Western Art

The Beauty of a Bronc

An illustration of a horse bucking.

I’ve had a love for bucking horses engrained in me since my youth. Somewhere between Will James’ “Smoky the Cowhorse” and Charlie Russell’s “A Bronc to Breakfast,” I realized that every horse has two sides.

My hometown of Augusta, Montana, hosts “the largest one-day rodeo” over the summer. As a kid, I’d walk to the rodeo grounds to see the bucking stock — a 10-year-old peering through the old wooden boards. My family raised Quarter Horses, but these were different.

From seeing artwork, to watching cowboys try to ride a bronc to eight seconds, Teal Blake has always loved bucking horses.

These creatures were taller, raw-boned, with hatchet-faced, roman-nosed heads and witches knots of all colors. All of them quiet and watching; all outlaws of some sort. It’s funny — the details that stick with you. I liked the blue roan in the back with the long, black mane — silver-backed with battle scars and fetlocks that looked like they belonged to a Clydesdale. They all had the most incredible old hot iron brands: lighting bolts, quarter circle R’s, shoulder, hip and jaw.

It wasn’t a few years later I had my first bronc ride — a supposed “broke” horse who suddenly dropped his head where I couldn’t see it anymore, squalling and taking off for the sky. After that, I’d climb on plenty. I’ve witnessed some sure enough pretty broncs and prettier bronc rides. Most of the rides I’ve seen were in the half-light of morning with more sound than sight: hooping and hollering, laughing, the sound of leather popping and the low stomach grunt of a horse hitting the earth before leaving again. Then, it’s gone. The bronc rides out, and all is as it should be.

I think the moments I admire most are when the horse is at his peak, rather than the rider. When that animal gives his all and hits his hardest, it’s a dangerous and beautiful rhythm.

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