story by Siri Stevens Tony Keeton started his company, Rockin’ K Rodeo in 2017. It’s not his only full time job. Tony has worked for […]
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Meet the Member Shawn Spaulding
story by Michele Toberer
“There’s just something women like about a pickup man,” may just be a line in a Joe Diffie song about guys that drive pickup trucks, but the truth is that everyone in rodeo likes a good pickup man. Shawn Spaulding has spent the past 20 years working as a rodeo pickup man and preparing for the opportunity he has to work at the IFR50 in Guthrie, Oklahoma in January. Born and raised in Danville, Indiana, riding horses was a big part of his life, as his grandpa, Herbie Russell kept 100-150 horses on hand as he made a living as a horse trader. There was no shortage of horses to ride, yet rodeo was not something that ran in his family. “I started out as a bullfighter in high school. I thought I was tougher than everyone else, and being a bullfighter seemed like the toughest job there was; it turned out I was just dumber than everyone else!” At 19, Shawn was working as an IPRA bullfighter for Glen Bickmell of G Bar A Rodeo Company when the pickup man didn’t show up for work. “They asked me to fill in for him and let me ride their pickup horses. It went so well they let me use the horses the rest of the year and I continued to work as a pickup man for them.” The next year Shawn bought a horse, an IPRA pickup man card, and started making his own pickup horses for his new position. “Working as a pickup man was the most fun that I had ever had, and I couldn’t believe someone was going to pay me to do it once it was over with.”
Shawn’s main profession has always been in excavating, where he operates his own heavy equipment business, Shawn Spaulding Excavating. Being a pickup man has been the perfect side job, turned identity, for the Indiana cowboy. “I’ve enjoyed picking up, and I like that it’s always guaranteed money, so it’s always paid for itself.” Shawn and his wife Jennifer, who works as a data analyst at the local hospital, have three daughters; Hayley 19, Kasey, 16, and Paisley, 4. The older girls compete in the Indiana High School Rodeo Association as barrel racers, pole benders, and breakaway ropers; and Paisley, competes in the Indiana Junior Rodeo Association. The family keeps approximately 20 horses; including some practice bucking horses for local high school kids to have a place to practice, and 8 solid pickup horses that Shawn and his daughter Hayley use. “Hayley picks up when kids come over to practice, and she bought her pickup man card with the IPRA and picked up at her first two IPRA rodeos this year. She doesn’t’ care if they call her the pickup man or pickup person, she just loves to be out there doing it.” Hayley has a 19-month-old son, Kash Grubbs, who is already following in the rodeo footsteps as he constantly tries to rope everything around.
“I’m excited about the IFR50, the IFR is a rodeo that I’ve wanted to pick up at a long time, and I’m glad to have the opportunity to do it. I look forward to working with McKinley Belvin, I’ve worked with him before, and bought some cow-catching dogs from him, and I know that McKinely and I are both excited about working together at our first IFR. For me, I feel like I’ve done a good job as a pickup man if every horse goes in with a flank and back cinch off of him, and I’ve kept anyone from getting hurt and the animals all safe. As long as that’s all done, it’s been a good day picking up.” Shawn looks for horses to train for the job that have plenty of heart and a lot of grit. “The size of their heart is more important than the size of their body, they need to be tough, smart, and athletic. I have 8 really solid horses I use now, but to be honest, it’s so exciting seeing Hayley using them, I wouldn’t mind if she took all 8 horses and picked up at the IFR next year. I get more satisfaction watching her follow into this than doing it myself.”