Zane Thompson has grown up in the arena. From junior high rodeos to the WHSRA, the 17 year old from Cheyenne, Wyo., believes that home […]
On the Trail with the Soileau Brothers
Written by: Siri Stevens< Back to Articles
“I rodeoed and I loved it,” said Kent Soileau, from White Ville, Louisiana. “When my oldest son (Garrett) was 8, I decided he should rodeo and I built a rope pen and got a set of steers.” Life took over, and Kent didn’t push it. “We were farming and buying properties.” Three or four years went by, and Kent realized if he didn’t put rodeo as a priority, he was going to miss out and so were his boys. “They all agreed to plow the pen, get some horses and go again.” The hard work paid off and this year three of his boys are headed to the National Junior High and High School Finals. His wife, Sadie, was a city girl who came to the country.
“I love it,” she said about rodeo. “I’m still not a horse person, but I get the clothes and the cooking together. I like seeing new places.” The family had never been to Tennessee and made the ten hour drive to Lebannon to watch their youngest son, Grant, compete. After that they will head to Gillette, Wyoming, to watch two other sons, Gavin and Gabe, compete at the National High School Finals.
Grant competes in team roping and chute dogging. He spends his spare time working on the family farm, where they grow rice, sugar cane, wheat, corn, and beans. They also run crawfish traps from February to mid-June. He likes working on the farm and plans to come back after obtaining an ag business degree in college. “It’s very hot and I like it,” he says of farming. Grant started competing when he was at the end of his fifth grade year. Before his first rodeo, he had practiced for about three months. He learned from his dad and family friend, Tom Carney (Steer Wrestling 101). “It looked fun and it was a challenge,” said the 14-year-old, a ninth grader at Sacred Heart High School in Ville Platte (11 miles away). “When I went to Tom’s school, I didn’t know anything about bull dogging; I didn’t want to go. I just wanted to practice team roping. But now that I’m bull dogging I like it a lot, it’s a lot of action.” Grant believes that if you want something, you have to work hard for it, and with that, he practices a lot. “I get up every morning, I practice, and every night we are bull dogging – every time it doesn’t rain and our pen is dry enough.” Grant is the red headed youngest in the family of five. “I have a sister (Lainey, 21) that is a red head, and my older brother (Garrett– 19 about to turn 20); he doesn’t rodeo. When we started he was about to graduate so he didn’t rodeo. He’s going to college for Ag Business and working on the farm.” Grant has met a lot of friends through rodeo, and when he’s not practicing, rodeoing, or working on the farm, he likes to go swimming, four wheeling, fishing and duck hunting. He works hard not to be in the shadow of his older brothers. “We ride different and we swing our ropes different, but we still help each other out.”
Gavin is two years older than Grant and made the National High School Finals for the first time in the team roping as a heeler. He went into the Louisiana High School Rodeo Finals in the tenth hole in the team roping and ended up in the fourth hole going to Nationals. Gavin works on the farm, and he spends most of his time practicing. “We go to school and when we get home we crawfish or practice. In the summer time, I help my dad drive tractors, plow, shred, or get the cane ground ready.” His least favorite thing to do is pull red rice. “It’s hot and sweaty and my arms get cut up.” Gavin is going to be a junior and school is not his favorite to do. “There are other things I’d rather do, like rodeo or hunt or fish or drive around in my truck.” The 16-year-old drives a 2013 2500 GMC. “It was my dad’s older truck and he gave it to me and got a new one.” His dad is insistent that his sons practice. “There are days I’m lazy and he makes me go,” said Gavin, who wants to be a vet or come back to the ranch and be a foreman. Gavin stared rodeoing in the 8th grade. “We never really got into the competition big – we went to some smaller ones, and we were showing goats and we had some friends that rodeoed and we decided to do it.” Gavin is hoping to be a National Champion – and is preparing for it. “We rope our machine and even though we just got a big rain, we will get out there again and prepare for the finals.” His hero is Ote Barry. “He’s a four time world champion steer wrestler and came back to go the American and did pretty well.” He has learned along the way the he can’t look at what everyone else is doing, he just needs to be the best he can be. “I have the want and drive to get better, and reach the full potential of what I can be.”
Gabe is the oldest in the family that competes. “I try to help my brothers in any way I can and make sure they do everything they can when we practice,” said the 18-year-old. “I want us all to succeed. When we practice, it’s me, Gavin and my dad. My dad works the chute. Gavin hazes for me and I haze for him and we haze for Grant, who just stared jumping steers. We do all the ground work first.”
Gabe is heading back to the National High School Finals Rodeo to defend his 2015 Steer Wrestling Championship. “It really didn’t sink in right away,” said the recent graduate from Sacred Heart High School of his win last year in Rock Springs, Wyo. He is concentrating on making sure he is focused this year. “I am preparing myself as best I can to compete. It is more muscle memory – if I prepare myself the right way it’s easier to compete.” He slides the stick, jumps the dummy and chute dogs before he ever jumps a steer on a horse. He typically practices two to three hours a day. “I don’t practice every single day, but I do, at least three or four times a week.” He believes the horse has a lot to do with everything. “I have a lot of good luck with my horses. For a horse, you’ve got to get along, and me and my little brother can’t ride the same horses, we don’t always get along the same.” The horse he rode last year is Kid Rock, a horse he owns. “I bought him right before state finals last year and rode him at state finals and that was the first rodeo I rode him at. I bought him from Marcus Theriot (2016 CNFR All Around Champion) – he had three bull dogging horses at the time and he sold him. I got along with him right away.”
Gabe will head to college at Mcneese State. “It is close to home and I always wanted to go there. Half my friends and my brother go there.” He will study Ag Business and will come back and work on the farm with his dad. “My older brother is doing the same thing.” Unlike his older brother, Gabe plans to college rodeo and once he graduates, he will get his card and travel around and see how it goes.
Next to their dad, all three boys count their grandpa Melvin as their hero. “He’s always worked hard his whole life and he’s never quit. He’d put his mind to something and he would do it.” All of Kent and Sadie’s children have the same determination and drive. “The perfect day is waking up healthy, having my family around and being able to do the things I love, rodeo and farm,” said Gabe.