By: Kendra Santos
I know it’s been a rough couple weeks at the rodeo office for you.
First, you woke up on October 1 in the 16th-place heartbreak hole and missed your eighth NFR qualification by $2,026.
Then it was on to Rodeo Carolina, where you took your shot at the $1 million Triple Crown of Rodeo, which is presented by the Lazy E Arena, and came up just short. A week ago this morning, you woke up to face the 16-hour drive from Mill Spring, North Carolina back to Desdemona, Texas without the life-changing loot you were hoping for.
I’m writing to you today because you’ve been front and center in my head and heart since letting me come see that slice of Heaven on earth where you and Britany have been busy building a beautiful family and home with your adorable Whitlee and Reese.
It’s a wonderful life, and you told me before our little trek to Tryon International Equestrian Center that you were grateful for your many blessings regardless of the outcome of one rodeo, or even one rodeo season.
You said you were turning the million-dollar outcome over to God, and I saw you do that with my own two eyes. You arrived fit, riding your very best and ready. You got in your zone, and you stayed there, dominating in those first two preliminary rounds and winning the two-head average riding into Championship Sunday.
On “draft day” Sunday morning, with you having first pick at the horses, I’m told you debated between the one you took and the one 20-year-old Gus Gaillard rode to the Rodeo Carolina win. Horses are like people, with free spirits and minds of their own. I hope you haven’t spent a minute second-guessing that decision, because that day did go according to God’s plan, and it was just Gus’s day.
As you are wise enough to know at 37, one ride with so much riding on it not going your way does not mean it’s not your time to shine. I watched it all unfold from back behind the bucking chutes, and as always saw you enjoy your cowboy friends. You visited and laughed with them, and lent a hand when they needed one. They didn’t even have to ask.
Then you took care of all your own business meticulously. You stretched. You set your saddle. You measured your rein. You took your shot. The ball didn’t bounce your way on that one day. But that’s rodeo, you know that and the million just wasn’t meant to be. This time, that is, and there may well be a next time here for you.
I watched Britany clap for you around a lapful of kids from across the arena, and after visiting with her in your kitchen can see how proud she is to be your wife. It’s not because you’re a world-class cowboy, but because you’re the man—the husband and dad to your precious children—she always dreamed of sharing her life with.
When it was over, and all the hype and hoopla went silent on Rodeo Carolina 2023, I watched your grace and gratitude with awe. You shook the winner’s hand, then went straight to your family. Reese was worn out, so you carried your little cowboy and took Britany’s mini-me Whitlee’s hand.
That big million-dollar cardboard check with your name on it never made it out of the WCRA truck, but between your Rodeo Carolina checks and the $25,000 Reliance Ranches Virtual Rodeo Qualifier Points Champion bonus, you left town with $33,500 to plunk down on your blissful little piece of paradise back in Desdemona.
Those VRQ bonuses are the real deal, and paid out in every event. Congrats to your fellow $25,000 check winners, Leighton Berry, Cody Devers, Andrew Ward, Buddy Hawkins, Ryann Pedone, Shad Mayfield, Josh Frost and Martha Angelone.
And since everyone knows by now that I’m all about the contestants—and therefore not all about top-loaded payoffs that help headlines more than cowboy bank accounts—I loved that second-, third- and fourth-place bonus checks for $10,000, $7,500 and $2,500 also were cut in every event.
Anyway, Isaac, I just want to make sure that you know how proud your rodeo family is of the cowboy and family man you are. I know you had to be disappointed that the million didn’t go as hoped. You’re human. But you’re winning at all the things that matter most in life. And you’re riding great, so there’s no telling what 2024 has in store. God only knows. But then you already knew and trusted that.
Thank you for being a class-act cowboy and worthy role model for rodeo’s generation nexters. The rodeo world’s been watching, and millions more will watch with us on the CBS telecast on November 18. Some will see what our cowboy sport is all about for the first time on that day, and we could not have a better guy repping rodeo.
Isaac, thanks for being great. Now go toast yourself with tacos and ice cream from that cool little corner store that’s right down the road, because you’re worth celebrating, win, lose or draw.
Your forever friend and fan,