FIVE-TIME CHAMP RETURNS IN BRONC RIDING WHILE HELPING HIS WIFE QUALIFY FOR IFR 45
OKLAHOMA CITY – Jet McCoy was just a teenager when he first qualified for the International Finals Rodeo.
He was in the prime of his life, embarking on a career that made him a household name in his home state. He earned five International Professional Rodeo Association world titles: saddle bronc riding in 1998-99 and the all-around championship from 1999-2001.
After a six-year hiatus, the Ada, Okla., cowboy will return to the 2015 championship, IFR 45, set for Jan. 16-18 at Jim Norick State Fair Arena in Oklahoma City.
“One of the biggest reasons for me to go this year was to be able to go to the finals the same year that Ashlee finally qualified,” he said, referring to his wife, a breakaway roper.
He will get that chance. Ashlee McCoy finished the 2014 season ranked among the top 15 in the breakaway roping standings. It took until the final week of the season before she knew her fate.
“Bronc riding has been the last thing I’ve thought about this fall,” Jet McCoy said. “This breakaway-roping deal has been driving me crazy. I don’t think I’ve ever, in my life, rodeoed this hard in October and November. Usually by this time of year, I either knew I was going to make it or wasn’t going to make it.
“This year it seems like Ashlee has been on the bubble (to make the IFR) for two months.”
He made it more times than not, earning 23 total qualifications, 14 in saddle bronc riding. When he was battling his younger brother, Cord, for IPRA titles, both cowboys competed in all three roughstock events: bronc riding, bareback riding and bull riding. While the glory days involved traveling the rodeo trail with his brother, he loves the idea of competing alongside his bride.
“I know how hard Ashlee works and how bad she wanted to make the finals this year,” he said. “I know she’s got a lot invested. She’s got a lot more invested than just money. She’s got a lot of time in herself invested in this. I’m not nearly as worried about bronc riding as I am breakaway roping.”
Jet McCoy seems to have a pretty good handle on bronc riding. When he got on his first bucking horse of the season in July, it had been five and a half years since he’d placed his boots into the stirrups of a bronc saddle.
“The last time I’d been on a bronc was the last round of the 2009 IFR,” McCoy said. “I had Drama Queen of Kevin Hampton. I got on her on Sunday, then went home and put my saddle down. I didn’t pick it up until I went to Poteau, Oklahoma, in July and hadn’t been on one horse in between.”
How did his Poteau ride go?
“I won by half a point,” he said.
Part of that is due to years on the job, but also it is a testament to how well he stays in shape. He’s a rancher, so physical labor is nothing new.
And while he has been a popular figure in Oklahoma rodeo circles for years, McCoy has become more recognizable recently because he and Cord have been on the reality series “The Amazing Race” three times. Referred to as “The Cowboys,” the McCoys were fan favorites from the first episode in which they appeared in the spring of 2010 to their last showing a few months ago.
“I think part of it is by getting ready for ‘The Amazing Race,’ I had stayed in pretty good physical condition and worked out a lot. I was probably in better shape now than I was the last time I made the IFR.”
Even though his focus has been primarily on helping Ashlee earn a spot among the top 15 breakaway ropers in the IPRA, he has been more than a driver.
“We went just about everywhere this year, but most of my money was won closer to the house,” McCoy said. “I didn’t get very far away. I split the win in the final round in St. Tite (Quebec) this year. That was really fun. It’s been a long time since I’d been to St. Tite. It was really fun to get to go back up there and ride.
“To be able to split the short round up there was good and was the highlight of my season.”
Now he hopes the highlight reel continues to roll at the only major championship in Oklahoma.
“The IPRA has been a big part of my life,” he said. “Growing up, rodeo is what we did. The biggest change for me right now is that once I got married and had a kid, I felt like that chapter of my life had come to an end. The IPRA has meant a lot to us. It paid my bills for a long time.
“For me, going back to riding broncs now and having a chance to go back to the IFR, it’s still all about Ashlee. I’m just thankful that I’m still healthy enough and still ride bucking horses so I can be part of the beginning of her career.”