Every parent dreams their child will do big things and make a difference, but for Amanda and Lance Gainey, that dream is a reality… and a wild ride! The Gainey’s 13-year-old twin sons, Ethan and Hayden, are sweeping titles across the country for Miniature Bull Riding, and both boys have achieved world champion status. Ethan won the International Miniature Bull Riding Association (IMBA) Junior World Championship in Mesquite, Texas, and Hayden won the International Miniature Rodeo Association (IMRA) Junior Mini Reserve World Championship in Guthrie, Oklahoma.
“Both boys hold titles in different associations,” Amanda explained. “They go back and forth with each other and are each other’s biggest supporter! They say, ‘We aren’t against each other. It’s us against our bulls.’”
Along with their big sister, Makayla (17), the Gainey kids are a tight-knit, Jesus-loving, hard-working crew. Makayla is their biggest fan, and uses her talents to serve as their photographer, Instagram manager and stylist. Living in Fouke, Arkansas, the Gaineys are raising their children to work hard, stay humble and chase their dreams.
It seems the rodeo is a passion that runs in the family. Lance remembers growing up with his grandpa, and says, “whatever he caught, whether it was a Holstein heifer or a cow or a bull, it didn’t matter how big it was, you just rode it. I never thought I’d make it past 20 years old,” he said, “let alone have kids and them be World Champion bull riders.”
Even from the beginning, the love of bull riding was woven into Amanda and Lance’s relationship. “When we dated, that was our thing,” Amanda shared. “We would go to rodeos and watch bull riding. Every other event at the rodeo is just not my favorite, but bull riding has always captured me.” Lance says, “I’m just a little adrenaline junkie.”
When Ethan and Hayden started watching bull riding videos on YouTube several years ago, like their parents, they were instantly hooked. “We watched professionals like Chase Outlaw and Jess Lockwood,” Hayden said. “They’re real cowboys.” So, when the boys first expressed interest in bull riding, Amanda said, “They love adrenaline and action. They wanted to ride a bull, and I was all about it! Lance warned me that his grandpa always said, ‘when they ride, it will get in their blood.’”
“When they got started, it was with a local organization, Southwest High School Rodeo Association with a guy there named Mike Vickers,” Lance recalled. “The twins were as green as they come. They didn’t have a clue, so he pulled them under his wing. You could see the twins’ legs just shaking when they climbed on their first bulls. I’d be holding on to them, and I could hear their hearts racing through their vests.” “It felt weird,” Ethan said, “but I wasn’t really nervous.” Hayden agreed, saying, “The first time wasn’t bad, but when my second time came, this one had big ol’ horns on him. I was nervous because I knew what was coming, but then I rode him.”
Protected by a helmet, vest, chaps, gloves, spurs, and a lot of Momma’s prayers, the Gainey boys still climb onto the back of the bull, not knowing what will happen once the gate opens, but determined to hang on. While Amanda and big sister, Makayla, are in the stands cheering, praying and videoing, Lance gives the pep talk. “Before they ride, I’ll grab them by the facemask and get our heads together and say, ‘Look at me. When you get in there, it’s a bear fight, son. Take it to this dude and own him! It’s just another momma’s calf.’ There have been a few times I’ve had to jump in the arena and help pull them out.” “They want to keep dad close,” Amanda added, “because dad’s going to make sure that they’re ok. We love the bull fighters that are out there on the dirt protecting our guys and getting them off the bull. Animals can be unpredictable, and that’s part of the hype of what they love. But they always know dad will jump in and tackle that bull if he has to.”
The boys have had a few scary moments in the arena. “There was this one bull, Yellow,” Ethan shared. “He chipped my back teeth with his horn. That’s the only time I ever forgot my mouthpiece.” “And once at this big final,” Hayden added, “my vest got ripped off, and I got stepped on by a bull. I had this big bruise on my back.” No matter how tense things have gotten, though, Amanda remains resolved. “A lot of people ask, ‘How do you do this, mom?’ ‘How do you let your babies crawl on that breathing animal and watch them buck them off?’” she said, “But we pray before every ride, and I’m just passionate about what all my children are passionate about. They love it, and we support it. I tell parents that you can get injured in baseball. You can get injured in football. Everything that boys are going to do is physical contact, and there’s a chance for injury. But we don’t want to put them in a bubble. We want them to excel, and in doing that, you have to take chances and chase that passion.”
That passion, combined with a tremendous amount of hard work, has earned Hayden and Ethan $20,000 in competition winnings since they started riding four years ago. If the boys could buy anything in the world, they said it would be more bulls, and they’d love to have their own arena. With their winnings, they purchased their first bull a few years ago, and that purchase has grown into Gainey Bulls, a business they share with their dad. “Now that we own [ten] bucking bulls, different rodeo associations will ask us to bring our bulls to their event as a stock contractor,” the Gaineys explained. “We get paid for every bull that is bucked. Some events the boys are making between $200-$500. We’re already making little businessmen-little entrepreneurs… For the boys, being stock contractors and tending to their animals, teaches them so much. Our three children are definitely not lazy. Everything they have, they’ve earned through hard work,” Amanda said.
These hard-working boys have evolved from watching other bull riders on the internet to YouTube sensations themselves and inspiring other kids. But, even with all of their achievements, to the Gaineys, there is a greater purpose here for their family. “At the end of the day, it’s all about ministry,” Lance said. “We do devotionals with the kids at these rodeos. It’s a big thing for these kids because some have never heard a scripture quoted or anything preached. So, when we go to these events and do devotionals with these kids and they accept Christ as their Savior, it’s not about the 90-point bull ride when a kid gets saved right there at the event.”
We aren’t against each other. It’s us against our bulls.” —Hayden and Ethan Gainey
Not only are they impacting kids and families at events throughout the country, but the Gaineys hosted their first annual Bull Riding Clinic in Fouke on March 20, 2021, for ages 5-17. They’ve kept the rates low so that anyone can learn with the guidance of the Gainey boys. “We encourage families to be passionate about what their child loves and allow them to chase dreams,” Amanda said. “If we had not taken this leap of allowing that first bull ride just a few years ago, the boys would have missed out on something great.”
Every day, the Gaineys are intentional about pouring truth into their kids, reminding them to keep the right perspective and their eyes on Christ. “The boys know that in everything you do, you put God first,” Lance said. “I tell them all the time: your best day is someone else’s warmup. You have to get after it and push yourself to be a better competitor, but always remain humble because you’re never too good for anything.”
“Right now, this is our season… of bucking bulls,” said Amanda. “I tell the twins that this is the season God has given us. Of course, their dream is to be the next big thing and to make those million dollars, but I remind them that the Lord has their destiny planned. Right now, we’re embracing the season that we’re in because it may change. He may have something else greater in store.”
Seasons change but working hard and giving God the glory in all they do will always remain the top priority for the Gaineys. Determined to chase their dreams, they are pursuing their passion, and they are hanging on for the ride of their lives.