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

"I just liked horses," Ian said, matter of factly. "I hadn't really paid much attention to 'em before. I thought, 'Well, I like this, so I have to get good grades to keep doing it.' So that's what I did.

"It's fun," he said of cow cutting, which requires tons of practice and a kinship between horse and rider as they strive to "cut" calves away from the herd in a pre-prescribed amount of time while judges watch and calculate their scores. "I'm not nervous right now, but I was about five minutes before I competed and then I was OK."

Ian, who lives in Farmington and recently graduated from Viewmont High, is a big, husky 18-year-old kid who certainly looks like a cowboy — "I am the real deal," he said with a wry smile.

And in typical cowboy fashion, he's a soft-spoken young man of few words who only offers a lot of "yep" and "nope" answers.

He doesn't participate in other sports, but he enjoys playing video games and is so bright that he can actually write the programs for them. He's thinking about going to college at Weber State University and majoring in computer technology.

He certainly knows what he's doing in the rodeo arena, and he's all business as he competes. He placed second in Thursday's go-round of the state finals and third on Friday. He hopes to continue competing in cow-cutting shows for years to come.

The trick that turned things around for him four years ago was finding a passion for this rather unique rodeo event and realizing that, if his grades slipped below a 3.0 grade-point average, he would not be allowed to compete.

"That was his incentive," his mom said. "He actually did (become ineligible) for a while. He missed half of a year because of his grades, but he learned, 'I've got to work hard,' and that became his passion. He loved it and he learned to work hard and he learned that in life, you can't just focus on one thing — you have to focus on everything or your whole life suffers. He learned a lot from this.

"It gave him something to work for. A lot of times, he'll not do well at a show, and he has learned to just pick himself up and go on. He gets over it and he moves on and he tries harder and he learns from what he did, how he messed up, and he tries to not do it again.

"He loves his horse, Phillip, and he's the perfect horse for Ian," she said. "That horse was exactly what he needed to do well. ... That horse is his best buddy in the whole world."

Ian was also blessed to have a trio of trainers — Andy Christensen, Kenny Birdsall and Randy White — over the years who have helped him tremendously.

"Each one of them was just what Ian needed at the time," Eulale said. "We've been so fortunate to have such great trainers."

And so fortunate, too, to see the terrific turnaround in her son's life.

"He made it; it's amazing," she said of getting him through high school. "He wouldn't have graduated, I believe, if it hadn't been for the rodeo to keep him going. He's had to not only do well and keep his grades up, but he had to make up credits that he had missed when he was struggling. So he's been amazing.

"He's really, really shy and he doesn't talk much, but he's made a lot of friends through rodeo. He's a different person now; the transformation has been amazing. He's a much happier person. It's changed his life, it really has.

"I honestly don't know what we would've done if he hadn't found his horse and done high school rodeo," she said. "I don't know what we would've done. He needed it; it was an answer to prayers. It saved him, it saved his life. It gave him something to look forward to and something to work towards."

And rather than putting her son on medication or sending him to some form of therapy, cow cutting became the medication and the therapy he so desperately needed.