All Inductees

Rusty Riddle

Men Contestant

The 1970s were a golden era in bareback riding with legendary names like Jack Ward, Jimmy Dix, and five-time world champion Joe Alexander. Rusty Riddle ranks near the head of the class, qualifying for the National Finals Rodeo from 1972 through 1979 and was four times runner-up to the world championship.

Injuries marred much of Riddle’s career and almost certainly kept him from a world title along the way. In 1971, Riddle got off to a great start, placing at Houston and Tucson early in the season and winning San Angelo, Lubbock, and Yuma, Ariz. He moved to the lead in the world title race by spring, but a horse fell on him, crushing his wrist and putting him out for the remainder of the season.

In 1972 he returned with a vengeance, winning Cheyenne, Fort Worth, Cody, Wyo., and Oklahoma City. But while helping a friend work sheep in August, a horse fell with him, breaking his arm. Only a week later, he was involved in a near-fatal automobile accident when he and four other companions were involved in a wreck while traveling at what was reported to be more than 100 miles per hour. Riddle was initially unconscious, and one of his traveling companions, Shawn Davis, said they had a hard time finding a pulse.

Despite the injuries and while competing in a cast on his free arm, Riddle placed on five horses at the NFR and finished fourth in the average. He also had his first second-place finish behind Joe Alexander in the world standings.

In 1973, Riddle was again runner-up to the world title, while winning Fort Smith, Ark., Red Lodge, Mont., and Gladewater, Texas, along the way. He had a strong showing at the NFR, winning two rounds and finishing second in another two. His high-marked ride was an 84 on Butler Brothers and Cervi’s Honest Abe. At the time, only one point off the NFR record for the high-marked ride at the NFR.

During the 1974 season, Riddle placed at several major rodeos including Cheyenne, Calgary, and Houston. Riddle had a solid performance at the NFR, getting all of his horses ridden, placing in four rounds, and placing third in the average. However, the $11,000 lead Alexander had going into the NFR was too much to overcome, and Riddle was again runner-up to the world title.

In 1975, Riddle turned up the heat and won $38,767, at the time the record for the second most money won in the bareback riding in a single year. Unfortunately, Alexander set the record in the same year with $41,184. Riddle managed to pull within $400 of Alexander after the third round at the NFR, but Alexander won the final round, finished second in the average, while Riddle placed fifth in the average.

Major wins during Riddle’s career included Houston twice, Fort Worth three times, Cheyenne in 1972, and he was the Lone Star Circuit Champion in 1978. During his eight trips to the NFR, Riddle was only bucked off of one horse, Billy Minick’s Devil’s Dream. In 1979, Riddle suffered a broken leg in the fifth go at the NFR, which required surgery and four weeks in traction in an Oklahoma City hospital. He then retired to the ranching business.