2016 Reno Rodeo competitor Cody Kiser has been competing in rodeos from the time he could walk.
He began his career riding sheep and roping dummy heads on hay bales. As he grew, so did his competitive spirit. Kiser began riding bulls, but suffered an injury early in his career.
“I had a bull step on my face, and I broke all the bones in the left side of my face,” Kiser said. “I broke my jaw in two places and had my jaw wired shut. I had to get plastic surgery on my face to get it put back together.”
After recovering, Kiser began riding bucking horses, bareback specifically. He continued to compete while attending college at the University of Nevada, Reno, where he completed his degree in civil engineering. Splitting time between school and his life on the rodeo circuit presented its own set of challenges.
“I did college rodeo for about two years, and I loved it. It just became way too much doing rodeo and school. I would put all my effort into schoolwork during the semester, and then would try to hit a couple of rodeos during school. During summer, I wouldn’t take any classes, and I would hit the rodeo as hard as I could, which was still difficult because I had internships and jobs over the summer.”
Riding bareback is more than just an event for Kiser, as his father also rode bareback competitively, and Kiser still uses some of the same equipment his father used.
“When I first started, I started using all of his stuff from when he rode, which was pretty wild, and I actually still wear his spurs. I believe a friend of his made them for him, and I still ride with those spurs, and that is really cool.”
Speaking with Kiser, you can see the people in his life are a big part of the reason he loves doing rodeo. After competing in one form or another for almost 25 years, Kiser said that his favorite rodeo memory was from Friday night, when he had, in his own words, a terrible ride.
“I rode terribly, but I had almost 150 people here to cheer me on.” Kiser said. He had extended family and friends, people that he works out with at his gym in Carson, and all of the people that his mom brought with her. “I’m not happy about how I rode, but I’m going to make up for that (Saturday).”
Being a part of the rodeo opened up a lot of opportunities for Kiser, as he now serves as a spokesmen for the Oral Cancer Foundation,
During all of his events, Kiser wears an embroidered shirt with the OCF logo on it. He became involved with the charity in college, when a girl from an engineering class knew that he competed in rodeo events, and asked him if he smoked or chewed. Things progressed quickly from there, with Kiser now serving as a spokesmen for the OCF, the first spokesmen to be affiliated with rodeo.
“It started as this very small thing, sort of sit back and see how it goes,” he said. “It sort of blew up, and has been doing really well. I get to interact with kids and people, and get the word out about the foundation and things, and now people are starting to recognize the oral cancer foundation patch and things when I go to rodeos.”
Kiser and the OCF are promoting a message of prevention, focusing on educating younger spectators of the sport. “What I do for them is go around to the rodeos, and just try to do outreach to the kids, between 8 and 9 years old, maybe a little younger, all the way up to 18, high school and college age. Just trying to get out there and let them know that you don’t have to smoke or chew to be a cowboy, or be cool. I am out there to be a role model and to show them what you can do when you don’t smoke or chew.”
Participating in the rodeo also landed Kiser on a Hollywood film set, as Kiser worked as a stunt double for Bradley Cooper during the rodeo scenes in Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper.” Kiser is extremely humble about the experience, but is open to appearing in more films in the future.
“I got to go and do this stunt for Clint Eastwood, and Bradley Cooper, I got to meet both of them and do this thing with them, and they were both the nicest guys, they walked up to me and shook my hand and introduced themselves as if I didn’t know who they were, and they were awesome guys and awesome people to work with. It was only a one day deal, and I wish I could have done more. I haven’t done anything recently like that, and I am really looking forward to maybe doing some more.”
As of Saturday, Kiser is fifth in the bareback standings. While his chances of making it to next week’s championships are slim, he isn’t going to let that stop him from going into the arena and having a blast.
“Tonight, I’m just having fun, and letting it all hang out. I’m going to go to town, have fun. I know what the horse is like, and I know what I am capable of.”
No matter the outcome of the event, Kiser is thankful for the experiences he has had while competing in this sport, and knows that rodeo has completely changed the course of his life. “Rodeo has made me who I am today, Family, community, discipline, hard work, all of those things come out of rodeo. And I can relate to so many life experiences and things to rodeo that I have been through and it is just unreal.”
If you are interested in helping the Oral Cancer Foundation, you can find Kiser on social media, or visit http://www.oralcancer.org/.
*This news story was resourced by the Oral Cancer Foundation, and vetted for appropriateness and accuracy.