Fettig Bronc Company, recently brought home two national titles from the World Class Bucking Horse Championships in Kalispell, Mt. to SW North Dakota.
Photo by Mary Peters Photography
By Pat Ratliff
The company, owned by Killdeer native Leroy Fettig, was the top contractor (groups of three horses entered in the championship) and also had the top bucking horse entered, a mare named “Looking Good.” Fettig also had the 5th Place horse (Arapaho) and the 22nd Place horse (Wild Ride) as his three horse entry.
Fettig said all the horses entered are four and five year olds.
“The Association started about 10 years ago,” Fettig said. “Its main sponsor is CINCH.
“There are events throughout the summer and the top 40 horses go to the championship.”
Despite winning the titles, Fettig runs a small program.
“My goal is to get quality bucking horses,” he said. “We raise about 15 foals a year.”
Once born, the waiting begins.
“They’re a long three to four year old before we do anything with them,” Fettig said. “We’ve got about 80 horses total.”
Fettig says there’s a real need to raise horses specifically to buck.
“Over the years, they’ve bred all the good bucking out of horses,” he said. “Now we’re breeding it back in.”
Fettig started his breeding program in 1992. He adds Morgan and a small percentage of draft horse (Percheron) to the mix. He’s looking for a 1300 to 1500 pound horse.
“They need to be heavy boned,” he said. “A bucking horse has to be pretty tough.
“They also have to be athletic and have a heart.”
After that, it’s up to the horse.
“Some don’t like to buck… some do,” he said.
As far as the breeding program, there’s more than that passed down through the horses.
Leroy Fettig himself is descended himself from a great family of rodeo producers.
His father, Phil along with brothers Jack, Ray and Tony and sister Monica Hovden had some of the best bucking horses in history; names like Figure 4, Reservation Red and Spur Dodger were legendary.
As the Fettig Brothers Rodeo Company they also produced Double Duce, Jamboree and Dark Angle; all noteworthy bulls.
They started in the early ‘30’s raising bucking horses and contracting rodeos.
Noteworthy rodeos the company produced included the Days of ’76 rodeo in Deadwood and the World’s Fair Rodeo in Montreal, Canada. They also raised remount horses for the U.S. Cavalry; their herd foundations were old cavalry mounts.
Years ago, a reporter for the Killdeer Herald once wrote “a good many horses furnished by Fettigs have never been ridden to the finish by any rider.”
The Fettig Brothers Rodeo Company was inducted into the North Dakota Cowboy Hall of Fame in 2000.
“They also built the Killdeer Fairgrounds in 1955 or 56,” Fettig remembers. “They were still building it the morning of the first rodeo.
“They also had rodeo stock at the nationals from ’59 clear through the ‘70’s.”
As for Leroy Fettig, he already has plans for the future.
“I’ll go to more of these events next year,” he said. “There’s also a big futurity in Vegas. This is something that will probably grow… it’s a way for the smaller guy to compare his stuff with the other guys.”
And Fettig has one piece of advice for others wanting to enter the field.
“Rodeo is a tough game,” he said. “You don’t want to be in it for the money. It just doesn’t pencil out.”