CEDAR RAPIDS — David Morehead loves what he does.
The 64-year-old Morehead — along with Marla, Jake and Courtney Morehead — own and operate Three Hills Rodeo Inc. from their farm south of Bernard in Eastern Iowa.
The family supplies the horses and bulls — the "animal athletes,” as Morehead calls them — that make up the World’s Toughest Rodeo.
The rodeo returns Friday and Saturday evenings to the U.S. Cellular enter in downtown Cedar Rapids — a venue now filling up with dirt on the floor, cages for the animals and a monkey named Whiplash dressed like a cowboy.
Three Hills provides not only the horses and bulls, but also labor, marketing and social media for the World’s Toughest Rodeo events and other Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association shows.
Morehead is a farmer, too. His land provides all the feed for his animals and, he said, there are “quite a few” of them.
There are about 250 horses and 100 bulls on his farm, he said.
“I enjoy the animals,” he said, noting he’s been raising animals for more than 40 years. “I love horses, the breeding of them. My grandpa was a horseman and my dad was a horseman.”
Three Hills Rodeo is a family operation. All listed as owners, David also is stock contractor for the rodeos, Marla is music producer, Jake is pickup man and Courtney is secretary. There’s also Sam and Cade, members of the “crew.”
“The grandchildren are involved, too,” David Morehead said.
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Three Hills Rodeo puts on 20 to 25 shows a year. The seasons run from January to March, then June through September.
The World’s Toughest Rodeo, founded in 1979 by Steve Gander and sponsored by Cinch western wear, has had stops in Des Moines, Moline, Ill., St. Paul, Minn., and Indianapolis before this weekend’s shows. The final three events are in Columbus, Ohio, Raleigh, N.C., and Nashville.
David used to work for Gander before taking over the World’s Toughest Rodeo.
Its events are what’s called “Bulls and Broncos” shows, focusing on bareback riding, saddle bronc riding, bull riding and barrel racing.
Morehead said raising bucking horses is no different from raising thoroughbreds.
“Instead of running fast, they try to buck people off,” he said. “They are bred specifically for athletic ability, bred to have that ability to buck. Bulls are the same ... bred to be athletic and buck.”
Different animals are used each night so no one horse or one bull is being overworked, he said.
“They vary from week to week,” he said, nothing he’ll drop off a batch of animals for the Cedar Rapids show Friday morning and bring in another group for Saturday’s performance.
Each horse or bull is used “10 to 12 times a year for eight seconds” a night, he said.
Morehead is proud of his “Born to Buck” program and entertainment Three Hills Rodeo provides.
“This is a way we can make a living doing what we want,” he said.
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IF YO GO
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday
Where: U.S. Cellular Center, 370 First Ave. NE, Cedar Rapids
Tickets: Starting at $17, $2 more on day of show. Children under 2 are free.