From Heartbreak to Triumph: Chad Rutherford’s Story of Resilience

By: Julia Dondero

These days, Rodeo is a businessman’s game, as well as a testament to an athlete’s unwavering passion for the sport. This dynamic character palette sets professionals, like Chad Rutherford apart from the rest. 

Nominating, entering, and critical decision-making are just part of what sets rodeo apart from many sports. Historically, Rodeo has been a gambler’s sport, but with copious immense opportunities, it takes a true businessman to call the right shots and position his career for success. 

For the North Central Texas native, Rodeo is about making sharp business decisions, while also following his faith and genuine love for the sport of Bareback Riding. By viewing Rodeo and the World Champions Rodeo Alliance through a business lens, he has enabled himself to make the most out of his rides and make a living pursuing his passions. 

Chad Rutherford during the first performance of the WCRA Buc Days Rodeo in Corpus Christi on May 10, 2023

“You have to look at Rodeo and the WCRA in a business sense. It’s [the WCRA] a big game changer for the world of rodeo. The opportunity to compete on these stages for large paychecks is great” explained Rutherford. 

Rutherford found his calling later than most riders, as he hadn’t set foot onto a Bareback horse until he graduated high school. 

“I originally wanted to play football but when that didn’t work out, I knew I wanted to find another way to pay for a collegiate degree. It wasn’t even a decision, I was meant to be here” reflected Rutherford. 

After graduating with an Agricultural Science Degree from Hill College and McNeese State in 2014, Rutherford launched himself into the big leagues. In 2017, Rutherford experienced heartbreak with a wreck that took him out of NFR contention and almost cost him his life. Just after the 8-second-buzzer in Reno, Nevada at the Reno Rodeo, the horse pitched him over the front and came down on top of him, resulting in 8 ribs broken in 13 places, a broken shoulder blade and collar bone, and a collapsed lung. After years of heartbreaking injuries and nerve damage, the resilient cowboy never backed down from pursuing his passion. 

“My persistence is a testament to God. When my body wasn’t able to, He took my passion away. He found other ways to provide for my family and me. When I was finally healthy again in 2019, he relit the passion and has sustained me every step of the way” explained Rutherford, whose faith is at the core of everything he does. 

When injuries sidelined Rutherford in 2018, he met his now-wife Kaite and the growing family hasn’t looked back since. Rutherford explained the value in pursuing his passion fueled by faith, rather than the money or fame that has sustained him over the years and earned him an NFR qualification in 2020. 

“God has given me the passion to keep going. I’m now a father and God blesses me with the ability to keep going.” 

Rutherford also explained how the WCRA has continuously impacted his career in a big way. The opportunity to nominate rodeos and compete for substantial payouts has allowed Rutherford to continue to pursue his passions. 

“The WCRA is a big game changer for the world of Rodeo. The opportunity to compete on large stages for large checks is truly an amazing opportunity” said Rutherford.

Rutherford currently finds himself positioned to qualify for Rodeo Carolina’s, October 5-8. With the nomination deadline of September 10, rapidly approaching, Rutherford encouraged those hesitant to pursue their passions and take the chance to nominate. 

“At the end of the day, it is about pursuing your passion and finding your calling over anything else”. 


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