With ranch headquarters located near Ritzville, Washington and Central Ferry, Washington, this highly successful rodeo stock contracting company has had a 70 plus year history. In the mid-1960’s, a handshake between two friends, Sonny Riley and Don Hutsell, created a partnership and successful family business. This collaboration of two families and generations of rodeo stock contractors is looking to the future.
Don’s grandfather, Lew Hutsell, had already been in the rodeo business prior to 1928. With a set of outlaw horses from local farmers and ranchers, Lew built up a herd of bucking horses and began trailing them to rodeos in the Pacific Northwest, including the 1928 Fourth of July Rodeo in Spokane, Washington. His son, Bill Hutsell, soon joined the family business, and in 1961 called his own outfit the Big Bend Rodeo Company - named for Washington State’s Columbia Plateau Region. Bill later partnered with Ed Ring, who had purchased the Moomaw-Bernard Rodeo Company in 1946. Bill and his partners, Ed Ring and Bud King, sold Big Bend Rodeo Company and some of their bucking stock to Joe Kelsey and Ralph McLean in 1971.
Sonny Riley grew up in a ranching and farming family near Central Ferry, Washington on the breaks of the Snake River. Sonny’s parents, Lester and Mildred Riley, farmed and raised commercial cows and Appaloosa horses. Lester had always been known for his contributions to the history of the Appaloosa horse in the Palouse. Lester also supplied cows and horses for rodeos around the Palouse Region of the Pacific Northwest. When Sonny was about 10 years old, he rode calves, then bulls and then bareback horses in junior rodeos all across the Northwest.
Don and Sonny met in the early 1960’s when they were both attending a roping school at Colfax, Washington. Soon, Sonny contacted Don to help produce an amateur rodeo, as they were each actively involved in the Snake River Rodeo Company and Big Bend Rodeo Company, rodeo companies their fathers had founded. In 1969, Sonny and his brother, Forrest, joined together with Don and Tom Hutsell, and Don’s brother in-law, Vince Aguire, to form the Flying Five Rodeo Company to produce amateur rodeos. In 1974, Sonny and Don bought out their siblings and family and continued to produce rodeos. They bought their first PRCA card and began to provide bucking stock for PRCA rodeos and have sent stock to the NFR ever since.
In 1991, Don and Sonny purchased the Joe Kelsey and Ralph McLean Rodeo Company and PRCA card, along with stock that goes back to the original bloodlines of Lew and Bill Hutsell. They then renamed their second PRCA card and company back to the original Big Bend Rodeo Company. Today, after four generations, Flying Five Rodeo Company Inc. DBA Big Bend Rodeo Company is owned by Sonny Riley and Chad Hutsell, with Don still having a very active role in this family business.
Starting in 1969, Don and Sonny began to produce their own rough stock with a handful of mares in a “Born to Buck” breeding program. In 1988, #500 Iron Mountain was purchased by Bill, Don and Chad Hutsell in Kalispell, Montana at Carpenter’s Bucking Horse Sale. #500 Iron Mountain has since produced many crops of colts that have made the trip to the NFR. Many generations of broncs and bulls are now raised on Riley’s River Ranch near Central Ferry, Washington and Chad’s ranch on Crab Creek near Ritzville, Washington. From our combined ranches and the “Born to Buck” breeding program of Flying Five Rodeo Company and Big Bend Rodeo Company, we have developed an inventory of more than 500 horses and crossbred Brahma cattle selected from proven dams bred to champion sires producing many superstars in the arena. The main herd of bucking horses are run in the summer months on grass pastures near Dusty, Washington. The broodmares and young and retired horses are run on numerous leased pastures throughout our area and they winter near Ritzville, Washington. Whereas, the bulls are cared for year-round south of Ritzville, Washington. Today, almost all of our bucking stock has been raised from our own proven “Born to Buck” breeding program. The animals that we raise in our ‘Born to Buck” breeding program continue to prove themselves as outstanding athletes throughout the country and the entire PRCA.
Flying Five Rodeo Company and Big Bend Rodeo Company have been awarded the ultimate compliment that a rodeo stock contractor could ask for, winning 11 PRCA gold buckles for Outstanding Bucking Stock of the Year. Starting in 1997, #303 Spring Fling was voted as the PRCA Bareback Bronc of the Year. In 1999, she was voted as the PRCA Saddle Bronc of the Year and tied for PRCA Saddle Bronc of the Year in 2000. In 2005, she was ranked as one of the top 3 bareback broncs in all of professional rodeo. She has had numerous other NFR appearances and gave her last performance as a rodeo athlete at the 2008 National Finals Rodeo. #303 Spring Fling was honored in 2014 by being inducted in to the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame. Currently, she is enjoying retirement as a broodmare in the Flying Five Rodeo Company and Big Bend Rodeo Company’s “Born to Buck” breeding program. The line of champions continues with #K66 Rapid Fire, 1997 PRCA Bucking Bull of the Year; #77 Yellow Jacket, 1999 Bucking Bull of the Year; #101 Border Patrol, 2000 PRCA Bucking Bull of the Year; #K78 Unforgiven, 2002 Bucking Bull of the Year; #856 Tahonta, consecutive 2004 and 2005 Bucking Bull of the Year. #788 Spring Planting was voted in as the 2009 and 2013 PRCA Saddle Bronc of the Year and has since placed in the top 3 PRCA Saddle Broncs of the Year. In 2013, #788 Spring Planting won the coveted Calgary Stampede’s Worley Parson’s Trophy Champion Saddle Bronc award. She was the first U.S. born and owned horse to win this award and the second U.S. saddle bronc to win the award in 30 years. These, along with the prestigious awards of many Columbia River Circuit Champions, and others, have proven that our “Born to Buck” breeding program and entire bucking string of Flying Five Rodeo Company and Big Bend Rodeo Company, has been successful.
Flying Five Rodeo Company and Big Bend Rodeo Company livestock travel an area that extends from Canada to Southern California, and all points in between. We are on the road rotating bucking stock most of the year. There’s really never any time off during our rodeo season. The few days that we are at home, we are caring and managing the brood stock, while preparing the bucking stock for the next trip and handling our own personal farming and ranching activities. Once rodeo season is over, it’s time to gather broodmares, wean colts, get horses out to fall and winter pastures, work bulls and then begin to feed for the winter.
The Hutsell and Riley families of Flying Five Rodeo Company and Big Bend Rodeo Company are dedicated to the respect and well-being of our livestock. This family business will continue to provide exciting edge-of-the-seat rodeo entertainment for our spectators, committees, and rodeo contestants for many years to come.