School of Hard Knocks: 12 Tips for Rookie Bronc Riders
Experienced ranch bronc riders teach rookies all the lessons they wish they’d know when they started out.
Story and photography by JENNIFER DENISON
July 1, 2018
It takes far more than good luck and an eight-second ride to be a successful ranch bronc rider. With payouts exceeding entry fees and travel expenses, rodeos nearly every weekend in the spring and summer months, and top-notch competitors and broncs, today’s working cowboys can make bronc riding a profitable side business.
Last January, eight rookie ranch bronc riders gathered at the Goshen Country Fairground in Torrington, Wyoming, for a one-day school that offered advice on the fundamentals of ranch bronc riding, from safety and chute procedures to equipment adjustment, injury prevention and management, to financial and travel management and goal setting.
“There’s desire among young cowboys to ride ranch broncs, but there’s also a want and need for guidance and tools,” says Naomi Loomis, coordinator of the bronc riding school, a Western States Ranch Rodeo Association representative and a longtime producer of ranch rodeos in Nebraska and Wyoming. “There is a lot more that goes into ranch bronc riding than it appears, and my goal was to find people who could teach the rookies, because I guarantee they will be the ones the next generation of riders will look up to, so we need to give them the tools to pass along to others. I’m a big believer in ranching traditions, and ranch bronc riding is one I don’t want to see lose momentum.”
Loomis selected six experienced bronc riders from Wyoming and the surrounding states who she says are “leaders not only behind the chutes, but also in every day life”: Jesse Callahan, Jim Gebauer, TeJay Fenster, Chris Laucomer, Justin Quint and Wesley Rosengreen. She also asked pick-up men Wayne Larsen and Clay Kelly of Bad Medicine Rodeo Stock to give the students one-on-one instruction for safely getting off of a bronc without putting themselves, the horse or the pick-up man in danger.
The school started at 8 a.m. with discussions on entering protocol, making travel arrangements and goal setting, marketing, judging, gaining a mental and physical edge, adjusting equipment and more.
“This is a business, and to be successful you must be professional and treat it like a business,” said Quint, a two-time WSRRA world champion ranch bronc rider. “You’ll spend a lot of money going up and down the road to rodeos, and you want to make sure you’re ready to perform at your best for those eight seconds. You only get those eight seconds to earn money, so you need to be prepared.”
In the afternoon, the instructors worked one-on-one with students to make sure their gear was safe and adjusted properly. Then the students practiced getting off using a pick-up man. The school concluded with each student getting on a Bad Medicine Rodeo Stock bronc. That evening, participants had a chance to enter or just watch the annual WSRRA-sanctioned Bronc Bash in the same arena.
Here are 12 top tips the bronc-riding veterans offered the rookies:
- Set a major goal and create small goal to achieve it.
- Exercise regularly with weights and cardio, and stretch before you get on a bronc. There’s a difference between being in shape and being in bronc riding shape. You can ride horses all week, but if your body is not ready for the power and jarring jolts of a bucking horse, the strain of holding on and the concussion of being bucked off onto the hard ground, you risk injury. Riders who workout usually have an extra edge in the saddle.
- Respect rodeo producers, stock contractors and other competitors and they’ll respect you. That includes letting a producer know you can’t make it once you’ve entered and not show up when your horse is waiting in the chute and the producer has paid the stock contractor for that horse to be there.
- Plan your trips so you can go to as many rodeos as possible in a weekend, and find a travel partner you respect for motivation and to share travel expenses.
- Video your rides and those of the best bronc riders. Watch them and learn from mistakes. Find someone you trust to honestly critique your rides. You can someone who will tell you the truth, not necessarily what you want to hear.
- Think ahead about what you need to do to make sure you have enough “juice” to make your best ride. That could mean avoiding alcohol, which slows reaction time, taking a nap so you’re rested, and spending quite time meditating or visualizing the ride you want to make.
- Check your gear before you ride to make sure your stirrups are adjusted properly, and all cinches, straps and hardware are in good condition and secure so nothing will break or come undone during your ride.
- Adjust your rear cinch as far back as possible to keep your saddle from sliding forward.
- Shorten your stirrups an inch or two to compensate from not having a saddle pad. A shorter stirrup allows you to put more pressure on your feet so you don’t lose a stirrup.
- Wear short-shanked spurs, rather than long-shanked models, so your feet can more freely and easily to spur.
- Hold on to your rope rather than a night latch. A night latch doesn’t give and keeps you in an upright position. You can run your hand up and down a rope to adjust your position so your shoulders are behind your hips and your feet are in front of the cinch.
- Tie off your cinch flat so it doesn’t hinder stirrup movement.
Loomis is making plans for another school next January. For more information follow Double A Feeds WSRRA Ranch Rodeo & WSRRA Ranch Bronc Riding on Facebook. Tri-State Rodeo Company in Oregon also offers educational programs designed for youth and novice rodeo competitors. You can learn more about the events on the Tri State Rodeo Company Facebook page.