RIGBY — A decade since Todd Pierce performed in front of an eastern Idaho crowd, the champion bareback rider returned to his roots Sunday with his Born Wild event.
Pierce was raised in Idaho Falls but currently lives in Shelley. Born Wild is a ministry opportunity Pierce said he never saw coming. During Born Wild, Pierce takes an unbroken horse in front of a crowd and saddles it within the hour. As he works face to face with the wild animal, Pierce ministers to a crowd of strangers about his faith.
Sunday’s event at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds, however, was in front of his friends and family. Pierce began the show with tears in his eyes, saying, “I feel like I’m at a family reunion.”
Pierce brought his show back to eastern Idaho through the help of local pastor Scotty Brown. Brown currently pastors Outwest Bible Church, formerly known as Westernsprings Cowboy Church.
Outwest normally meets Sunday mornings at the Shilo Inn Convention Center.
“About two months ago, the people at Shilo told me we couldn’t be here on July 31. They had another event. So me asking Todd to do this (Born Wild) was out of necessity,” Brown said with a laugh.
The two pastors’ history dates back to the mid ’90s. Pierce and Brown met at a rodeo in Twin Falls in 1994 and Brown said they “have been friends ever since.”
Brown walked with Pierce throughout his faith journey. Brown said it was awe-inspiring to see the Lord “get a hold of his (Pierce’s) life.”
Before Pierce dedicated his life to full-time ministry, he was a champion bareback rider. He toured the country riding horses and gathering accolades. In 2002, Pierce suffered a knee injury that would put him out of the rodeo circuit for more than a year.
“Not only was I unsure how I would provide for my family, I thought I had lost the only platform I had to reach people with the Kingdom of Jesus,” Pierce wrote on Riding High Ministries’ website.
A few weeks after Pierce’s initial injury, he was called to speak to Professional Bull Riders athletes in Portland. This once-in-a-lifetime call turned into a 17-year chaplain career for Professional Bull Riders. Through this work, Pierce saw he could reach thousands of people with his God-given talent, even if it meant he wasn’t competing.
That’s how Riding High Ministries came to be. With the help of his wife, Leslie, and his three sons, Pierce tours around the world, bringing Born Wild to a variety of audiences.
Pierce has traveled to 12 countries to showcase Born Wild. He has saddled unbroken horses in prisons across the U.S and on Native American reservations in front of small gatherings. His largest show to date was earlier this year. At Crossroads Church in Cincinnati, Pierce brought a horse inside and set up a round pen stage in front of a 20,000-person congregation.
“That was pretty crazy,” Pierce said about the Crossroads show.
Pierce said that every show he does, he knows he’s supposed to be there. He prays that he is bringing his show to a place that needs to hear about the love of God.
“Whether it is a prisoner serving a life sentence for murder or a pastor who has spent their whole life preaching theology, I hope they leave transformed,” Pierce said.
“There is so much chaos in the world right now. Jesus is misrepresented. I hope to help re-calibrate people to Jesus’ principles, to show that we are sons and daughters of God, to re-root their hope and to provide a new vision.”
When the opportunity arose for Pierce to minister to the people of his hometown, he couldn’t say no. Even better, it was his rodeo brother Brown that asked him.
“Scotty is my real-life hero. He went from being a wild man to someone who drips love everywhere he goes,” Pierce said. “This time around it’s just two brothers finally getting to do this together.”
Watersprings senior Alex Platt worked with Brown to advertise the event. Platt said, “The amount of passion Scotty has put into this event is crazy. I have never seen him this giddy.”
Brown’s joy was palpable at the event Sunday. The unrelenting heat did not stop more than 500 people from coming to see Pierce and Brown speak about their faith.
Pierce opened by saying, “I am not an entertainer or a preacher with an agenda. You can deny my words but you cannot deny what happens.”
He entered the round pen with a 3-year-old horse that had never been ridden or saddled. Pierce approached the horse and it immediately began bucking around the ring. He whispered to the horse saying, “Good boy. You’re so brave.”
In five minutes, Pierce was able to place his hand on the horse’s back saying, “Regardless of the chaos this horse is feeling right now, I stay consistent.”
In 15 minutes, Pierce attempted to mount the horse. He was soon bucked off.
“There’s only one pile of crap in the whole place and I fell on it,” Pierce laughed.
In 40 minutes, Pierce was riding the horse bareback around the pen. At the end of the hour, the horse was calm, saddled and listening for Pierce’s voice.
“I’m not a gifted horse trainer. It’s not a magic trick. It’s what happens when a power we carry walks into a room. If you have the Holy Spirit, you become a vessel for the work of the Kingdom,” Pierce said as he rode the newly saddled horse.
By JOANNA HAYES