Some brothers are constantly at each other's throats.
In the case of Ray and Ben Shankland, they are almost inseparable. Both are dedicated bull riders, compete on the tennis court, work at Little Caesars in Shawnee and will be attending college together in the fall.
Born and raised in Michigan, the Shankland family moved to Kentucky in 2010 and lived there until 2014, where they ran a horse ranch. Then the family packed up and moved to Ohio where they stayed for two years. The family then moved to Shawnee and have been here for the last two years.
As far as bull riding goes, the boys picked up on it from their father and have been doing it since they were 10 years old.
“We are about eight years into our bull riding career,” Ray said. “Our dad got us into it. He took us to a rodeo and we got on our first calf when we lived in Michigan.”
In a sense, the brothers treat bull riding as a business. There's a bit of competition between them but as long as one completes an eight-second ride, they come home happy.
“If we both stay on, thats even better,” Ben said. “At the rodeo we lived at in Ohio, we would compete against each other and a couple times we would take first and second.”
Competing is also fun for the boys, but when they both bring home some hard earned cash, that's even better, they agreed.
“We look at it like we are a team, and are in it together so If we both take home some money that's great,” Ray said.
Currently Ben is nursing a broken thumb he suffered during a ride at a recent competition.
“There's always a chance that we'll take a hard shot but we heal up and get back in a couple weeks,” Ben said.
“After his ride, the medics thought he was hurt because he got ran over, but he was holding his thumb up so they figured he was good,” Ray said.
Getting on a bull and trying to hang on for any amount of time requires something most people don't have. For the brothers Shankland, they are cool, calm and collected before their respective rides.
“We work hard every day to be in that situation,” Ben said. “Everything is pretty routine getting on a bull. We have been around the rodeo and our job in Ohio was to basically run the rodeo so we are prepared.”
Being around the bulls as much as possible helps eliminate the fear and maintaining a positive attitude helps prepare us for each ride, Ray said.
“You could be in the best shape possible but if you're not strong mentally you won't be successful,” Ben said.
Outside of the rodeo, Ray participates in choir and both brothers were on the Shawnee High School tennis team.
This was the brothers first year on the Shawnee tennis team and it was a very successful one at that. Ben finished fourth in No. 2 singles at the regional tournament and participated in the state 6A State Tournament. Both earned academic scholarships as well.
“Our dad has been hitting tennis balls with us since we were young,” Ben said. “We use it as exercise and cross training. We decided to get on the team and it's been a lot of fun.”
Now that they are graduated from Shawnee High School, both brothers will be attending Southeastern Oklahoma State on rodeo and other academic scholarships.
Ray plans on majoring in music education and Ben will major in elementary education.
“Education has always been important since we were very young,” Ben said. “We have always found a balance to do both.”
Ray claims Ben is the smarter of the two, however both brothers were members of the National Honor Society and had very respectable grade point averages.
Looking forward to this summer and their final chance at International Finals Youth Rodeo (IFYR) glory, both said they are excited to compete here in Shawnee one last time. This will be Ray's third year and Ben's second year participating in the IFYR in Shawnee.
Both agreed that the IFYR is one of the toughest rodeos to participate in.
“We aren't thinking about getting hurt or anything. We are just thinking about staying on and reacting to the bull,” Ben said. “You never know what the bull is going to do so you have to be ready for anything.”
Both are willing to see how for bull riding can take them, but the most important thing they've learned from the rodeo lifestyle is staying dedicated to their chosen craft and using it as a tool to further their education.