Rookie Mistakes

The 2023 Resistol Rookies of the Year class share their lessons from the road for this year’s rookies.


A rookie’s year is their practice pen year. They learn the ins and outs of making it as a professional rodeo athlete.  

It is, of course, none of their first rodeos, but they have many other firsts– from winning a pro rodeo to live television interviews to overcoming hurdles. It’s a year of growth and learning for many of these athletes and they came to share a few of these lessons.


1. Teaches To Be Resilient

Braylee Shepherd, the 2023 Breakaway Roping Resistol Rookie of the Year, had a year full of challenges. She started off strong at a few of the winter rodeos and decided to get her rookie card with full confidence in her main mount, only to lose him two weeks before Rodeo Houston.

“I had to find another horse and the few backup horses that I had weren’t quite working out,” Shepherd said. “I was ready to be done after the winter rodeos didn’t turn out very well. I happened to talk to Lari Dee and she offered me a horse. That’s what I rodeoed on all summer.”

“Then I had some truck and trailer issues,” Shepherd continued. “I blew a hub and had to get new tires put on the trailer and turn out of some rodeos. After all of that, I wrecked the truck and trailer. Totaled the trailer. That was about August. I had to buy another trailer and my dad brought a truck from Oklahoma. And then just fighting through the mental game of staying focused and roping. It dang sure tested me.”

This is the first official year of a rodeo athlete's career. They learn how to make their way through the tested times. No rodeo athlete’s career is perfect, nor does it go as expected. This is their year to strengthen their mental game and prepare for the life ahead.

2. Builds Confidence

It is intimidating for these twenty-somethings to go out and put it on the line against the same names they’ve looked up to their whole life. Their rookie year builds their confidence to do just that.  

“It’s cool to look at your name besides all the other guys that have won Rookies of the Year,” said Dylan Hancock, the 2023 All-Around and Tie-Down Rookie of the Year. “It picks your shoulders up and gets your chest bowed out a little bit. It makes you think that you might have a chance.”  

“It’s a big confidence boost, not for just going into the finals, but for the future,” agreed Keenan Hayes, about being the 2023 Bareback Riding Resistol Rookie of the Year. “It’s something I can always look back on and stay confident knowing that’s something I can do. If I can do what I can do, everything will work out.”  

Keenan Hayes made PRCA history by claiming the PRCA Bareback Riding World Championship title in his rookie year.  

This is the first time for these athletes to be under the big lights of ProRodeos. They are competing against the top athletes in the sport who have years of experience against them. The chance at the rookie title gives them confidence in what to work for.  

“It shows me that I can accomplish my goals when I put my mind to them. And it’s an amazing confidence booster to the start of my professional rodeo career,” said Kallie McCall, the 2023 Barrel Racing Resistol Rookie of the Year.

3. Creates Comradery

The rookie class brings together all of the contestants who are competing in their first year. Exceptions aside, the majority of the rookies are roughly the same age, in their early twenties.  

“It was fun earlier in the year with the rookies. We were all top five for a little while. It’s cool to see everyone who made it and stayed in it all year,” said Hayes.  

Those together in the rookie class are the future of rodeo. They will be the generation that takes over the big rodeos. Some will become traveling partners. The rookie class gives them a chance to build friendships and connections for their rodeo career ahead.  

Cash Robb, the 2023 Resistol Rookie of the Year in steer wrestling, spent his year traveling with Tyler Waguespack, reigning and eight-time World Champion in steer wrestling. He took full advantage of the opportunity to learn with the top athlete in the sport.

4. Drives Competitive Edge

During the 2023 Wrangler NFR, three bareback riding contenders brought their battle to the Thomas & Mac. They vied for the world title, alongside their rookie title.  

“This is the most exciting rookie race in bareback riding history,” said Dean Thompson, a previous contender for the Bareback Riding Resistol Rookie of the Year title. “To me this means everything is on the line during those ten days in Vegas. I know the rodeo world will be watching, and they’ll find that I’ve awakened my most aggressive competitive edge.”  

Competition drives excellence. As the saying goes, “you are only as good as your competition.” It was a knife fight for the 2023 Bareback Riding Resistol Rookies. Ultimately, it took winning the PRCA World Champion Bareback Riding title to win the Resistol rookie title. Keenan Hayes took home the crown.

5. Hard Work Pays Off

Ryder Sanford, the 2023 Saddle Bronc Resistol Rookie of the Year, learned that hard work pays off this year.  

“I’ve kept my head down and stayed focused on each horse throughout the season,” said Sanford. “I didn’t really look at the whole picture, but after it was over, it’s like ‘wow, I got a lot accomplished this year.’”  

“Before this season, I thought it would be awesome to win it, but after battling it out with the group of guys that I had… it was a knife fight all year,” he continued. “Having to put that much work into it, just made it mean that much more.”  

Each rookie will always treasure the title, especially after the hours they spend in the practice pen, on the road, and in the arena. We look forward to watching this year’s class throughout the 2024 Professional Rodeo Cowboy’s Association season!