out and have run,” he says. “I use Spitty for this and he is good.” Tiegen uses a pony named Squirt for Flags. Squirt has a tendency to buck if he’s not properly prepared.
Haiden’s favorite subject in school is math. Her least favorite chore is cleaning the goat pens. “We have 30 goats,” she said. Like most other responsibilities, the family shares this chore – until someone gets in trouble that is. Then the task becomes their responsibility. Another trademark specific to Haiden is her two-tone hat with decorative flower. “I saw someone wearing one and liked it,” she explains. “Then I got mine for Christmas.”
Jacey has moved on to high school rodeo this year. “It was an easy transition,” says Jacey. “National Little Britches gave me a lot of rodeos to go to and practice performing at the big rodeos, like their finals, which helps me with the pressure.” For the past two years, she’s accompanied the family to Wyoming high school rodeos…and then worked behind the scenes to help put them on. As a freshman, she now gets to spend her time competing instead of holding goats, a job she held for two years. Jacey takes responsibility for training her own horses and is proud of this. Her breakaway horse has a thing for donuts. This was discovered by accident. “Haiden had one and set it on the trailer. When she went to pick it up, Shag was eating it,” she explains. “My main goal this year is to win state in goats,” she explains. She has a lot of other goals including winning the All Around and breakaway. As an eighth grader, she was the reserve national champion for NLBRA in this event.
Jamie has been competing in Wyoming High School Rodeo as well as NLBRA. Jamie is the Wyoming State High School Goat Tying Student Director this year. “I like it, I like being down there to see how the other girls tie and encourage them. I like the responsibility part of it. Mom and Dad have always taught us to step up and help wherever we can.” She has made it to the short round a the Little Britches finals every year, qualified for the Nigh School Nationals and was the Reserve World Champion Goat Tier at the National Junior High Finals in Gallup, NM. She’s also active outside the arena, “I’m a member of the Alliance FFA chapter,” she explains. Alliance is an hour drive for her and she takes online college Ag courses to be eligible to be part of it. She’s the acting Sentinel for the club and participates on the Livestock Management/Judging Team as well. “I skype call for the weekly meetings and go there once a month to the meetings. FFA has taught me leadership skills and what kind of person it takes to be one.”
The Thompson children are thankful for the life they lead and the oldest speak for the bunch when they extend thanks first to their parents for all the driving, support, and encouragement. They then pass out appreciation to others who’ve made important contributions to their success. “We would like to thank Jordan Thurston for her help with our goat tying,” they say. “We would also like to thank Paul Tierney for his help with breakaway and team roping, Carol Hollers for her advice on breakaway roping, and Sam Flannery for her help with barrel racing.” The sisters continue by offering appreciation to their extended family for encouragement over the years, and make it a point to mention Papa T. for supplying donuts – and handling chores while they’re away from home.
Jamie and Jacey speak on behalf of the entire family when they take the opportunity to give thanks to God. “We would like to say thanks to The Good Lord Above for watching over us and providing what we have.”