By Jolee Jordan
Union, Oregon—Going fast inside the arena is no big deal when life moves as fast as it does outside the arena for Shea Durfey.
First, Durfey is a rodeo wife and mom. Her husband Tyson is the reigning PRCA World Champion Tie Down Roper and daughter, Praise, was born in September of 2016.
As if chasing a seven-month old infant wasn’t enough, Durfey and her husband also run several businesses including Shea Michelle Buckles and Shea Baby Boots, their newest venture.
Oh and Durfey is a recording artist and songwriter with several number one songs in her home country of Australia and a new album set to debut here in the US in the fall under her professional (and maiden) name, Shea Fisher. She has performed in the openings of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (WNFR) the last two years as well.
To her long and accomplished resume, Durfey can now add the title of pro rodeo winner after claiming the title in Union at the Eastern Oregon Livestock Show June 9-11.
Casual observers may be surprised to learn that Durfey is handy on a horse but in truth the singer/businesswoman actually began life as a rodeo cowgirl.
“I have rodeoed my entire life,” laughs Durfey. Her father Eddie Fisher was a champion bareback and bull rider and mom Jo was a champion barrel racer in their native Australia. They even did a stint rodeoing in Canada before Durfey was born. “I was on the road with them at two weeks old.”
Durfey found her own way into the arena at a young age as well, earning a junior barrel racing title at nine years old aboard her mother’s stallion . . . the same horse that carried Jo Fisher to the Australian championship.
Competing in every event from barrel racing to bull riding, Durfey gathered plenty of accolades in junior rodeo and qualified in the barrels and breakaway roping to the Australian National Finals Rodeo while still a teen.
Durfey and her parents moved to the US when she was just nine as her father spent several years on the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) circuit before returning to Australia. Durfey signed her first recording contract at 16 and it was her singing that brought her back to America in 2009.
“I took a chance,” she says, noting that her recording career in Australia was rolling along well when the opportunity to come to Nashville called. She met Tyson at RodeoHouston in 2011 and the couple married in 2013.
Fisher’s parents started Shea Michelle Buckles in Australia 15 years ago and Shea brought the idea to the US with her. She designs buckles and jewelry for the company, which is now based in Texas where she and Tyson make their home.
Shea Baby Boots are the latest business venture for the couple, offering affordable and stylish boots for babies up to a year old.
Running businesses, running barrels and managing a recording career seems like several full-time jobs but Durfey notes that much of what she does can be done from the road.
“We have a lady here in Texas named Karen [Spillman] who works full time, filling orders,” notes Durfey, adding that having a “very supportive husband” is also a big piece of the puzzle. “But I can take orders on the road and do all the designing while traveling.”
“There are lots of miles, time in the truck to do business,” she says. “We make it work.”
She’ll also return to Nashville this fall to finish up her upcoming album, set to be released in October.
Throughout it all, Durfey always kept hold of her rodeo roots. About three years ago, she purchased All Eyes on Bebe, a young mare who started with Jill Tanner and had been with Molly Powell for a couple of months.
“They had a great pattern on her,” says Durfey of the mare she calls Betty. The mare needed more seasoning and fit Durfey’s program perfectly. “It was a three year process. She needed someone to take it slow with her.”
Durfey had been taking the mare to divisional races near her home in Weatherford and having some success. Then Durfey found out she was pregnant and the mare got some time off.
“I enjoy being a mum,” she says, noting that she didn’t want to immediately jump back into the barrel racing fray. “When I do something, I want to be able to focus 100 percent on it.”
Meanwhile, the Durfey’s were hatching a plan for the busy summer run.
“Tyson loves being a dad, so we decided we wanted to be together as a family,” she says. Tyson’s rodeo schedule keeps him on the road for the entire summer; in the past, Shea would spend a few weeks on the road and then return home to work the family’s businesses. But with Praise now part of the family unit, separation was not an option.
With Betty ready to make the jump to pro rodeos, the Durfeys decided to make 2017 her seasoning year in hopes of some day making a push to qualify to the Wrangler NFR.
“Long term, everybody wants to go to the NFR,” says Durfey, “whether it’s this year, next year or further down the road, that is definitely a goal.”
While enjoying mommy time, Durfey realized she needed to get to some events this spring before embarking on the summer run with a green horse.
“I entered San Angelo because the first go is more like a 5D and we made the progressive,” says Durfey. In April, Durfey picked up checks at Longview and Jourdanton to fill her permit.
After placing in Guymon, Durfey and Betty continued their winning ways on the West Coast, winning fourth at the Redding Rodeo before heading to Oregon for the Eastern Oregon Livestock Show and Rodeo.
There, the pair ran into some adversity.
“It was miserable,” Durfey laughs. Unseasonably cold weather hit Oregon and then a rain storm came on top of the cold during the barrel racing slack after the first performance on June 9.
“We had seen the forecast and were praying the rain would stay away,” says Durfey. “It held off while Tyson roped his calf but then, just about ten minutes before the barrel race, it started to rain. And not raining straight down, but raining sideways!
“The tractor man was being fabulous, taking his time working the ground to try to make it good for us and we were appreciative but we were just wanting to get it done!
“I couldn’t feel my hands and I told Tyson, ‘this is really testing me,’” she says.
Showing an experience level above that of a WPRA rookie, Durfey and Betty scooted through the pattern in 17.70 seconds, good enough to take the win.
“My game plan was to not over ask her as I wasn’t sure about the footing or how she would handle everything,” says Durfey, noting that it was dark inside the arena as well. “Betty is very good on her feet and she did great.”
Running sixth in the slack, Durfey headed immediately to the trailer after her run to dry off and warm up. It wasn’t until she was leaving the rodeo grounds that she heard she was winning first.
Her time would stay atop the leader board through the two remaining performances, giving her the win by two one-hundredths of a second over Teri Bangart. She earned $1,186, landing her fifth in the current WPRA Rookie of the Year standings.
When the couple got the call that Durfey had won Union, she says her husband was more excited than she was.
“He always wanted to win the buckle they give,” she explains. The World Champ actually has never won the rodeo but did pick up a third place check in 2017.
“I love the rodeo with the races and everything going on,” she adds. The EOLS not only has pro rodeo but also horse racing, PRCA Xtreme Bull Riding, a carnival and 4-H and FFA livestock classes.
“That was about her eighth pro rodeo,” says Durfey of Betty, adding that WPRA Reserve World Champ Lisa Lockhart as well as Powell, a ten-time Wrangler NFR qualifier, offers her advice on the road. “I call them with questions all the time and they are both so helpful.”
Of Betty, she notes, “she is an incredible mare but we’re still seasoning. Sometimes when we run, we win. Other times, we are seasoning!”
The seasoning process is about to pick up steam as Durfey will be on the road with her husband full-time this summer. The pair begins this week in Utah before heading to Reno Rodeo, the unofficial kick-off of summer for rodeo contestants.
“My parents are planning to come for the entire summer,” notes Durfey. “They’re going to keep a trailer in Canada for us. Mum is bringing a nice mare she has for me to run when we’re up there and Betty will stay here for rodeos in the US.”
“We’re so thankful to them and our other helper,” she says, adding that performances get tricky for the couple when tie down roping and barrel racing are close together and someone has to be watching Praise. “She’s a really good baby.
“And we’re really looking forward to the free babysitting!”
For more information on the Eastern Oregon Livestock Show and Rodeo, visit them on-line at www.easternoregonlivestockshow.com.