Top Hand at the Round-Up

Idaho man is recognized for his volunteer work

Brett Ortland (right), pictured with Red Bluff Round-Up director Rod Moore, is the winner of the Round-Up’s 2018 Top Hand Award. Photo by Dave Ramelli.

Red Bluff, Calif. (April 18, 2018) – Brett Ortland, Caldwell, Idaho, is the winner of the 2018 Top Hand Award for the Red Bluff (Calif.) Round-Up.

The award is given each year to a volunteer who has dedicated their time to assisting with the Round-Up.

Ortland, who has deep roots in Red Bluff, has been volunteering at the rodeo for the past thirty-plus years. He began as a young adult, untying calves and opening gates. For the past two decades, his job has been to pull the latches on the chute gates. When the bull rider, bareback rider or saddle bronc rider is ready to ride, the cowboy nods his head, Ortland pulls the latch open, and Rod Moore, a director with the Round-Up, pulls the rope to open the gate.

Ortland was honored to receive the award. “It’s cool to be recognized, that (the directors) have seen you, and they think you’ve done a good job.”

A member of the Caldwell (Idaho) Night Rodeo committee, he started a volunteer recognition award at Caldwell five years ago, after seeing how the Round-Up committee honored a Top Hand winner. He has been a director with the Caldwell rodeo since 2006 and was president three years ago.

Ortland is the fourth generation of his family to be involved with the Round-Up. His great-grandfather Roy Owens was president of the Round-Up from 1928-1940. Pete Owens, his mother’s cousin, used to work behind the chutes, and Bert Owens, another cousin, was manager of the Tehama District Fairgrounds. Another cousin, John Owens, opened latches before Ortland did, and relatives Craig and Kenneth Owens also helped with the Round-Up.

One of Ortland’s favorite parts of the rodeo each day is the gathering after the rodeo, when the directors and volunteers head to the Round-Up museum. There he unwinds, visiting with friends and family, surrounded by his family’s memorabilia: cousin Jim Owens’ saddle, a hat owned by Craig Owens, and a halter given to Craig by the Round-Up in appreciate for his service. The gathering is “like a family reunion,” Ortland said. “I get in touch with people and things I don’t see every day, and I enjoy that.”

Ortland was honored with a buckle for the Top Hand Award on April 14.

The Red Bluff Round-Up will be held this Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Tehama District Fairgrounds. Performances begin at 7 pm on April 20, at 2:30 pm on April 21 and at 1:30 pm on April 22. Tickets range in price from $14 to $30, with a handling fee, and can be purchased online at or at the gate. For more information, visit the website or call the Round-Up office at 530.527.1000.