Cody Mousseau, Ty Parkinson and Justin Thigpen - Emily Gethke Photography
Written by: Lindsay Whelchel - Rodeo News
This season’s All-Around title race in the International Professional Rodeo Association is just about as close as it can get. It’s as international as it can get too, with the top-three contenders hailing from Canada, America and Australia respectively.
But if you look closer than the standings, you’ll find three friends who aren’t just trying to reach their own goals, they’re helping each other as well.
“These guys have helped me a lot since I’ve been here this year,” explains Ty Parkinson of fellow All-Around contestants, Justin Thigpen and Cody Mousseau.
Ty is from New South Wales, Australia and competes in just about every event he can, from bull riding to tie-down roping.
Ty joined the IPRA for his rookie year this summer after he met Canadian Cody Mousseau, the 2014 World Champion Team Roping Header and Steer Wrestler. Cody had come to Australia to rope at the beginning of 2015. “I met him over there. He came in about June,” Cody says of convincing Ty to come rodeo in North America. “It’s all on me. You can blame me or congratulate me,” he jokes.
By “blame” he probably means that Ty quickly shot to the top of the standings in several events, putting pressure on cowboys across the board.
Beyond Cody, soon Ty could also call veteran IPRA competitor and 2014 World Champion Tie-Down Roper, Justin Thigpen from Georgia, a good friend as well. “They’ve both helped me out in roping and tying. They both pull my bull rope every weekend. Good buddies [who are] no. 1 and no. 2 in the world, it’s a great feeling,” Ty says of his two allies.
Rodeo is common in Ty’s part of Australia. He grew up with the aim of becoming a jack-of-all-trades in rodeo events like his father, a multiple event champion. Now Ty is seeing that dream to fruition across oceans.
Like Ty, for Cody and Justin, rodeo was just something they were born into. And they’ve done it well. Each has multiple titles and IFR qualifications to his name.
“My mom ran barrels, and my dad rode bulls, so I was running around in diapers, boots and cowboy hat. I’ve been at it my whole life. It’s about the only way of life I do now,” Justin explains of growing up in Waycross, Ga., with a rodeo family.
At first Justin thought he was going to be a bull rider like his dad. “When I got on them I wasn’t good enough so I had to find another occupation,” he laughs. “I started roping and never looked back. I’ve been very fortunate. I’ve been blessed with a rope.”
In addition to his successful rodeo career, Justin has also begun his own business as a stock contractor with T-T Rodeo Company. “I enjoy rodeo. It’s been great to me. It’s blessed me with a good life, and I want to give back to it. I hope to put on rodeos for many years to come,” he says and adds that there’s also a deeper meaning to what he does now that he’s a father.
Justin and wife Laura have a 2-year-old son named Slade and a newborn, Trent. “It’s more about enjoying it with them now. Things that used to worry me, I used to think about, I don’t now,” Justin explains.
Slade is always with him, behind the roping box cheering his dad on.
“He’s pretty into the rodeo. He hollers throughout the week, ‘daddy, are we going to the rodeo?’ I’m like, ‘it’s not the weekend yet son,’ but he’s all about it,” Justin smiles.
“It means more to me, because he comes out. Win, lose or draw, you’re still his hero, so that makes it a lot better. It makes you put life into perspective.”
Justin has also enjoyed being able to travel with Cody and Ty a lot this year.
“We support each other. We rope with each other, help Ty with the bull riding. We have a lot of fun, and that’s what it’s about. It used to be ‘have to win, have to win,’ now it’s ‘have fun, enjoy what you’re doing, enjoy your life,” he says.
Despite this, or because of it, the wins have come just the same.
Justin is leading the season standings in the All-Around race going into the International Finals Rodeo, held in Oklahoma City.
Cody is not far behind him. “I like it more. I’ve been to a couple finals where I only did one event. I don’t like it as much. I like doing everything at one time,” Cody says of competing in tie-down roping, steer wrestling and team roping.
Cody’s parents rodeoed, and he followed suit around the age of 10 or 11.
Being from Canada, Cody explains that rodeos in the summer go on full-steam ahead and then slow down, or end altogether in the winter. That’s why going south to rodeo in the states, and even going to Australia like Cody did, is more common for Canadians.
This summer Cody, Justin and Ty saw a lot of each other in Canada and the United States. “We all traveled together a bunch this summer. We went for a couple of weeks, and two other Australians went with us, and Riley Williams went with us. One rodeo I do remember we went to in Pennsylvania, and every single one of us placed that day in every event, so it was good,” Cody recalls.
There are not rivalries when it comes to rodeo competitors who happen to be traveling partners like this trio, Cody assures. “It’s a lot easier. Everybody helps each other out.”
For Ty being so far away from home, the group has become a second family.
He stays with Cody’s parents a lot while in Canada. They have a traveling support system. Ty has been able to borrow good horses. They push each other’s calves and rope together too, he says.
The bond between the three guys no doubt contributes to their success.
“It’s pretty awesome how three different countries can come together and work as a team,” Ty says. And that is no doubt one of the best parts about the International Professional Rodeo Association and rodeo as a whole.