The award-winning documentary film about Fort Pierre’s own Casey Tibbs, the late rodeo legend, directed and written by Midland, South Dakota’s own Justin Koehler, now is available on DVD.
“Floating Horses: The Life of Casey Tibbs,” won the 2018 Western Heritage Award for best documentary film, alongside the winner of the theatrical film release, “Wind River,” starring Jeremy Renner.
Koehler lives in Denver with his family and has shown his new film from New York to Los Angeles. Narrated by Bob Tallman, the film features interviews with Tibbs’ friends, such as musician Charlie Daniels and Steve Ford, son of late President Gerald Ford, as well as family members from Fort Pierre and Pierre, showing the dramatic life of the nine-time world champion rodeo rider whose light, athletic style on saddle broncs was described as “floating horses.”
Koehler began the film project in 2015 and raised the funds as well as writing and directing it. A special showing was held in Pierre that was attended by many family members and hometown friends of the late legend.
Koehler says that Casey Tibbs’ friend, writer Jeb Rosebrook, gave him a treasure trove of 16mm footage of rodeo rides by Casey never seen before, including a few seconds of the saddle bronc champ riding a bull.
Koehler told the Capital Journal it’s been a labor of love for him, almost overwhelming. But it led to him interviewing Casey Tibbs two wives, who had never met until a film showing in Arizona, and his only child who got to know him well after she was grown.
“I have seen the film three times at film festivals and it is a quality historical film that is highly entertaining,” said Cindy Bahe, director of the Casey Tibbs Rodeo Center and Museum in Fort Pierre. “There are also rare film clips that no one has ever seen before.”
Bahe said she’s thrilled to finally have a DVD version of the documentary available to the public.
“We have been inundated with phone calls for the last year and a half from people requesting to buy the DVD. Now it’s finally available through world-wide distribution.”
The DVD can be ordered online at Amazon; it’s $19.99 and shipping costs are free before Christmas, Bahe said.
Born in 1929, Tibbs grew up fast on a hard-working ranch northwest of Fort Pierre, leaving home by the time he was 14 to make a living riding rodeo broncs. By the late 1940s he was the best and is credit with using not only his skills but his Irish good looks and charm to help catapult rodeo to a new level in American culture. He died in 1990 in his home near San Diego.
Koehler says the film awards from the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City are the Oscars of Western moviedom.
According to the Museum: “The Museum’s Western Heritage Awards were established in 1961 as the pinnacle commemoration of the American West by honoring the legacy of men and women for their works in literature, music, film, and television, . . . who made extraordinary contributions to shaping the American West’s rich heritage.”
Koehler and other winners were feted at an awards dinner in April.
The evening was emceed by notable actors and past Hall of Great Western Performers inductees Sam Elliott and Katharine Ross, long a Hollywood couple who live in the Pacific Northwest. And that was appropriate as Ross was a friend of Casey TIbbs in the 1960s and 1970s when he worked in the movie industry as an actor, at times, and a stunt rider and consultant on all things western and about horses and rodeo.
The evening included the induction of individuals into the Hall of Great Western Performers and the Hall of Great Westerners in Oklahoma City and illustrated the good company Koehler was in: country music legend Lynn Anderson, born in Grand Forks, North Dakota, in 1947, who passed away in 2015; and well-recognized Western actor Barry Corbin were inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers. This year in a new award, the Museum recognized Philip Anschutz, named in Forbes Magazine’s “100 greatest living business minds,” with the first-ever Western Visionary Award, recognizing an individual who has made a significant contribution and national impact in preserving and protecting Western heritage and its ideals, according to the Museum.
Koehler and other winners and inductees received a Wrangler, an “impressive bronze sculpture of a cowboy on horseback created by Oklahoma artist Harold T. Holden, a 2017 Hall of Great Westerners inductee.”