At age 33, Jason Schaffer has been around the rodeo block a couple of times and seen his share of success but the horse trainer is enjoying a chance at a first circuit championship in the Badlands Circuit in 2023 thanks to a special horse named Jewels.
“I have this 5-year-old mare that I took to some of the Roping Futurities of America events last year and didn’t get much done,” Schaffer said. “But she’s a phenomenal horse that I hauled some last year and now she’s 5 and really beginning to excel.
“She has just been a huge game changer in my roping.”
Sheer Can Do is a daughter of Cat Man Do that Jason and his wife Shauna bought as a 3-year-old.
“She was started but didn’t have any rope training so we trained her ourselves,” Schaffer said. “She’s been really good, especially for being so young.
“She’s just big and gritty and really loves her job.”
Growing Up Rodeo
Schaffer grew up a ranch kid in Broadus, Montana, with parents who were rodeo competitors. He roped his first calf at age 12 and his father took him to Kalispell to rope in a 12 & Under roping at the Montana’s Richest event.
“I just fell in love with it,” he said, a passion that was solidified a year later when his father organized a Brent Lewis roping clinic at their place. “I think we did that 12 or 15 years in a row, so that was a big deal for me once a year.”
Schaffer followed the usual route: high school then college rodeo, where he claimed the 2010 All Around Championship at the College National Finals Rodeo for Howard County Junior College in a field that included four-time PRCA World Champ Caleb Smidt and NFR qualifier Dakota Eldridge. He’s also made two trips to the Canadian Finals Rodeo.
A Family Affair
Today, Schaffer and his wife train horses and chase their three little boys, Coy, 6, Ardie, 3, and Case, 18 months.
“My oldest just started kindergarten and when he went to pre-school last year, he had on his cowboy hat and boots so he straps that on every day for school,” Schaffer laughed, noting Coy has his own horse and likes to track the hot heels. “And Ardie just loves rodeo; he plays it every day.”
Schaffer is looking forward to 2024 when Shauna can join him on the circuit rodeo trail.
“She’s been busy having the kids,” he explained. “Now she’s got a 4-year-old she’s been hauling who is working good. She’s native so she is going to the Indian rodeos and hoping to qualify for the Indian National Finals Rodeo this year and buy her [WPRA] card for next year.”
Leading the Badlands Circuit Standings
Because of his location in the extreme southeast corner of the state, Schaffer has claimed both the Montana and Badlands Circuits during his career, making a handful of circuit finals appearances in both, but is sticking with the Badlands in 2023.
“I like them both but the Badlands Circuit Finals is in October and I like to rodeo over the Fourth of July and they have five or six rodeos,” Schaffer said. “They start earlier in the summer while Montana’s fair rodeos don’t really get going until the end of July.
“We go to a lot of co-approved rodeos here in Montana and they just seem to rope a bit better calves over there [in the Badlands], so I like going that way.”
It was that Fourth of July run that kicked off Schaffer’s sprint to his current position atop the Badlands Circuit standings. He won Mobridge and took second in Mandan, earning $5,991 in two rodeos.
“That really gave me confidence in my horse,” he said. “She does good but she’s young so I felt like I could take a deep breath after that.”
Schaffer hit a lull in mid-July, explaining he wasn’t drawing or roping good, but things turned around at Watertown, South Dakota, the first weekend of August.
“I think in the last three weeks, I’ve been no worse than third in like seven or eight of my last 11 rodeos,” he said. “It’s been really good.”
In fact, Schaffer has picked up $13,278 in August, $8,844 of that counting towards the Badlands Circuit. He now holds a slim lead of $570 over Chase Lako with just about a half-dozen rodeos left in the circuit.
“I don’t want to pay attention to the standings too much but when I look I think, ‘dang, they won that?’” he joked of the tight race. Only $2,000 separates the top four ropers.
“It’s pretty exciting; the top seven or eight guys have got more than $10,000 won and everybody’s roping good,” Schaffer added. “We’re just hoping to stay in there, within a go-round [at the circuit finals] apart, and then hopefully go have three good runs in Minot.”
The RAM Badlands Circuit Finals Rodeo takes place October 13–15 in Minot, North Dakota.
Racking Up Wins
Schaffer has a pair of qualifications for the NFR Open—the national championship of the circuit system—one each in the Badlands and Montana Circuits, with a great chance to earn his first year-end title.
“I’ve dang sure got my eyes on it,” he said. Schaffer is also ranked second in the Badlands’ All Around race, courtesy of a few team roping entries early in the season, but he won’t be pursuing that title. “This winter I mounted out at a few rodeos [to team rope] but I’m focusing on roping calves this year.”
Though it didn’t count for the circuit standings, Schaffer scored a major victory on August 19 with a win at the Fallon County Fair & Rodeo in Baker, Montana. He stopped the clock in 8.1 seconds to beat a field stacked with World Champions and NFR qualifiers. He took home $4,434 for the win.
“I wish that was co-approved,” he laughed, “but it was a heck of a good check.”
Badlands Circuit standings as of August 21, 2023
|1||Jason Schaffer||Broadus, Montana||$16,738|
|2||Chase Lako||Arthur, North Dakota||$16,168|
|3||Ty Moser||Volga, South Dakota||$15,813|
|4||Grant Turek||St. Paul, Nebraska||$14,793|
|5||Trey Young||Dupree, South Dakota||$12,468|
|6||Austin Hurlburt||Norfolk, Nebraska||$10,784|
|7||Bodie Mattson||Sturgis, South Dakota||$10,460|
|8||Matt Peters||Hot Springs, South Dakota||$8,570|
|9||Brock Belkham||Flandreau, South Dakota||$8,094|
|10||Cole Robinson||Moorcroft, Wyoming||$6,730|