COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on the entire world, and the rodeo industry isn’t exempt. From contestants to contractors to committees, they’ve all been forced to […]
ON THE TRAIL WITH Daylon Swearingen
Written by: Lily Landreth< Back to Articles
Daylon Swearingen split second and third place in the bareback riding at the NHSFR this July, riding all three of his horses after making the 34 hour drive from his home in Attica, New York. The 16-year-old bareback and bull rider won 2015 NHSFR All-Around Rookie Cowboy and qualified all three years of the NJHFR, the fruition of his hard work in the arena and on the spur board.
The oldest son of Sam and Carrie Swearingen, owners of Rawhide Rodeo Company, Daylon learned the art of balancing rodeoing and rodeo production from an early age. Sam finished the 32nd Annual Benton Rodeo before flying to Wyoming to watch Daylon and his 15-year-old brother, Colton, compete in the NHSFR. The family visited Devil’s Tower during their travels, but were immediately back to work as soon as their truck turned in the driveway. Daylon was introduced to rodeo by Carrie, a barrel racer and former trick rider for Longhorn Rodeo. He made wooly-fisted mutton busting runs before putting the Barstow youth bareback rigging from his uncle, Kenny Phillips, on a pair of roman riding ponies. “Me and a buddy built bucking chutes at the house when I was eight,” says Daylon. “We had one pony that bucked a little bit, but that was it. When we started bucking steers under the rigging and saddle, they worked out better.” He was competing at the National level by sixth grade in the bull riding, chute dogging, and breakaway roping. Colton followed in the tie-down roping. “I did the timed events for the all-around – and to beat Colton,” Daylon jokes. “I couldn’t lose to my little brother!”
Along with high school rodeo, Daylon competes in the SEBRA, IPRA, and APRA, where he was leading in the bareback riding his rookie year until heading out to Nationals. “I missed quite a few rodeos, and now I’m sitting third. It’s a little frustrating, but it doesn’t bother me too much because we still have quite a few rodeos left,” he says. Putting on 80 performances and 30 ropings from June to October, in addition to the usual rigors of summer haying, has its pros and cons. “I can always make it to at least two rodeos a week, and we have a weekly rodeo we put on. I usually get on every performance in at least one event,” Daylon explains. “We have good rodeos up here, there’s just not as many of them, so there’s not as many people to push you to get better.” His drive to be the best he can be motivates Daylon, along with the coaching from his dad, Kenny, Jerome Davis, Clint Cory, Dave and Tyler Waltz, and Doug Lutz. “Kenny is in Oklahoma, and I send him videos and talk over the phone. I went to Clint Cory’s bareback riding school this spring, and Jerome Davis has a bull riding school. He was a really good bull rider, and he got hurt, but he still has such a positive outlook on life, and he and his wife have helped me learn about the bull business.”
Two year ago, Daylon purchased several heifers and bred them. He has a crop of calves are on the ground and bucked his yearlings this summer. “They bucked pretty good, and so did my heifers. When they’re old enough, I’ll take them to a few futurities, and then start bucking them in my dad’s rodeos.” Rawhide Rodeo Company raises its own roping calves, broncs, and bulls, and purchases its steers. They produce everything from high school rodeos to PRCA and IPRA rodeos, including the Canadian rodeo company Sam is a partner of. “We’re also doing some novice bronc riding at seven of the big rodeos,” says Sam, who founded the company in 1987. “I want to give Daylon and all the young kids the opportunity to rodeo. The younger generation can go play video games and be competitive without the effort, and I think now anything that takes a lot of effort is dying off.” Sam is a first generation saddle bronc rider, growing up on a farm with 40 – 50 horses to ride. “You didn’t know you weren’t out West. My dad was a collector of horses, and as a kid, I’d get on one until it quit bucking, then get on another one! I rode saddle broncs for years and did pretty good, then started buying livestock and an arena and went from there. Daylon will get on the spur board and have me come down, or go over videos with me, but he knows what he’s supposed to do, so it’s more of a conversation.”
Sam and Carrie were married in 2011, joining their families – Carrie’s sons, Daylon and Colton, and Sam’s daughters, Katie and Molly. “Competing in rodeo is what both my kids strive for, and that’s all we really have in our life is our passions,” says Carrie, an RN and a vital part of the rodeo company. “We’ve met so many great people in rodeo – people competing, committees, and those who come to watch. It’s a great sport, and God has blessed us. We have a lot of fun, and it teaches our kids to work hard. It’s never easy, and sometimes you work hard and you don’t win, but that’s the way it can happen.” Carrie is barrel racing at the rodeos on a horse she’s been training, and is what Daylon calls the go-getter of the family. “We always come home with a ton of laundry, so we empty everything Monday morning and wash it, and get the crew’s western shirts to the dry cleaners,” says Carrie. “The Hazletts cook for the crew and anyone working the rodeo when we’re on the road, and that time is a definite blessing for our rodeo crew to get together.” Carrie often serves as a timer and keeps the company’s equipment organized on the road, which is even down to the arena itself. “Other parts of the country have permanent arenas, but up here, we don’t,” Daylon explains. “It takes about five hours to set up. We bring everything, from the chutes and fencing to the roping box. Colton and I help with that, and I do the feeding and help check calves.”
When Daylon’s not on the road with the company’s four trailers and motor home, he enjoys riding colts, mountain biking in the nearby state park, cross-fitting, and wrestling for Attica Central High School, where he’s a junior this fall. “I’ve wrestled since second grade – it gave me something to do during the winter,” he says. “You have to have mental toughness, and if something goes wrong, you can’t blame it on a teammate. It’s just you, like rodeo.” In the winter, Daylon rides practice bulls at home until the temperature is below 30 degrees. “We have about 500 acres, and the summers are good, but the winters suck,” he admits. Year round, he’s working toward his goals of competing in the PBR, and qualifying for the WNFR in both his events. Along with the APRA finals, he intends to compete in the SEBRA and IPRA finals this year, where he’s sitting 12th in the bareback.
“It’s a short rodeo season, but we’re blessed, and the boys work very hard at it,” Sam finishes. “They want it much more than I did, and it’s nice to see them getting involved and growing into rodeo.”