Steer Wrestler Tyler Houle is off to a Fast Start
By JOE KUSEK
June 30, 2022
Tyler Houle’s 2021 rodeo season was like a sad country song.
“My truck broke down, my horse got injured,” offered the Bozeman steer wrestler.
Now the 23-year-old cowboy is singing a much better tune in 2022.
Houle has already won four events one month into the Mountain Health Co-Op Tour and surpassed his regular season earnings from a year ago.
Houle’s victory laps began at the season opener in Conrad. He followed two weeks later with another win at Wilsall.
“Conrad is a fun little rodeo,” said Houle. “Everything just worked out. Wilsall, I just handled my business there.
“It helps with your confidence, to keep me rolling.”
Last weekend, he posted consecutive victories at Polson and Big Timber. Houle has already surpassed his regular-season earnings from a year ago and has more than doubled up his lead in the 2022 standings.
Houle, a 2017 graduate of Ronan High School, won the Northern Rodeo Association steer wrestling title in the COVID-shortened 2020 season.
He expected more of the same in 2021 but his primary horse, Apple suffered a hairline fracture of the coffin bone. The coffin bone is the foundation for a horse’s hoof.
Forced to ride borrowed mounts for much of the summer, he still managed to qualify for the NRA Finals at Majestic Valley Arena in Kalispell. There, he tied for third in the average and finished seventh in the final year-end standings.
“Now I’m trying to get back on my feet,” Houle said of this summer.
This summer, he is riding Anamous, a 13-year-old bay mare. It was his hazing horse in high school and college. Houle even rode the horse for ranch work when he was attending college in Texas.
“The first time we bought him, I jumped on a steer,” he said. “We knew he was built for us. That’s why we kept him around.”
Having a second horse ready was advice passed along from his father Hugh. Hugh Houle was a seven-time Indian National Finals Rodeo qualifier. Houle’s grandfather Bob was also a steer wrestler.
“I’m third generation,” said Houle. “I had a good foundation.”
With Apple at home in Ronan and Anamous in the primary role, Houle is making sure Sauce, a three-year-old half-brother to Apple, will be ready when called upon.
“Dad always said to make sure you keep one coming up,” said the son. “To have something at home you keep in case you need another horse in the future.”
Houle competed for Laramie County Community College, the University of Montana and Odessa College before returning home.
“I decided it was time to work,” he said.
Houle currently works for a tree service in Bozeman. “I climb trees, I’m in the bucket … I do all sorts of stuff,” he said.
His days begin at 7:30 a.m., “Sometimes earlier,” he said and works four 10-hour days during the week.
“Oh yeah, it can get tiring,” admitted Houle. “Fridays, all I want to do is lay around the house. I’ve always been kind of an athlete. You have to have self-discipline, so I get up, ride some horses and get some work done.”
His weekends are time to steer wrestle.
He plans to enter all three Mountain Health Co-op events – Harlowton, Ennis, Choteau – during the Fourth of July run and might enter an Indian rodeo in Lame Deer. He is a member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribe.
“I feel really good about it,” Houle said of his fast start. “This year, I’m kind of coming at it like a business. I want to enter smart and get some money won.”
The bull riders didn’t have to travel very far to cash a check. Hometown cowboys Payton Fitzpatrick and Grey Fitzpatrick placed first and fourth. Payton Fitzpatrick is a two-time NRA champion. Wynn Wells and Kyler McDonald made the 14-mile drive from Ronan to place second and third.
Other Polson winners were: Trevor Kay, bareback; Garrett Cunningham, saddle bronc; Tyler Houle, steer wrestling; Coltin Rauch, tie-down roping; Brandon Glumbik and Shawn Little, team roping; Molly Salmond, barrel racing; Bella Fossum, breakaway roping; Tye Brown, junior barrel racing; Grace Lenhardt, junior breakaway roping. Rauch was the 2021 NRA tie-down roping champion.
Bull riding again stole the show in Big Timber with Caden Fitzpatrick of Polson posting an 85-point ride, the highest score of the season. Harley Meged of Miles City emerged from a crowded field to win the breakaway roping in 2.7 seconds. Only one second separated the top eight finishers.
Other Big Timber winners were: Will Norstrom, bareback; Andrew Evjene and Carson Klingler, saddle bronc; Tyler Houle, steer wrestling; Taylen Lytle, tie-down roping; Shayne Bishop and John Graham, team roping; Mckenna Schroeder, barrel racing; Tye Brown, junior barrel racing; Bailey Billingsley, junior breakaway roping; Trevor Kay, rookie bareback; Carson Klingler, rookie saddle bronc.
Glendive’s Ben Ayre was a busy cowboy in Opheim. The former all-around and tie-down roping champion won the steer wrestling and tie-down roping and also placed third in the team roping with his father Bill. Bailey Billingsley of Glasgow stepped to win the breakaway roping against the adults while Bucky McAlpine of Anaconda won the bareback riding, his sixth consecutive check.
Other Opheim winners were: Carson Klingler, saddle bronc; Caden Fitzpatrick, bull riding; David Wold and John Graham, team roping; Taylissa Lytle, barrel racing; Brooke Billingsley, junior barrel racing and junior breakaway roping.
The Fourth of July run marks Cowboy Christmas and the NRA and NWRA get in the holiday spirit with rodeos in Harlowton (July 2-3), Ennis (July 3-4) and Choteau (July 3-4).
Harlowton will have performances at 6:30 pm. each day while Ennis goes at 7 p.m. both nights. Choteau will have a 6 p.m. performance on July 3 and finish with a 2 p.m. show on July 4.
The NRA/NWRA will be sanctioning five rodeos in a one-week span with East Helena going July 8-9 and Malta on July 9.
Flooding might have delayed the Hell’s A-Roarin’ Guts N Glory Rodeos debut for the Mountain Health Co-op Tour but couldn’t stop it completely.
The rodeos in Jardine were originally scheduled for June 23 and 24.
The first two have been moved to July 21 and 22 with the second pair scheduled for July 28 and 29.