Nebraska cowboy to compete at National Finals Rodeo

Bareback rider Shadbolt qualifies in 10th place in the world standings

MERRIMAN, Neb. — There’s a Nebraska cowboy among the 119 contestants at this year’s Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

Garrett Shadbolt, Merriman, Neb., has qualified to compete at the PRCA’s world championship in the bareback riding. He’s ranked 10th among the top 15 cowboys in that event who will vie for a world title Dec. 2-11 at the Thomas and Mack Arena in Las Vegas.

Shadbolt, a fifth-generation rancher on the family ranch south of Merriman, grew up ranching and riding. But he didn’t begin rodeo till his senior year of high school, and a broken cheekbone and eye socket ended his high school rodeo as soon as it started.

He wrestled in his youth, then took some time off before wrestling his junior and senior years of high school.

Doane College in Crete offered him academic and wrestling scholarships, so he wrestled collegiately and spent his summers cutting his teeth in the regional rodeo associations, hitting 35-40 rodeos a summer.

He graduated from Doane College in 2019 with a chemistry degree.

Shadbolt became a PRCA member three years ago, and this year has been the best of his career.

“Honestly, I drew a lot of really good horses early in the year, in the winter time and spring,” he said. “I was winning rodeos left and right.” His strong start enabled him to endure through some dry spells this summer, when he wasn’t winning.

Bareback riders, like saddle bronc and bull riders, are required to ride for 8 seconds to get a score.

But Shadbolt says it’s so much more than that. “That’s only 50 percent of it,” he said. “There’s a lot more to it than just riding bucking horses. You have to do the driving, the scheduling, and keep yourself healthy.”


His parents, Quentin and Angela, as well as his wife, Katie, are his support system. Quentin, a former bareback rider, didn’t have a lot of opportunity to rodeo when he was younger.

“Dad’s always been supportive of me rodeoing,” Shadbolt said. “He’ll push me out the door, him and mom both. Mom’s also my rodeo secretary, so she’s my help for entering and travel plans, scheduling rental cars and airline tickets. It’s a huge job and having help in that corner has really made a big difference in my success.”

Shadbolt loves the challenge of getting on better bareback horses, and as a Wrangler NFR competitor, he’ll have the chance to ride 10 of the best horses at the National Finals. “For me, the pinnacle of bareback riding is getting on a horse that really tests a guy, puts him to the edge of his ability and you come out on top.”

The best livestock across the nation are selected for the Wrangler NFR.

“I’m guaranteed to get on some horses that will test me,” he said. “You never know what you’re capable of till you try it.”

Shadbolt enters the Wrangler NFR in 10th place in the world with over $96,000 in winnings.

When he’s not rodeoing, he’s at home, helping on the ranch alongside his parents and his sister, Jordan Sanders.

He also volunteers at Gordon-Rushville High School with the wrestling team.

“I’ve been going two or three times a week,” to practice, he said. “I’m the old guy in the room but I have some tricks up my sleeve that they haven’t seen yet.”

And here’s hoping he has some bareback riding tricks up his sleeve, to bring home the world championship bareback riding title.

The Wrangler NFR runs Dec. 2-11 and will be aired nightly at 7:45 p.m. CST on The Cowboy Channel and RFD-TV. World champions are crowned in each event after the final performance on Dec. 11.


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