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'In my blood': A third generation's story of owning a bucking-horse business

On 2,000 acres of pasture on the Great Plains of western North Dakota, 180 bucking horses roam the grasslands. It’s all part of a spread owned by Alicia Fettig, the third generation of her family involved in the stock contracting business and the first woman in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association to be a livestock producer. Her life’s work will be on display for all of Dunn County and beyond during the Badlands Iron Cowboy Rodeo and the Wild Rides Rodeo Killdeer as well as the Wild Ride Rodeo Dickinson in September.

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Alicia Fettig, of Killdeer, hugs one of her young foals in a rodeo arena chute. Fettig will soon produce rodeo events in Killdeer and in Dickinson, showcasing her life's legacy and family business of bucking horses. (Contributed / Fettig Pro Rodeo)
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Over the last century, the Fettig name — spurring from the mountains of Dunn County — has been a staple name in rodeo circuits across this part of the United States. Eventually it would find its way into the bucking-horse arena. Now in 2021, Alicia Fettig is a third generation involved in the stock contracting business. She is also the first woman in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association to live the title of a livestock producer.

Fettig owns a spread of 2,000 acres of pasture on the Great Plains of western North Dakota, where 180 bucking horses roam free on the grasslands. For the past seven years, Fettig has been running her family’s bucking horse company Fettig Pro Rodeo. She also owns and operates a 400-acre ranch near Killdeer.

However, Fettig’s rise to the bucking horse arena wasn’t all destined from the start.

“I wasn’t around bucking horses until 2011, but I grew up rodeoing,” Fettig said in a press release. “(But) I’ve been around horses my whole life.”

Decades ago, Fettig’s grandfather Phil started the family’s entrance into the rodeo spotlight. After his tragic death in a car accident in 1959, other family members stepped up to the plate to carry on his legacy. His son, Leroy Fettig, began dabbling his talents in the bucking-horse game in 1992.

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In 2014, the family was then presented with another test. Leroy Fettig was on his deathbed, hoping his daughter would take over the business. So he asked her.

“Of course, I did,” Fettig said. “They’re just in my blood. I love being around them.”

For Fettig, raising any kind of horse is pretty much the same ball game, whether they’re used for trail riding or for bucking courageous cowboys off into the arena dirt. Though she grew up with rodeo always in her back corner, she was also challenged with a learning curve.

“I was around them, but (my dad) was so protective of me and the horses,” she said. “When we were at rodeos, I was never touching or sorting the horses. When he died, I had not backed up a big, gooseneck trailer my entire life.”

While learning the trades of managing a company, Fettig also had to learn a new skillset — how to boost a business. In June 2019, she brainstormed a new direction for the family business. This was the ultimate challenge: returning Fettig Pro Rodeo back into the highest ranks in rodeo.

Though the Fettigs had animals involved in the National Finals Rodeo for the first 23 years, it took another three decades to be back on top at ProRodeo’s grand finale.

Fettig horses have proved their talent as true buckers. Bucking horses Colorado Bulldog and Pop A Top both have been featured at the NFR and Fettig expects more of her horses will follow suit.

“There have been a lot of challenges, but the rewards outweigh the challenges so far,” Fettig noted. “I didn’t have to start from scratch; I inherited the horses.

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Fettig is also a mom to her 14-year-old son, Grayson. Though as any parent would love to see their children take on the family business, Fettig said that her son has the inherited foundation of owning a bucking-horse business.

“The western way of living is the way for me. I hope my son carries on the legacy,” she added.

While she always looks forward to hosting events in her hometown and region, Fettig noted that she enjoys traveling across the nation, showcasing her animal athletes in bigger rodeos.

“I’m excited about my horses being part of the best bucking horses in the world. I want to see the best cowboys ride them. I want to see what they can do on any stage. I’m pretty proud of what we have,” Fettig said.

Soon to take the chutes, Fettig’s bucking horses will compete at the Badlands Iron Cowboy Rodeo scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 2. The rodeo activity will also proceed at 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 3, with the Wild Rides Rodeo Killdeer. Both events will take place at the Killdeer Rodeo Grounds. The Wild Ride Rodeo Dickinson is also another opportunity for rodeo diehards to see Fettig’s work firsthand at 2:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 18, at the Stark County Fairgrounds. For additional information, visit the Fettig Pro Rodeo Facebook page.

Jackie Jahfetson is a former reporter for The Dickinson Press.
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