Daylon Swearingen, from Piffard, New York, is making his second trip to the International Finals Youth Rodeo in Shawnee, Oklahoma. He is entered in the bareback and bull riding.
“I came here from Alberta,” said the 18-year-old, who was entered in the Canadian PBR. He flew down and his brother, Colton and their mom, Carrie, made the 20-hour drive.
“I came for the competition,” said Colton, the 17-year-old calf roper and steer wrestler who is making his first trip to Shawnee.
The two brothers are familiar with the rodeo life, their parents, Sam and Carrie, own Rawhide Rodeo Company, based in New York.
“When I was younger, it was a lot of fun working the rodeos – but now that I’m older and competing, it’s hard to do both,” said Daylon. “We do everything at the rodeos that needs done, from setting up the arena to feeding to sorting, to picking up.”
One difference between rodeo in Oklahoma and rodeo in the upper east is the availability of permanent rodeo grounds. All but one of the 25 rodeos his family provides stock for every year requires a semi-truck with everything from the bucking chutes to the back pens.
“It takes about five hours to set up,” Daylon said. “We bring everything, from the chutes and fencing to the roping box. Colton and I help with that, and I do the feeding and help check calves.”
The East is not known for the western lifestyle, so the Swearingen’s are paving the way.
“I want to go to the NFR,” said Daylon, who plans to go to college in Texas. “If I want to progress, I need to move.”
The rodeo company the family owns has been in the family for more than 25 years, started by the boy’s father, Sam. The company runs 40 bulls and 80 horses, some raised and some bought, providing stock for 25 rodeos a year. They also raise 100 head of rodeo cows for roping and bucking purposes, some of them owned by Daylon, who is building up his herd. Putting on 80 performances and 30 ropings from June to October, in addition to the usual rigors of summer haying, has its pros and cons.
“I can always make it to at least two rodeos a week, and we have a weekly rodeo we put on. I usually get on every performance in at least one event,” Daylon explains. “We have good rodeos up here, there's just not as many of them, so there's not as many people to push you to get better.”
The boys learned by making wooly-fisted mutton busting runs before putting the Barstow youth bareback rigging from his uncle, Kenny Phillips, on a pair of roman riding ponies.
“Me and a buddy built bucking chutes at the house when I was eight," Daylon said. “We had one pony that bucked a little bit, but that was it. When we started bucking steers under the rigging and saddle, they worked out better.”
Colton still gets on bulls once in a while but has switched ends, roping and bulldogging.
When Daylon's not on the road with the company's four trailers and motorhome, he enjoys riding colts, mountain biking in the nearby state park, cross-fitting and wrestled for Attica Central High School.
“I've wrestled since second grade – it gave me something to do during the winter,” he says. “You have to have mental toughness, and if something goes wrong, you can't blame it on a teammate. It's just you, like rodeo.”
Colton has one more year of school and then he will figure out where he’s going to college. He stays fit by lifting weights he has in his bedroom. He will pursue the horse training aspect of horses. Although he doesn’t ride bulls anymore, he fights bulls for Daylon when he rides at the house.
The company has been gradually moving to another location in Georgia.
“In the winter there aren’t any rodeos up in New York,” explained Daylon. “We go from 4th of July until October, and we are trying to get some set up around our place in Georgia.”
“We're blessed, and the boys work very hard at it,” Sam finished. “They want it much more than I did, and it's nice to see them getting involved and growing into rodeo.”
Both the boys are glad to be at the IFYR. “I like the IFYR,” Daylon said. “It’s the best kids in the world,” added his brother.