On The Trail with J.J. Elshere

by Lily Landreth

South Dakota native J.J. Elshere finished 16th in the PRCA saddle bronc riding standings in 2018, and won his fifth Badlands Circuit Saddle Bronc Champion title in October. While J.J., short for Jeremy James, is also a four-time WNFR qualifier and the 2006 WNFR average champion in the saddle bronc riding, his motivation for riding at the age of 39 is still bucking horses over dollar signs— though pulling a check is always a highlight. “I wasn’t even planning on traveling that much, but with how Kissimmee went last year, and when I won a little out of San Antonio, things got rolling a little bit to where I decided I’d try (to qualify). I ended up pretty good for what I was planning on doing.”

J.J. won $75,773.58 last season, and his 2019 rodeo lineup includes the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo, and Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. In 2015, he competed in The American just a few months after winning the 2014 PRS World Saddle Bronc Champion title. These days, the Badlands Circuit, which J.J. has competed in since buying his PRCA card in 2000, keeps him closer to home and his wife and five sons, while the Black Hills Stock Show and Rodeo is just 40 miles down the road from his ranch near Hereford. “I’ll probably get into the Extreme Broncs there, and then the regular rodeo. They have some pretty good stock there and quite a little added money. Any time you can ride for that money and not have to travel is pretty nice.”


J.J. - Courtesy of the family
J.J. with his five sons Talon (16), Thayne (14), Trik (9), Tel (8), and Trailon (6) - Courtesy of the family

These days, J.J.’s wife, Lindsay, and their five sons, Talon (16), Thayne (14), Trik (9), Tel (8), and Trailon (6), don’t often travel with him altogether because of a ranch to run and multiple school sports to attend. The whole family was with him the years he competed in the WNFR however, as well as the RNCFR in 2016, making the 30-hour drive to Kissimmee, Florida, following Trik’s state wrestling competition. “Rodeo is just the greatest sport there is. The rodeo family that you meet along the way are lifelong friends,” says Lindsay. “The years J.J. was making it to the Finals, I had four little boys with one on each side holding on to my purse. That was pretty stressful having all the kids there, and Taos Muncy’s mom (Johnnie Muncy) was sitting right behind us. She’s become one of my dearest friends and she helped me through the Finals. They become family and you can’t raise your kids without them. They video for you when you’re not there and text you to let you know how they did. And we get to see the country—our kids have been to pretty much every big zoo in the United States and Canada, and it’s a real great experience. It’s a hard life, but it’s great.”

The Elsheres run cattle and grow hay on their ranch, all with the help of their older boys. “We sure couldn’t do half the things we do without their help. They’re pretty handy boys—rarely do we ever need outside help,” says Lindsay. She too grew up on a ranch, and rodeoed in the SDHSRA with J.J. Talon and Thayne handle the bulk of haying while J.J. is rodeoing in the summer, along with helping their neighbors during branding season and taking on other jobs like riding colts. J.J. has been starting colts since his teens, and has a pen full of horses to ride year round. “I put the basic 30 or 40 days on them, or whatever the owner wants. I have a barn that I can ride in, so they’re pretty good about loping circles in the barn all winter long. I just really like to ride horses. I like coming across the ones that are smart and pick it up quick that are pretty fun, and there are some that can be pretty challenging.” Like his sons, J.J. grew up ranching with his parents, Jim and Lana Elshere, and siblings, Cory, Ryan, and Misty, working the operation his grandpa started and later passed down to J.J.’s dad. “We’d make sure everything was done, and our parents would take us wherever we needed to go, and they worked pretty hard to help us along.”


J.J., his wife Lindsay and their sons - Jessica Deering Photography
J.J. Elshere competing at a pro rodeo in El Paso, Texas - JenningsRodeoPhotography.com

J.J.’s dad rode bareback horses for several years, then passed the roughstock gene along to J.J.’s older brother Ryan, who rode saddle broncs and helped J.J. start his rodeo career. “The goal was to ride professionally and make the NFR—I decided that right around high school. They didn’t have junior high rodeos back then, so I did a lot of 4-H rodeoing and then I high school rodeoed for South Dakota.” J.J. qualified for the NHSFR in saddle bronc riding in 1997 and 1998 and even slid his hand into a bull rope for a time, but saddle broncs were his niche. “It was just a little easier event because that’s what a lot of guys from up here did, so that made it easier traveling. My parents helped me out the most getting me started, and my brother. I used to work for Jeff Gabriel and he helped coach me along and we’d go to some schools. Eudell Larson, the rodeo coach in Dickinson, helped me out at some of those schools, and Tom Miller.”

Today, J.J. helps with as many rodeo schools as he can, along with coaching Talon in the saddle bronc riding and Thayne in the steer riding. “We’ll have some practices in town or at the neighbors. We’re not really set up for bronc riding, but Thayne rides steers and we can do that at home. If not, then we go into Rapid City or Sturgis—Rory Lemmel has a nice facility we can use.” Talon qualified for the NJHFR in 2016 and now competes in the SDHSRA, while Thayne went to the 2018 NJHFR in Huron, South Dakota. “I could hit a couple rodeos that were close when he wasn’t competing, so that worked out good,” says J.J., who competes in bronc riding matches in addition to pro rodeos throughout the summer. Four of his five boys will be in 4-H rodeo this summer following their school sports, including basketball and wrestling. J.J.’s goal is just as much to help them pursue their passions as his own. “I plan on going to the stock shows and all my circuit rodeos, and to just keep having fun and pull a check or two. I want to thank everybody who’s ever helped me along the way. There’s a lot of people to name, but I’ve had a lot of support over the years.”

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