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Grab Life by the Horns

Grab Life by the Horns

by Ellen Orr

10-year-old twins Ethan and Hayden Gainey compete in miniature bull riding

By day, Ethan and Hayden Gainey are students at Fouke Elementary, but after the final bell, they’re swapping their sneakers for boots, their thinking caps for cowboy hats. Competitive miniature bull riders, the 10-year-old twins share their love of the sport.


Miniature bull riding is a rodeo sport wherein a child rides a small bull, specifically bred for youth. Just as in adult bull riding, the rider’s goal is to stay mounted while the bull bucks. All competitors in miniature bull riding are under 18 years old. The average miniature bull weighs between 500 and 700 pounds.

“It’s one of the fastest growing sports in rodeo,” said Amanda, the boys’ mom.

Typically, the “stepping stone” to adult bull riding is riding other rodeo animals, like calves or sheep. Miniature bull riding is a relatively new event, its official organization (Miniature Bull Riders Association) having only been founded in 2010. It is seen as a way to give children a leg-up on their way to competitive bull riding as, unlike calf- or sheep-riding, miniature bull riding is no easier than adult bull riding; it’s just scaled down.

Ethan and Hayden both started their rodeo career with calf riding, at the Miller County Fair in 2017. “They always loved watching bull riding on T.V. with their father [Lance],” Amanda said. “They asked to ride in the Miller County Fair, so we signed them up, and they placed 1st and 2nd.”

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In the 18 months since, the boys advanced to miniature bull riding and have competed throughout Arkansas and in Oklahoma. The family even traveled to Las Vegas, a mini bull riding hub, for a competition.

Though bull riding is understood as a dangerous activity, Amanda and Lance believe that the benefits their boys receive outweigh the risks. “We see bull riding as life lessons,” Amanda explained. “You can’t control the bull, just like you can’t control life. When the bull or life knocks you down, it’s all about how you get up, dust yourself off, and move forward to your dreams and goals.”

Ethan and Hayden are also businesspeople-in-training. The boys used their earnings to purchase their own mini bulls, originally with the intent to use them just for practice. But, after being contacted by multiple rodeo associations, they took on their new title as “stock contractors,” meaning they supply their livestock—mini bulls, in their case—for rodeos. This adds to their income, all of which, “except for a little spending, goes into their savings account,” Amanda said.

Hayden is the 2018 Pee Wee Reserve Champion for the Southwest Arkansas High School Rodeo Association. He placed 11th in the International Miniature Bullriders Association’s 2018 World Finals. Ethan placed in the Top 5 for the 2018 Southwest Arkansas High School Rodeo Association’s Pee Wee division. He is the 2018 Reserve Champion for the International Miniature Bullriders Association.

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