Quillan family carries tradition in rodeo

Levi Quillan's bull is let loose while he competes for points in mens bull riding.

Levi Quillan's bull is let loose while he competes for points in mens bull riding.

The third annual DeGolyer Buckin’ Horse and Bull Bash is known in particular to feature some of Fallon’s strongest rodeo families, and this year was no different.

Though Billy Quillan, the champion bull rider from last year’s second annual DeGolyer rodeo, could not make it this year, the Quillan family was represented strong by Levi and Kelly Quillan, brother and sister competing in the bull-riding, barrel racing and women’s steer riding respectively.

Though this was Kelly Quillan’s first DeGolyer event, Levi Quillan has been to all three years of the event and has a lot to show for it.

“This is a hometown rodeo so it kind of makes you try harder because you’re riding in front of your family, your friends and pretty much everybody who knows you,” Levi Quillan said. “Then you’re just riding on hoping to make it.”

Cody DeGolyer, director of DeGolyer Horse Training, said he saw Levi handle himself very well this year while surrounded by professionals from all over and thought the community factor was more on his side.

“He’s been to some PBR shows and some tournaments and I think it really helped being a local show,” DeGolyer said. “I’m not going to say it was laid back but it was definitely friendly and not all business, but there were a lot of faces he’s crossed paths with before and he had a lot of support back there.”

A bull rider for five years, Levi’s brother-in-law got him and his older brother Billy into bull riding, starting them on steers and working them up to the big-bulls, training side by side.

Born in Yakima, Wash., the Quillans moved to Fallon in 2003 where they were greeted by a community as in love with rodeo as they are. Levi, 17, is one year from the legal age to qualify for the Professional Bull Riding (PBR) circuit to which he and Billy have aspired.

“Billy was my travelling partner but he’s up in Montana,” Levi said on his older brother who competed out of state on Saturday. “He’s going one way and I’m going one way but usually we travel together and trapped in the same car.”

Though Levi said next year he plans to give it all to PBR, he wasn’t the only Quillan to turn heads on Saturday night.

Kelly Quillan, 19, rode into her round in the barrel racing competition on a horse she’d only been training with for 30 days. Despite this last minute alteration due to her primary horse being injured, Quillan came away with an 18.3 second run on three barrels, one of the lowest scores of the night.

Kelly, who said the rodeo was well-ran and believed she had a good event, has been practicing barrel racing and riding horses for 16 years, competing in events locally as well as all over Nevada and in neighboring states.

“Its gotten more exciting,” Kelly said of her life since travelling with and without her brothers. “I love being able to train my own horses and be able to run them.”

While she fell more behind in women’s steer riding, an event she is new to, Kelly added she like her brothers is considering professional rodeo life.

“It’s always good to watch them,” Kelly said of her brothers, “and it’s always good to compete with them and root for them at an event.”

Kelly, Levi and Billy have been in the limelight since they began junior rodeo in such events as the mutton busting, calves and roping events though, Levi said bull riding has changed a lot for him and his brother.

“When I was 14 years old I broke my ankle and I was about to give up,” he said, “but my brother kept pushing me and telling me, ‘Don’t quit, you can do it.’ It’s real excitement. My brother-in-law and my brother were always helping, striving to be better and get better. He always told us, ‘ride them jump for jump, don’t try to guess what the bull is going to do.’”

Levi’s aspirations are high, to get into the PRCA, win the PBR and Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) World Championship(s). With one year left before he knows if he has what it takes to go professional, there’s a chance Levi may be returning to Fallon one day as one of its championship title holders.

“The best bull riders always take on the best and hardest bulls and make everybody try to be the best there is,” Levi said on his future with the PBR and the PRCA, “and that’s what I’m trying to do. To be the best there is.”

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