The smell of adhesives and cow manure filled the Fort Worth air one early February morning. Freshly ironed clothes hung from show boxes as Ryder Day and his show steer, Cupid Shuffle, walked down the aisle past their fellow competitors. He gripped his wooden show stick, hand-carved from cedar, as he led his steer into the arena for the grand champion drive. The stands were filled with friends and family, along with hundreds of people from across the state of Texas. The crowd erupted as the judge slapped his hand on the rear of Cupid Shuffle. Ryder, son of Rusty and Katie Day from Meadow, Texas, had made history at just 12 years old.
“It was incredible. I thought I was dreaming.”Ryder Day
Ryder sold his Grand Champion Polled Hereford for a record-breaking $300,000 at the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo, the biggest steer show in Texas. He and Cupid Shuffle shocked the stock show world by being the first Hereford breed to win the top prize in Fort Worth since 1982 and the first recording of a Polled Hereford to ever win the show.
Ryder said he plans to put some of his winnings into a college fund and invest the rest back into the family ranch to carry on the legacy as a fourth-generation rancher.
The Day family runs a purebred Hereford operation west of Meadow, Texas. The grand champion steer was straight out of their own herd, and the two sons, Ryder and Riggin, came up with a unique name for this calf the first day they brought him home.
“The day we brought him back from the pasture, it was Valentine’s Day, and we started working with him,” Ryder said. “He shuffled around a lot, so we called him Cupid Shuffle.”
Cupid’s parents have been on the Day family ranch for many years. The Days describe their bull, Matador, as “real sweet” and said Cupid’s mom was one of the best-looking cows they have ever kept. It was only fitting Cupid stole their hearts from day one.
“We knew one of these days she’s going to have the one, and he was good from the day he was born,” Katie said. “When a good one hits the ground, you know it.”
Over the years, Cupid’s parents have produced seven banner-winners across the state of Texas. The Days brought Cupid home and left him as a bull for a while before they decided to make him a steer and let Ryder show him at Fort Worth.
“It’d have been nice to have him as a bull, too,” Katie said, “but it was sure a lot of fun to have him as a steer.”
The boys spent a lot of time working with their show calves, but they spent a little extra time with Cupid. Riggin would sometimes take his books out to the barn to just lay in the stall with him.
“You wanted to go to the barn and spend time with him,” Katie said. “You wanted to take him to shows. You wanted to work with him because he had that personality that made you want to be around him.”
Ryder and Cupid had a successful season winning the Terry County show then securing a spot in the grand champion drive by winning his class and breed at Fort Worth. Ryder said the Fort Worth judge never had a negative thing to say about Cupid throughout the show, but the Days were not expecting to achieve that high level of success.
“That next day, I knew that more than likely he wasn’t going to win or anything,” Ryder said. “We thought maybe an outside shot at reserve.”
However, the judge diminished all the doubting thoughts the Day family had when he picked Cupid out of the mix.
“It was incredible,” Ryder said. “For a long time, I still couldn’t believe it happened. I thought I was dreaming.”
Ryder’s family was sitting in the stands with the family of the Reserve Grand Champion steer, whom was also of the Hereford breed. The two families have a four-generation long friendship together.
“We’re sitting there together, just proud to watch our calves out there,” Katie said. “We never dreamed they were going to get the two slaps. We’re going to celebrate it forever, but in the moment, it couldn’t have been any neater to be right there with them.”
Katie said it could not have been scripted better when the two families erupted with joy together. The youngest son’s reaction was slightly more delayed than the rest.
“I stood there in shock for a second,” Riggin said. “I was overjoyed. I couldn’t imagine anything better happening.”
Stock showing is often referred to as a high-stakes gambling game with livestock. The money, time, effort and hard work that it takes to prepare the animals for a one-time shot at success is unmatched.
“Ryder did a heck of a job with that calf all year,” Katie said. “He was a phenomenal showmanship steer. He just had a presence about him. Everything just came together, and it has to. Everything has got to go perfectly right to ever get one in the winner’s circle.
“I think Ryder showed him to the T out there. I’m just glad we made the decision to keep him here at home and got to have that experience.”
A win at this level is not something easily replicated, and it will never be forgotten by the Day family.
“We know what the value of that is and it may have been a once in a lifetime opportunity with him, but we’re just one of the lucky ones that got to have that opportunity,” Katie said. “It set the bar pretty high. I don’t know if we can keep doing it at that level, but we will keep cranking them out and raising good ones.”