Neal Felton: Texas Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame Class of 2024
Two-time NFR tie-down roper Neal Felton was inducted into the Texas Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame.
Felton at his second Finals in 1988 aboard late friend David Bowen’s mare.
Felton at his second Finals in 1988 aboard late friend David Bowen’s mare. | James Fain Photo

The Texas Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame was founded in 1975, and calls Cowtown Coliseum in the historic Fort Worth Stockyards home. The TRCHF just celebrated its Class of 2024, and one of this year’s honorees is two-time National Finals Rodeo tie-down roper Neal Felton. We thought it would be fun to catch up with the talented Texan to see what his life looks like today, at 63. 

Vanette, Neal and Dakota Felton on induction day.

“I train calf horses,” said Felton, who lives in remote Mountain Home with his wife, Vanette; the Feltons are Mom and Dad to 26-year-old professional tie-down roper Dakota Felton. “That’s all I do all day long. I’ve got 15-18 head here now. My dad (Dwain Felton) was a calf-horse trainer with five kids and a full-time job. He taught me strong work ethic. He used to say, ‘I don’t care if you shine shoes for a living, try to be the best shoe shiner you can be.’ So I try to be the best horse trainer I can be.”

Neal and Vanette Felton celebrating at Cowtown.

A few of Felton’s favorites he’s trained over the years have included, “A sorrel with a flaxen mane and tail we called Shiloh that Cade Swor almost won the world on one year, a palomino I called Flash that Trevor Brazile won the world on, and a black horse I rodeoed on that I called Cassbar. I have a sorrel roan now that I call Harley that I have high hopes for, who’s another good one.”

That’s Neal riding Shiloh at Houston. | Jennings Rodeo Photography

Felton roped at the NFR in 1986 and ’88, and looks back fondly on his days out on the rodeo road. 

“You grow up your whole life watching the Finals on TV,” he said. “There’s something special about riding in the grand entry that first night. You think, ‘Oh my lands, it’s all worth it.’”

Felton only went hard about four different years, the last time when he went back out there in 2003, because that year’s 50-rodeo limit made giving it a go possible for him again. Some of Neal’s favorite traveling partners include familiar names in brother Shawn Felton, Jerry Jetton, Darrell Lambert, Johnny Powell and Rick Kyle. Rick’s the brother of Kellie Kyle Frost Macy, who was married to late 1987 World Champion Bull Rider Lane Frost and is now married to NFR header Mike Macy.

Neal Felton roping at his first NFR in 1986 on the Kyle family’s horse Crawford.
Neal Felton roping at his first NFR in 1986 on the Kyle family’s horse Crawford. | Jennings Rodeo Photography

“Lane Frost was one of my very best friends,” Neal said. “I lived with the Kyle family for two years up in Quanah, Texas, and Lane would stay down there and tie (to the post) with us. There wasn’t a better person in the world. 

“The girl who portrayed Kellie in the movie ‘8 Seconds’ ran barrels in the movie on a horse that portrayed the Kyle family’s horse Crawford. The Kyles let me ride Crawford at my first NFR in 1986.”

Felton rode a mare that belonged to his late friend David Bowen at his second NFR in ’88. We lost Bowen, Dave P. Smith, Mike Currin and Randy Dierlam in a plane crash on July 2, 1990, when the charter hired to fly them from St. Paul, Oregon to Ponoka, Alberta crashed on Mount Rainier. Cowboy pilot Bob Card also was lost on that mountain that day. 

Neal’s paid close attention to the best in the business throughout his cowboy career, first as a fellow calf roper and now as a calf-horse trainer. I asked him to name names. 

“Roy (Cooper) was the king, and will no doubt always be one of the greatest of all time,” Felton said. “Roy rodeoed like a rockstar. The greatest calf roper I’ve ever seen in my life to this point is Cody Ohl. He had ice water in his veins.

“Nowadays, I love to watch guys like Shad Mayfield and Riley Webb. They’re the cream of the crop, and are going to be around for a long time. I get asked how roping has changed since I was rodeoing, and the calves are smaller and the scores are shorter. But the cowboys are also better athletes now. Some of these guys could play wide receiver in the NFL. These guys study film. They plan and prepare.”

Felton’s had some health scares in recent times, including prostate cancer and a heart attack last year that required three surgically-placed stents. He’s rolling again now, and the setbacks only make the good stuff in life a little sweeter. Brothers Shawn and David, Lambert, Jetton and Scott Accomazzo were among Felton’s cowboy friends who showed up for him on induction day, which was April 27. 

“Being inducted into the Texas Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame is a huge, huge honor,” Neal said. “It’s one of my gold-buckle moments. I’m very humbled to think about the people who went in before me, and the people who’ll come behind me. It really is a huge honor, and a big blessing.”

Other 2024 Texas Rodeo Cowboy Hall of Fame honorees include Bryan Fields, Brian “Pee Wee” Herman, Wes Stevenson, Adam Gray, Fallon Taylor, Mary Walker, Pete Carr, Skidboot, Dr. Bob Patterson, Jim Jones, Dennis Gee, Ronnie Helton, Dirty Jacket, Parker County Sheriff’s Posse, RD “Bob” Johnson, Bobby Kurten, Jake Hooker and Brenda Michael. Congratulations one and all!