High school rodeo: Davis County teen's passion for cow cutting turned his life around

Published: Friday, June 6 2014 10:50 p.m. MDT

Ian Dixon and his mom Eulale at the Wasatch County Event Complex on Thursday June 6, 2014. Participating in cow cutting has helped Ian overcome depression.

Hugh Carey, Deseret News

HEBER CITY — Four years ago, Ian Dixon was sinking into a deep, dark hole.

His grades in school were suffering and, what's worse, he didn't care. Heck, back then, he really didn't seem to care about anything.

And his mom, Eulale, was deeply worried about her son.

"He was falling apart because he hated his life, basically," she said, hesitating to call her son's symptoms depression — deep-seated feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and despondency that affect around 9 percent of adult Americans, and an illness that health officials now consider a worldwide epidemic. "I think it was depression ... he had serious depression. He was just giving up.

"He was a pretty happy kid up until then, but very, very shy. He didn't have many friends, very few friends. ... And it got to the point where he hated life, he hated school, he wasn't doing well in school, and he was struggling in everything.

"It weighed on me all the time, and that became my focus in life was, 'How can I help Ian?' because he was so unhappy," she said. "School was a disaster; his grades plummeted, and we talked to the school and they just weren't really willing to help with anything. They actually told me that his problem was he was a lazy kid and I was just a tired mom. I thought, 'You people don't get it.' It was terrible."

Eulale Dixon and her husband, Dave, had already raised seven other children — four boys, three girls, and Ian was "the caboose" — so she had plenty of parenting skill and experience. But she didn't know what to do.

"He's the youngest of eight kids, so I recognize when kids are struggling and having problems," she said. "I knew there was something, and I just wanted to find a passion for him. He needed a passion, something he loved, but he was interested in nothing. He'd come home from school and go in his room and that was it."

And then, what she considers nothing short of a miracle happened in their lives.

"Our neighbor (Le Grand Lamb) asked him to feed his horse for a week while he was out of town," she said. "Ian came back after the second day of feeding and said, 'I think we should get a horse,' and the light bulb just went on in my head.

"I had always wanted horses anyway, but I said, 'Oh, that's a good idea!' It was May and school was almost out, so I said, 'Well, you take care of the horse for the whole summer for free — don't ask him to pay you for it — and see how you do taking care of it.'

"And it was great," she said with a happy sigh of relief. "He was so good. He loved that horse and took care of her. Horses can really connect with people, and it's been amazing. I told him, 'If you do a really good job all summer, then we'll get riding lessons.' So we did and we both just loved it so much. And our trainer said, 'You guys should try (cow) cutting,' and Ian did it one time and he was hooked."

Hooked, in this case, being a very good thing.

Ian did what was asked of him and, four years later, he has become one of the state's best competitors in cow cutting. He qualified for the National High School Rodeo Finals in the event last year and, after a couple of strong performances at this year's Utah high school rodeo, he sits in second place in the state standings entering Saturday's final go-round. A top-four finish will send him to nationals for the second-straight year.

Indeed, it's been a life-changing turnaround for a young man who, four years ago, seemed headed nowhere.