How do you live relentlessly? What does a 'relentless' life look like? With Trevor Brazile it's not only about what he does, it’s about who he is. The husband, father, partner and horseman pursues excellence both personally and professionally. The results show up in gold buckles, the respect of his peers, the appreciation of his family and the admiration of his fans. We were able to catch up with him as he prepared for the 2015 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (WNFR) in Las Vegas.
The record setting 23-time World Champion is somewhat reserved and definitely down to earth. At the same time, he is focused, organized and beyond busy. When he's not traveling to rodeos, he's remodeling a building on his ranch, saddling a pony for his 5-year-old daughter to ride or spending hours at the batting cages helping his 7-year-old son work on his baseball skills.
In his presence, you get the sense that he can make a lot of things happen in a day because he has simplified what his life is all about. Once you establish that value system, "a lot of things just fall into place, distractions are minimized and that really helps," he says with a smile. There's no high maintenance personality or demands to deal with. He seamlessly transitions from a phone call about a cattle delivery to a handshake with a fan that has spotted him across the restaurant. In fact, when we talked, he had just come from visiting a local elementary school where one of the students had done a project about the cowboy hero. Trevor surprised the student and the entire fourth grade where he spoke about what else? "Being relentless in life and never having any 'quit' in you."
And there’s the answer — being relentless means never, ever quitting. In whatever you pursue, it’s about doing the right thing, the best thing, always.
When Brazile was younger, "relentless" meant an intense fitness regimen, training young horses and endless hours of roping practice. What he’s learned over the years is that the most important thing is to maintain an even keel — the mental aspect of never relenting. When you are working multiple events, that means not allowing a disappointing performance in one event to affect your performance in the next. Once acutely focused on perfection, Trevor now realizes that there are plenty of opportunities all year. When things don't go as planned, he has the perspective to see that "it's not my first rodeo, but it's not my last, either. We'll get another shot tomorrow."
“You are not guaranteed to get to the next level if you work your tail off. But you are guaranteed NOT to if you don't.”
— Trevor Brazile
As an only child in the Texas panhandle, Trevor grew up on a feedlot. When he was old enough to help on horseback, he went to bed every night hoping his father would wake him early to ride through cattle alongside him. "It's hard for me to say exactly when it started," reflected Brazile, "but all I ever wanted to be was a cowboy. Not necessarily a rodeo cowboy, I just knew I really wanted to be around horses." Brazile is grateful that it's a passion his mother and father supported wholeheartedly. His father had qualified to the National Steer Roping Finals four times, and his mother competed in rodeos in college. So, horses were a family affair. He speaks with a special fondness about his grandfather's impact, too. "He was really proud of me. It made him happy that I was so interested in horses, and he really helped spur my passion along. I’m so thankful for my time with him."
Trevor, Shada, Treston, Style and Swayzi Brazile at the 2015 National Finals Steer Roping. COURTESY PHOTO
Trevor roping in Red Bluff, California. PHOTO BY MATT COHEN
Trevor loves what he gets to do and is willing to work extremely hard to win. That's a recipe for success, and the years are full of countless career highlights. He won his first World Championship after going to the WNFR as the underdog and didn't know he had clinched it until the very last moment. "I had to come from behind, and I wasn't expected to win it. That gold buckle will always be pretty special to me." But Trevor’s eyes warm when he talks about winning his fifth world title. "It came right after I became a dad. It was the biggest year of my life. The year I won my first triple crown. Career highlights are one thing but nothing like becoming a father. World championships may be the biggest things you can do in your career but not the biggest thing you can do in your life. "Trevor says becoming a dad takes being a role model to a whole new level. "Kids are watching always — how you handle success, how you handle defeat. It makes you realize how important dads are everywhere, not just world champions."
Trevor will humbly tell you, "my horses are the reason for my success." But Brazile is also highly touted in equine circles, rodeo and otherwise, for his horsemanship. As is the case with many things, it takes two. And when asked about what he looks for in his next equine prospect, he talks about choosing a horse by "feel" rather than pedigree. "I like riding a pretty horse as much as anybody, and talent is obviously important. However, I might choose a horse that maybe isn't physically blessed in every way but makes up for it in technique or heart. Those horses are special. They just find a way to get it done," says the champ.
Once a horse meets the physical requirements, they have to be very sound-minded to deal with the training, traveling and performance demands that are placed on an elite rodeo horse. From there, Trevor is meticulous about his horse’s care and preparation. Prevention, quality and consistency are the foundation of his program when it comes to nutrition, fitness and maintenance. "You may do everything you can to prepare yourself, but if your horse isn't ready, what’s the point?"
“Every horse is a little different and has unique strengths.”
— Trevor Brazile
Trevor also credits individual horses for improving different aspects of his own performance. "Every horse is a little different and has unique strengths." When referring to 'Touchdown,' one of his first high-level horses, Trevor says, "he was the reason I got better early on in my career. He brought me to the next level. I had no excuse not to win, which made me improve." 'Doofus' had great speed and timing, which Brazile says required him to step up as a cowboy even more. When 'Tweeter' came along, the gelding didn't make mistakes, so he always gave the roper an opportunity to win. "I just had to do my job." Each of these equine partners built Trevor's confidence. Then, there was the education of 'Real Cool Dual' also known simply as 'Texaco.'
Texaco had the pedigree of a talented cutting horse and as a three-year-old competed at the National Cutting Futurity. Strangely enough, he was absolutely terrified of cattle, which, needless to say, eliminated the horse’s career as a cutter. Trevor saw the potential in the young horse, and it took a lot of patience to get him trained. “Texaco and I taught each other a lot. But I’m just glad he wasn't my first horse because I might have given up on him!” After five years in the practice pen, Texaco got his shot on the professional rodeo trail. The now infamous, undersized 13.3 hand Quarter Horse is pound for pound one of the best horses that ever walked into a roping arena. His talent, explosiveness and heart are unmatched. It took five long years, but Trevor's patience paid off.
Trevor Brazile with Real Cool Dual, also known as “Texaco”
in 2008 at Trevor’s home in Decatur, Texas.
Photo by David R. Stoecklein
Where some people might feel pressured by expectations when they’re riding an elite horse, Trevor is just the opposite. He gets confidence from knowing he's riding a great horse. "Having great horses makes me work harder. To give your horse a shot, you have to be honest with yourself. When you do that, the faster you can improve your game."
When there is a lot at stake for a given run, pressure also increases. That's where Trevor's meticulous preparation allows him to keep it simple. "You can't fool yourself into thinking you're ready. When you ride into the box unprepared, you are trying to remember to do too many things. That's when you feel pressure. But when I know I've done everything I need to be ready, my mind is clear and my confidence is high." That’s the difference between the Trevors, the Michael Jordans or the Tom Bradys and everyone else. Pressure to people like Trevor, isn't pressure at all. It's fuel.
Trevor is peeking ahead to what his future legacy might look like, and he wants it to be one that leaves his sport better than when he found it. “Before I walk away, I want to help create better opportunities for the next generation," Brazile said of his involvement with ERA (the newly formed Elite Rodeo Association). "I want to be able to assure the kids at my roping schools that they should devote time to their passion because there will be a future for them.” Brazile is working to bring rodeo to a wider audience while maintaining the integrity of the sport. As the winningest rodeo cowboy ever, he is leveraging his position to grow his industry for future athletes. However, no reward comes without hard work and considerable risk. That’s a burden Brazile is willing to bare. “It’s not for me or the current cowboys and cowgirls. People before me paved the way for me, and I want to do the same for those that follow."
Although this cowboy is beginning to consider his legacy, don't let that fool you. He's the epitome of a relentless life: hard work, toughness and self-sacrifice. Other competitors will have to contend with him in the arena for some time yet.
After breaking all the records, where does a champion find inspiration? As a student of the game, his heroes were the ones who set the bars that he passed over the last several years. When repeatedly asked about it, he finally concedes, "yes, it's awkward when you no longer have anyone to chase. And sometimes you get tired of working, traveling, certain parts of it. But honestly, … winning doesn't get old."
by Amy Quintana