Slated to compete in the team roping event at the Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeo scheduled for March 16-19 in Pocatello, Idaho, Ferrell plans to leave next weekend to prepare for the competition.
"The Dodge Finals are for the weekend cowboy - cowboys that have a day job and still rodeo on the weekends," Ferrell explained.
Ferrell said he is excited at the chance to compete there as many competitors never get a shot at the Dodge National Circuit Finals Rodeo. "Going to the Dodge Finals is a good rodeo - it's a milestone in my career," he said.
The first step to qualify for the Dodge Finals is to place in the top 12 teams in one of the The Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association's 10 circuits to make the circuit finals.
Competing in pro rodeos for his first season on a permit in 2004, Ferrell placed third in the Great Lakes Circuit to qualify for the circuit finals.
The first place team and the team with the lowest average time on three steers from each of the circuit finals get to go to the Dodge Finals.
In 2004, the Great Lakes Circuit's first place team was also the team with the lowest average, so the opportunity goes to the second place team.
Fortunately for Ferrell and his partner, both the second and third place teams declined to go. "We kind of qualified by default," he said.
Seeded third in the finals, Ferrell and his partner placed fourth with scores being very close. "Anybody could have won it going into the circuit finals," he said.
Team Roping is the only true team rodeo sport, according to the PRCA Web site.
Two mounted ropers work as a team to lasso and immobilize a steer. First the "header" ropes the steer's head, takes out the slack and loops the rope around his saddle horn, and leads the steer behind him "in tow." The "heeler" then ropes the steer's hind legs.
When both ropes are tight and both horses are lined up facing the steer, the time stops.
"All last year I just heeled," Ferrell said. "I've always done both, switched back and forth. I pretty much heel now - that's what I do."
The event's top competitors can finish the task in around four seconds.
Ferrell starting roping "when I was big enough to get on a horse," he recalled. "I was probably 5 or 6."
He began competing in 4-H rodeos at about age 8, winning first place in team roping. Ferrell then continued competing at the high school rodeo level, "and I just finished college rodeo last year."
Presently Ferrell is "between full and part time." Back in May and June of last year, he found himself asking off from work on Fridays, then it was Thursday and Fridays, then Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. "By the end of August I was off for a couple of weeks at a time," Ferrell said.
"I'm hoping that I can get to where I feel I need to be to make money with my rope," Ferrell said.
To succeed as a full-time rodeo cowboy, "it takes a lot of time and backing by sponsorships," Ferrell said. "I'm trying to get to that level."
Ferrell had a good year in 2004 competing on his permit. Those competing in rodeos on a permit need to win $1,000 to be issued their pro card for the next season.
Last year, Ferrell competed in about nine rodeos to win a total of $6,000. He took second place in his first rodeo of 2004. "I won about $800 at that rodeo," he recalled.
Ferrell won another $800 at his second rodeo of 2004 and got his biggest win yet at his third rodeo for the season by taking home $1,200.
Ferrell's first competition for the 2005 season, and his first rodeo on a pro card, took place in Cape Girardeau Feb. 18-20 where he and his partner, Cory Smothers of Henryville, Ind., tied for first with a time of 5.6 seconds.
"It was a small arena - it's like roping on a basketball court," Ferrell said.
Ferrell met Smothers on the rodeo circuit and talked about teaming up during last year's season.
"We thought we could win a lot of money together," Ferrell said. "We've actually been to four rodeos and won three of them."
Ferrell said he and Smothers are aiming to make the International Professional Rodeo Association's finals.
"Everything in that circuit is real fast," he said. "That's one of our goals - to be fast and consistent. Our main goal is to win the Great Lakes Circuit."
Ferrell said he would also welcome the opportunity to compete in front of hometown fans if the event is added to the Sikeston Jaycee Bootheel Rodeo.
"There has always been talk of having team rodeo at the Sikeston rodeo," he said. "I've heard they're going to have it next year. They'd get a lot of teams if they were to add team roping. When they get it, I'll compete."