KILLDEER, N.D. – On 2,000 acres of pasture on the Plains of western North Dakota, 180 bucking horses roam the grasslands.
It’s all part of a spread owned by Alicia Fettig, the third generation of her family involved in the stock contracting business and the first woman in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association to be a livestock producer.
Her life’s work will be on display for all of Dunn County and beyond during the Badlands Iron Cowboy Rodeo, set for 6 pm. Thursday, Sept. 2, and the Wild Rides Rodeo Killdeer, which takes place at 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 3. Both events are at the Killdeer Rodeo Grounds. But that’s just the start for Fettig, who will also produce the Wild Ride Rodeo Dickinson at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 18, at the Stark County Fairgrounds.
“I wasn’t around bucking horses until 2011, but I grew up rodeoing,” said Fettig, who also owns a 400-acre ranch near Killdeer. “I’ve been around horses my whole life.”
For much of the last century, the Fettig name has been part of rodeo in this part of the world. It all started decades ago with her grandfather, Phil, as the patriarch. When he died in a vehicle crash in 1959, other members of the family took over. As time evolved, conditions changed, and Alicia Fettig’s father, LeRoy, found his way to into the bucking-horse game in 1992.
Fast forward to 2014. As he lay dying, LeRoy Fettig asked his adult child if she wanted to take over the horses.
“Of course, I did,” she told The Cowboy Channel. “They’re just in my blood. I love being around them.”
Raising horses is pretty much the same, whether the animals are being used for trail riding or for bucking in rodeos. But there was a learning curve for the younger Fettig.
“I was around them, but he was so protective of me and the horses,” she said. “When we were at rodeos, I was never touching or sorting the horses. When he died, I had not backed up a big, gooseneck trailer my entire life.”
Much has changed over the years. While she still handled the business end, she awakened one morning in June 2019 with a new direction for the company; she was returning Fettig Pro Rodeo to the highest ranks in the sport. For the first 23 years of the National Finals Rodeo, the Fettigs had animals involved.
It took another three decades to be back at ProRodeo’s grand finale, but Fettig horses have proven to be buckers. Colorado Bulldog and Pop A Top have been featured at the NFR, and there are likely more that will follow soon.
“There have been a lot of challenges, but the rewards outweigh the challenges so far,” she told The Cowboy Channel. “I didn’t have to start from scratch; I inherited the horses.
“The Western way of living is the way for me. I hope my son carries on the legacy.”
Grayson is just 14, and his future won’t be set for years, but he has a foundation for life in the bucking-horse business should he choose it. For now, though, his mother has a pretty good handle on things. In addition to producing events close to home, she travels the country showing her incredible animal athletes at some of the biggest rodeos in the sport.
“I’m excited about my horses being part of the best bucking horses in the world,” Fettig said. “I want to see the best cowboys ride them. I want to see what they can do on any stage. I’m pretty proud of what we have.”
She should be. Alicia Fettig has accomplished a great deal over the last seven years, and the future continues to look bright.