A lifetime fascination for rodeo and especially bucking horses has turned into a family profession for one Council Grove cowboy.
“I grew up at Strong City home of the Flint Hills Rodeo and loved everything about rodeo,” Jason Fillmore said.
His dad Marion “Hop” Fillmore was a successful amateur rodeo contestant providing assistance at the hometown rodeo along with his mom Jean Fillmore.
“My family has always been closely tied to rodeo and I got started competing some at a young age,” Fillmore said.
Cattle production is the main enterprise of the Flint Hills and the young cowboy worked horseback with Chase County ranchers.
“Fortunately I had the opportunity to learn from some of the best cattlemen and rodeo cowboys in the world,” Fillmore appreciated.
While he liked all aspects of cowboy life and the rodeo arena, Fillmore emphasized, “I really loved the bucking horses. Something about watching those horses, the bronc riders, and the pickup men stood out to me above all the rest.”
Following his dream of being a rodeo cowboy Fillmore said, “I competed in several rodeo contest events with some success. But really I didn’t get as far as I’d hoped.”
His wife Dara was successful in the youth rodeo world of barrel racing while growing up. Then their children followed family tradition with personal rodeo accomplishments.
Son Blane roped tie-down calves and team roped successfully in National Little Britches Rodeos and other youth rodeos.
Daughter Breah has collected barrel racing awards in Little Britches Rodeos, the National Barrel Horse Association and jackpot events.
Personally Fillmore continued working the sport of rodeo on a limited basis as a winning ranch rodeo team member.
Whenever an opportunity would arise, Fillmore worked as a pickup man for the ranch bronc riding event.
It was through his children’s involvement in junior rodeos that Fillmore saw the need for contracting rodeo livestock. “There are a number of top rodeo contractors throughout the Midwest, but not that many cater to youth,” he evaluated.
“Because of that and my love for bucking horses, I decided to develop a string of rodeo livestock,” Fillmore said. “I started buying bucking horses from around the Midwest, and youth rodeo committees wanted to lease my stock.”
Featuring bucking horses suited for youth contestants, Fillmore Rodeo Company now contracts all rodeo livestock.
“God gave me the opportunity to do what I’ve really always been destined with the sport of rodeo,” Fillmore appreciated.
“We furnish all the calves and steers along with our horses, but now lease bulls from other contractors,” he clarified.
Likewise goats for youth to tie and sheep for the mutton busting event are contracted from other owners.
“My wife was a little hesitant about the business at first, especially having the string of rodeo broncs,” Fillmore said. “But now, it’s a family enterprise and everybody gets involved at home and working rodeos on the road.
“Our son Blane has especially taken an interest in rodeo stock contracting,” Fillmore continued. “I really enjoy working with him and seeing him become part of the business.”
Starting mostly contracting for the Christian Youth Rodeo Association (CYRA), Fillmore said, “Now we work for several youth rodeo organizations.”
That also includes Little Britches Rodeos, and the Junior and Senior High Rodeo Associations.
While the coronavirus impacted this year, Fillmore annually contracts livestock for about 50 rodeo performances. One-hundred-twenty junior high and high school students participated in the rodeo Fillmore recently contracted at Council Grove.
Now about 40 bucking horses have been acquired for the Fillmore bronc remuda. “They’ve come from several other contractors. Horses that didn’t fit their strings have worked out well for junior riders,” he said.
“Sometimes it just takes more understanding and work to get horses straightened out so they want to buck,” Fillmore insisted.
Mares and geldings are in the bucking string in a variety of colors, sizes and shapes. “Certain horses go better bareback, or under saddle, and some broncs can go either way,” he said.
For the contestants 10-to-13, Fillmore has a herd of pony broncs. “They’re Haflinger-Welsh cross and work out well for the younger riders,” Fillmore said. “I want the horses to buck but not hurt the riders and let them make some qualified rides.”
Younger contestants can also compete on Fillmore’s bucking steers, typically 800-pound former roping cattle, with a rigging or under saddle.
“We have several outstanding big broncs, stout 16-hands-plus feather-footed horses that know how to buck,” Fillmore insisted.
“Producing some of his own broncs, Fillmore explained, “It’s a long process because I don’t buck them until they’re five.”
Intending to contract livestock for college and amateur rodeos near term, Fillmore has his sights set on the professional ranks.
“I love the rodeo business. I’m confident I can produce bucking horses to qualify for the National Finals Rodeo,” he concluded.