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Texas Tech Equestrian Center

Rookie on the Rise

Weitz leaving the chute.
Weitz leaves the chute to head a steer at Gallup, New Mexico.

A hush settles over the crowd. The dust falls. All eyes point to the south side of the rodeo arena. Backed into the roping box is a tensed-up bay horse ridden by 36-inseam Cinch Jeans and an attention-getting shirt patched with some of the biggest brand names in the rodeo industry. With all the confidence in the world, the 7-inch brim of Resistol cowboy hat nods forward. 

With a bang, the chute gates release; 1,200 pounds of built-up intensity from the bay horse releases after the calf. Shouts of, “You’re out!” echo in the background to give the cowboy an extra dose of confidence.

Seven and a half seconds later, the flag drops on the short round run. The cowboy adds ‘Texas Tech Collegiate Rodeo Tie-Down Champion’ to the extensive list of accomplishments this freshman phenom has already built for himself. 

“He has a gold buckle mindset and the skills to match.”

Leaving Las Vegas with a high chin, a trophy saddle in the back seat, and a victory lap around the Thomas and Mack is merely a fantasy for almost anyone who’s ever sat in the saddle. For 19-year-old Texas Tech University student and rodeo athlete, Chet Weitz, his first taste of Vegas came at the ripe age of three. With surprised pre-teens watching, he walked away with  a trophy saddle for winning the dummy roping; he was barely strong enough to carry it himself. 

“I have been rodeoing for 16 years,” Weitz said. “Ever since I can remember I have been on the back of a horse.” 

Weitz’s childhood was spent traveling back and forth from his home in Mason, Texas, to rodeos around the country. After claiming the Texas high school state team roping championship, Weitz attracted offers from universities just like any NCAA division one athlete prospect would expect.

“I have wanted to go to Tech since I was little,” Weitz said. “After I toured campus for the first time, I knew it was where I was supposed to be.” 

 Texas is a petri dish for producing champions, heading to Lubbock was always the plan for the second-generation Tech rodeo team member.

Weitz Tying a calf down.
Weitz dismounts to tie a calf at Gallup, New Mexico.

Texas Tech Rodeo Coach Jerrad Hofstetter said having Weitz join the team was a win in itself. 

“Finding a kid who wants to take rodeo seriously and go to a major university is harder to find than people realize,” Hofstetter said. “Chet is that kind of person. We worked hard to get him and his family here and we are thankful they chose our program.” 

The former National Finals Rodeo qualifier and rookie of the year said because the rodeo team is 100% self-funded, he focuses on recruiting students who are self-motivated and driven both inside and out of the arena. 

The average day for Weitz starts off with a cup of coffee and a Bible to take in the calm before the storm of work. From his dorm, he heads to the Texas Tech Equestrian Center to feed his horses and makes it back to campus before his morning classes. After class, he knocks out his homework and then drives his white Ford dually back to his stalls where he practices until the sun goes down. 

“There isn’t a ton of down time with being a full-time student and being on the rodeo team,” Weitz said. “But it has all been beyond worth it to me.” 

In just one year, the true freshman’s motivation to work secured him a spot in both the team roping and tie-down events at the College National Finals Rodeo held in Casper, Wyoming, in June 2020. This is no easy feat, according to Hofstetter, considering Texas Tech’s home region is the most difficult in terms of numbers and land mass covered.

Looking forward, both Hofstetter and Weitz have big aspirations for his rodeo career. 

“Chet has the potential to go some places with his rope and there is no doubt that he will get there,” Hofstetter said. “He has a gold buckle mindset and the skills to match. All he has to do is continue to work like he already does.”

Weitz riding a horse.
Weitz finishes his team roping run at Gallup, New Mexico.

The New Ranch Horse Team Coach has Big Plans for the Future

Justin Stanton Ranch Horse Head Coach
Justin Stanton looks to the future as the new ranch horse team head coach.

The Texas Tech Ranch Horse Team has a reputation of winning multiple national and reserve national championship titles, but the new head coach wants more for his students than winning in the show pen.

“I want my students to be the most sought after students in the industry.”

Justin Stanton

Justin Stanton, a native of Slaton, Texas, was excited and surprised when the previous head coach approached him about becoming the new head coach for the Ranch Horse Team.

Ranch Horse Team Coach Justin Stanton
The new ranch horse team coach, Justin Stanton, has big goals set for his students.

“I was really surprised,” Stanton said. “It just kind of came out of nowhere for me. Chance was the first one to talk to me about it and after it, all kind of sank in. I was, of course, super excited. I have such a passion for this team because it did so much for me and my family. I know what it can do for so many other students and just something about that just gets me fired up. This team holds a special place in my heart, and I want it to be successful.”

Being a qualified candidate for the position of head coach, Stanton runs his own horse training operation, Stanton Performance Horses, and was the prior assistant coach and a member of the Texas Tech Ranch Horse Team.

“We had two national championships that I was part of on the team,” Stanton said.  “I won a reserve national championship and then my last year I was high point individual, won the nonpro division and that’s pretty much my show career for the team. At the time I was also training outside horses and I had about 10 horses in training that I showed on my own as well.”

Stanton knows the pride that comes from wearing the double T logo and has high expectations out of current and potential future team members. 

“With the reputation that the ranch horse team has there is a level of pride that you have while on this team,” Stanton said. “There are so many things that we do that requires a great attitude, a great work ethic, and a love for this team. A desire to make it better for the future kids to come on this team is huge that I look for in prospective team members.”

Stanton is looking to the future for the next big thing to help grow the program. He said he wants to focus not only on winning in the show pen but also helping his students prepare for life after college and being successful in the industry.

“We’ve gotten pretty good at winning,” Stanton said. “One thing that I really want to focus on is preparing these students for the industry. I want the ranch horse team to be the most elite program that all of the top professionals in the industry call and ask, ‘Who’s graduating this year?’ That’s more important than winning to me. Winning is, of course, important, but I want my students to be the most sought after students in the industry because they have that much more experience.”

Stanton said he does not want a lack of experience to keep his students from not getting a job after they graduate but instead wants them to gain as much experience that they can while being on the team.

“To me, especially in the horse world, and really any industry, the experience you get out of school is important,” Stanton said. “But what does every facility, or place that you’re trying to apply to say? ‘You need more experience.’ I don’t want that to be a problem with my students. I want my students to have more experience than any other student coming out of similar programs.”

Taking the Reins: Crofoot Family makes lasting impact on Texas Tech Equestrian Center

AQHA, horse, cowboy
Born and raised on the ranch, "Dan," a three-year-old gelding, has been trained by Crofoot from the ground up.

Selling a third-generation feedlot was not an easy decision. However, when the opportunity presented itself, Terry Crofoot took the chance to pursue a lifetime dream of ranching and raising horses.

Crofoot, who resides in Lubbock, Texas, always had a passion for raising and showing horses. After selling the family feedlot in 1996, Crofoot and his wife, Kelly, purchased land near Clarendon, Texas, to form Crofoot Ranches, LLP. Soon after, Crofoot started pursuing his dream of raising horses and showing in versatility ranch horse competitions. 

As Crofoot expanded into the horse world, he reached out to others to become a better horseman. 

“I got to travel with a lot of [horse training] clinicians, and it was a very rewarding experience for me,” Crofoot said. “I actually put on a few clinics myself.” 

Spending time with clinicians and influencers inspired Crofoot to give back to the horse industry he had grown to know and love. 

In 2010, Crofoot began contributing to the Texas Tech Equestrian Center. At that time, the facility was more of a liability than an asset, nor did it have the funding necessary to help keep it maintained. 

“The people in charge didn’t really have a choice but to just kind of make do with what they had, and it was showing when I got there,” Crofoot said. 

Crofoot said he quickly started working with the Texas Tech administration to organize committees and funding to improve the equestrian center facilities. By 2016, with the assistance of other committee members, he formed an executive committee to regulate each subcommittee and served as the chairman of this committee until August 2017. 

It just creates an environment where you want to succeed.

“I felt like my main role was a liaison between the committee, the center and the administration at the university,” Crofoot said. “We had to educate them on what we were, so they would understand and try to help us. They’ve been very receptive. I’m really thankful for the people we’ve got in the administration right now. They are kind of fulfilling the dream I had for it.”

Looking back at his nine years with the Texas Tech Equestrian Center, Crofoot said he likes the facility because it is more than a physical location; it is a place for students to learn skills to use after college whether that is work ethic, time management, organization, or people skills. 

“All of those skills you wouldn’t necessarily think of in relation to horsemanship, but in this particular case with students that are interested in the horses, it’s an avenue. The horse is just a tool to accomplish all those things.”

Crofoot said the people at the equestrian center also contribute to the students by providing the right mental environment.

“Both staff and other students all have a common goal,” Crofoot said, “and it just creates an environment where you want to succeed.”

Moving forward, Crofoot would like to see the facility and its reputation continue to excel with the support of the university and the Lubbock community. 

“You know, it’s easy to say get bigger and better as a goal. Better is always a good goal, while bigger is not necessarily always a good goal. We’d like to see as many people that want to participate can, but there is a limit to the resources we have. We just need to use our resources wisely and provide the service to as many students as we can.”

Crofoot and his wife continue to be the top supporters of the Texas Tech Equestrian Center by donating their time and money to ensure the facility and students succeed. 

“I think that we’re blessed to have the connection with the Texas Tech Equestrian Center,” Kelly Crofoot said. “We love the way that they produce young adults to go out into the world with a sense of responsibility, a sense of accomplishment, and also a sense of pride.”  

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