Last year, rodeo contestant Tyler Houle barely missed qualifying for the 2016 National High School rodeo in Gillette and that near miss was the catalyst that sparked him to a successful 2017 campaign.
Determined not to be denied, Houle hit the rodeo circuit hard in 2017 and eyed a return to the Montana High School state rodeo competition in Baker.
“I’ve been around rodeo my whole life and last year was my first year I started hitting the circuit really hard,” Houle said. “I am going on my own. When I was a little boy, I traveled all over the country to different rodeos. That is kind of cool for me to do and it lit a fire in me to come back strong next season, and we did it.”
This year at the Montana State High School competition, Houle wouldn’t be denied in his quest to get to the national rodeo in Gillette, Wyo.
“I ended up qualifying for nationals and it really set me up to have a better year in rodeo this year than last year,” Houle said. “I love rodeo and it is my favorite sport. In 2016, I didn’t do any rodeo during the summer. This year, I’ve been going to a lot of the Indian Rodeos and trying to get out there more. I’ve been all over Idaho, Wyoming and competing all over Montana on the weekend.”
Houle also caught the eye of Laramie County Community College rodeo coach Beau Clark.
Houle, who had carved his niche in the steer wrestling and tie-down portion of the rodeo, captured first in steer wrestling at the Ronan Pioneer Days. Rocky Boy and Superior helped set him up for his first-ever bid at Nationals but also a scholarship.
Houle said his success was not achieved by himself and credited not only his parents but also several other individuals that have helped aid in his success in his quest to one day to end up on the pro rodeo circuit.
“I’ve been fortunate to have some really good horses,” Houle said. “Yvette Vega rode one of her horses the last two years and it has been awesome. I credit most of my success to my horses. Horses are athletes just like I am and I’ve had a lot of good ones. The community has supported me and I got a lot of support when I went to nationals. Someone would give me like $200 bucks here and there for gas and entry fees.”
Houle said his experience at the national rodeo circuit was “eye-opening.”
“Nationals was a really cool experience and for about 15 days, I got to see everything, see other people from other states and how they do their stuff,” Houle said. “The experience really opened my eyes to what is out there. I met a lot of people and it kind of got me going. I was even more excited to go to college and get out of small town USA. At Nationals, there were big trailers and I got to see what is really out there for rodeo cowboys. It is very exciting because there are big arenas and all of the shirts that I got.”
Houle also won a buckle at the nationals.
“I placed in the second go-round and I was in the top four and won a buckle,” Houle said. “The buckle has a picture frame with a black number on it. The award was pretty cool. I think I finished in the top 40 out of 200 in the country.”
Houle, who also participated in saddle bronc riding, tie-down wrestling, and team roping, said a lot of success in steer wrestling was “timing.”
“A lot of my success in steer wrestling is timing and I would say about 50 percent of it is horsemanship,” Houle said. “Riding horses is what really helped me to know what needed to be done and what feels right and what doesn’t feel right. I went to a couple of schools in Washington for steer wrestling and that has helped me a lot.”
Houle’s father, Hugh Houle, has participated in a grand total of seven Indian National Finals Rodeos for the last seven years. Tyler has credited Hugh with being a significant influence in his rodeo career.
“He has made it to the Indian National Finals Rodeo over seven times and has helped me a lot,” Tyler Houle said. “He has given me a lot of these great horses to ride and has been a real blessing. I couldn’t be successful without him.”
Several of Houle’s family and influences have suggested that he pursue an education before he attempts to go into the professional circuit.
“That is the biggest thing I wanted to get down is I wanted to get an education because sometimes in the rodeo, you get hurt and you want to have something to fall back on,” Houle said. “My main goal is to get an education, better myself and possibly my rodeo career.”
Houle said he is looking forward to going to the LCCC.
“LCCC has a great facility made for rodeo,” Houle said. “I talked to the coach a lot and we went and visited it there. I would like to qualify for the college finals. My first college rodeo will be in September. It’ll start this fall and go into next spring. The college finals will be next spring and I would like to qualify for that.”
Houle, a Ronan graduate in the spring of 2017, credited Muley Bluz, his sponsor for the last two years, on being one of the keys to his successful career.
“(Owner Steve Krumm) has been really great to me and I would like to thank everyone who has supported me on my trip to Gillette,” Houle said. “I would also like to give a big thanks to my mom and dad who have been here since day one helping me out.”