By Kendra Santos
Thanks to the World Champions Rodeo Alliance’s groundbreaking Triple Crown of Rodeo bonus, California cowboy RC Landingham doubled his career earnings at one event, Cowtown Christmas, last December in Fort Worth, Texas. The talented world-class bareback rider climbed mountains of injury-related setbacks to come back and become the first-ever $1 million man of the WCRA. And it’s a feat that’s changed his life forever.
You won’t get to watch this softspoken cowboy who calls a very rural region of Northern California home here at Rodeo Carolina. That’s because he plays a dangerous game, and he’s home after getting hurt yet again. But this time is different. The WCRA Triple Crown of Rodeo bonus, which is presented by the Lazy E Ranch and Arena, made sure of that.
“Rodeoing for a living is not easy, and there are a lot of ups and downs,” said RC, who’s 33. “It really hit me that it took me 14 years to win a million dollars in my career, then I had the chance to win a million at one rodeo in the WCRA. There’s really nothing to debate about that. The money speaks for itself.”
Landingham survived the pressure cooker that comes with being followed day and night by press people and rolling cameras. And when that eight-second whistle blew at Cowtown Christmas on December 17, 2022, everything changed.
“The main thing that stands out now about that moment was instant relief,” Landingham remembers like it happened last week. “About six seconds into my ride (on Pickett’s Freckled Frog), I kind of knew that I’d won it (the two matched moves for a massive 89.5-point score). I was so excited to get off of that horse, and be able to breathe and know it had all been worth it. Pushing through all the setbacks and loss I’ve been through in my life had been worth it.
“My goal was to set up my family’s future with my rodeoing. An hour prior to winning the million, I wasn’t even close. But in that moment of time, I knew I was going to be able to do that. Relief is the only word I can think of that even comes close to what that felt like.”
Landingham remembers well his humble beginnings and how hard the journey’s been at times. A bull in Houston, Texas broke his back, shoulder and ribs, and punctured his lung. A car wreck in Pendleton, Oregon shattered his left leg, broke two bones in his riding hand, tore out a chunk of his triceps muscle and left him in a coma for two days with a face full of glass.
Ten years ago, RC’s biggest fan and mom, Wendy Skiver, was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She lived to see her son ride at his first Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in 2016, then headed to Heaven and graduated to his guardian angel for life.
“It was really emotional for me, just getting my (first NFR) back number,” her loving son remembers well. “It was like, ‘Wow, we’re finally here. We made it.’ Thank God Mom got to be there with me. I think I put way too much pressure on myself going into my first Finals, because I completely embarrassed myself in the first round. It was probably worth it, though, because I cleared my mind and enjoyed the rest of it.
“The rest of the nine days turned into a good Finals, and Mom had as much fun as she possibly could. She had switched from chemo to a chemo pill, so she could get through the NFR. And she got to be there to see me win the 10th round on Pickett’s Top Flight. That’s the last horse she ever got to watch me ride.”
After a courageous four-year fight–with her loyal son and his little sister, Sydney, by her side–Wendy died on February 3, 2017. RC had to dig deep to fight his way back to the Finals that year in her honor.
“After Mom passed away, we had her memorial and I took some time,” he said. “I stayed home for about a month. Then we headed out to San Antonio, and got after it. I knew that’s what she’d want me to do.”
RC’s now living the honorable cowboy and family-man life his mom so dearly wanted for him. And though that million does change the balance in his bank account, it does not distract him from what matters most.
“The financial stability that came with the million has been a huge relief for my wife and me,” he said. “And the day-to-day happiness of not stressing about finances and having money work for us has been nice. Just knowing there’s a brighter future in front of us means so much.”
RC and Bliss Landingham’s biggest move after he won the million was buying a place to call their own, where they’ll raise their little boy, Wynn, who’s 2 now. With a new place comes countless projects, and the peace of mind that comes with money in the bank is making this round of rehab and remodeling so much easier.
RC’s most recent setback was a painful bone spur on his pelvis. Dr. Allen Morey removed the pesky calcium deposit in McKinney, Texas on September 18.
“The bone growth was on the part of my pelvis where I sit on my riggin’, and got progressively bigger and more inflamed the last few years,” RC said. “It was in the worst possible place, and it just got to where I was in extreme pain every time I tried to ride. I actually had a good rodeo year this season. Things went well this winter, and I rolled right into 2023 from a great finish in 2022. I felt good, and was riding good.
“Then on the injury side, it was one thing after another. I tweaked my spine around the time of The American in March, and my pelvis really started hurting. I took a month and a half off this spring to try and heal up, then won quite a bit in June and July. But it killed me to ride. I was in extreme pain every time I got on. By the end of July, it just wasn’t tolerable anymore. So I decided to take the rest of the year off.”
He has high hopes to return to action yet again at the pro rodeo in Fort Worth in February. Meanwhile, “Our new place has been consuming my days, and to finally have our own place and be working on it to make it just what we want it to be has been awesome and exciting. It’s nothing fancy, but it’s ours and we love it. It’s been a lot of fun.”
He used to wonder how in the world he could ever afford to hang up his chaps and ride off into the ranching sunset he and his family so dearly love.
“That million dollars definitely put retirement in the back of my mind for the first time,” RC said. “I’m not ready to retire, but I now know that I can when the time comes, and that I have enough cushion that I don’t have to stress as much when I do decide to transition into the next chapter. I’m going to put 100% into rehabbing, training and coming back again. But nobody gets to rodeo forever, and I can now see a future beyond the arena.”
RC is so happy to see his saddle bronc riding amigo Isaac Diaz with a shot at his own million-dollar fairytale here at Rodeo Carolina. His simple, friendly advice to Diaz is, “Don’t let the whole situation overwhelm you. Try to just enjoy the moment, and not get sucked into all the hype.”
That’ll be a very tall task, of course, with the rodeo world watching Diaz’s every move here this week. Meanwhile, Landingham hasn’t ruled out a run at another cool million.
“I’ve qualified for the last two WCRA events, but haven’t been healthy enough to go to them,” he said. “The WCRA has changed my life, and there’s no reason it couldn’t happen twice. Why wouldn’t you be a fan of this?
“I love the WCRA. It gives every person who’s involved in rodeo the same opportunity to win substantial money in a short amount of time. It doesn’t matter if you’re a high school kid, or someone like me who’s rodeoed for 15 years. Everyone has the same stage to get noticed on, and for some it’s the very first time. That’s a cool concept, and I’m proof that it’s for real.”
The WCRA is looking to rise all tides in rodeo, and caters to contestants, fans and what’s best for the sport.
“What’s not to like about winning a large amount of money in a small amount of time on a minimum amount of bucking horses at every WCRA event you go to?” Landingham noted. “I’m very grateful and thankful for everything I’ve won in my career, and for the chance to double that like I did in the WCRA. With all the injuries, it’s been a financial roller coaster.
“The million was a game-changer for my family and me. It set up my family’s future, and is allowing me to start making a plan for when this is all over. Win or lose, I have a great life. And winning the million will never change me as a person. But it’s sure a sigh of relief. And for that I will always be grateful.”