Two of the best young competitors on the Virginia rodeo circuit today live right here in Mecklenburg County. Chase City residents, Hunter and Tucker Whitten are still in elementary school, but they have made quite a name for themselves throughout the state riding sheep, calfs and mini bulls in rodeos.
Speaking with the boys mother, Amy Whitten, she says that the rodeo gene runs in the family. She says that her brother rode bucking horses, and the boys have fallen in love with the rodeo as well. The youngest Whitten, Tucker is 4 years old and rides sheep in the rodeo. It is called mutton busting, and Tucker has been riding sheep for close to a year. He is currently third in the state standings in the mutton busting division. The oldest, Hunter, is 7 years old and recently moved out of the mutton busting division into calf riding. Before he moved up, Hunter was a state champion in the mutton busting division, and is currently tied for first in the state in calf riding. The calfs that Hunter rides weigh between 250-400 pounds. Amy says that Hunter’s goal is to ride bulls in Las Vegas, and at the rate he is going, that dream may become a reality. Hunter also rides in the International Miniature Bull Riding Association (IMBA) so that he can ride mini bulls. The Virginia High School Rodeo association doesn’t have mini bull riding for kids as young as Hunter, so he rides in the IMBA as well. Mini bulls weigh anywhere from 700-900 pounds, and you use the same equipment as you would riding the full size bulls, except the mini bulls are much smaller. Hunter even covered a mini bull for the first time back in September. Covering means that he rode the full eight seconds which is the maximum time. The Virginia High School Rodeo Association has events all over the state including Goochland, Powhatan, Chatham and at the State Fairgrounds in Doswell. When you get to the junior high level in the association, the riders begin competing in out of state competitions. In the IMBA they have competed in areas around the state such as Gordonsville, Powhatan and even gone out of state to the Outer Banks.
For Hunter, his dream of riding bulls in Las Vegas may come true sooner rather than later as the International Miniature Bull Riding Association has a World Finals that takes place in Las Vegas next December, and his mother Amy says that he is aiming to make it there. For Tucker, he is ready to start riding mini bulls as well, and when he turns 5 in February he is going to follow in his brothers footsteps by taking the next step. He will have what is known as a walk out class where he will learn how to sit up on the bull and place his hand in the rigging, so little brother Tucker will soon be riding mini bulls just like his big brother.
The brothers are the youngest competitors in each of their divisions. Tucker is the youngest in mutton busting, and Hunter is the youngest calf rider, but that doesn’t stop them from competing and competing at a high level.
For the Whitten family the rodeo is a passion and becoming a way of life, and for the Whitten brothers, they will continue to work hard, gain experience and keep learning, and hopefully one day we will see them riding bulls in front of thousands of people.