Getting up close at the rodeo is, frankly, a little intimidating.
The riders — and sometimes the animals — look to be in grave peril the majority of the time they’re performing. It’s frightening.
But not — perhaps oddly, perhaps not — for the riders.
Shane O’Connell was the winner of the first event at the Dacotah Stampede Rodeo at the Brown County Fairgrounds on Aug. 14, and it was as impressive to watch as it was concerning. The bareback rider was rocketed back and forth on a bucking bronco, and his job isn’t just to stay on, but to make sure it’s a heck of a ride.
“Man, pretty fun for a Monday,” O’Connell said. “You get on (horses) like that, you can show off a little, have fun with it. Get a good score.”
It’s easy to wonder what’s happening in the mind of a bareback rider as he’s hanging on for dear life.
“I felt pretty good (Aug. 14), so I was just trying to get every little bit out of that horse that I could,” O’Connell said. “Just really work on the little things and opened up the throttle.”
From hanging on to a horse that doesn’t want you on it, to jumping off a horse that does, the rodeo then moved to tie down roping.
The winner there, Kadin Boardman, needed the win on Aug. 14.
“I’ve been fighting it quite a bit,” Boardman said. “To be honest with you, I went and talked to Joe Beaver before the rodeo (Monday) night, had a pep talk with me, got my mind lined out. I was more concerned about scoring than I was anything. Just score good.”
Boardman’s time of 9.7 seconds beat his next closest competition by 1.3 seconds.
The pep talk helped, he said.
“I was more relaxed,” Boardman said. “Tried to take it back down to step-by-step instead of going through the motions.”
A win like this has a huge effect on a rider’s confidence.
“A lot,” Boardman said of how much the win helps. “It’s been a struggle here lately. It’s just been a long summer. Seemed like when I roped good I didn’t draw very good calves, when I did draw good, I didn’t rope good. (Monday) just seemed to come together.”
After tie down roping, the event moved on to saddle bronc riding.
Travis Schroth was the winner there, but it didn’t come simply. His victory came on a re-ride after his first horse simply wasn’t in the mood to buck.
“I guess he went out there and kind of just jumped in the air, didn’t do a whole lot,” Schroth said. “So they gave me another one. That second one I kind of knew a little bit. He’s a nice little horse.”
The key to a good score, Schroth said, is having a good rein and setting your feet.
The key to a good score in steer wrestling is grabbing the steer by the horns and twisting it to the ground. Chance Carlson and Forest Sainsbury tied for the lead with lightning-fast twin times of 5.3 seconds.
Then came team roping, one of the only two events where the riders don’t end up on the ground at some point.
Bart Ness was the horns man on the team that tied for the lead. But he said the six seconds he and teammate Terry Fischer posted can get a lot lower.
“It’ll get a lot faster,” Ness said. “Steer’s real good, we just got into the wall, that took that extra couple seconds. We got out good, got it on him quick. But it just got into the wall and the heeler had to back it up to get the rope tight. That’s that extra second.”
The vast majority of ropers had a penalty or two, often because of roping just one of their calves’ two back heels.
“Everybody’s trying to throw fast,” Ness explained. “Sometimes it works and sometimes it don’t. These guys all rope pretty good. They can go two or three hops and they’ll all pretty much catch him, but everybody’s going quick.”
The second-to-last event of the night was girls barrel racing, the other event where nobody hits the ground at any point.
Riding at full speed, the cowgirls race around the barrels and back to the finish line. Lots of the riders were fast, but nobody was faster than Kristi Steffes.
“This is a horse that I’ve ran a lot,” Steffes said. “He’s 16, we raised him. And I’ve been running him all summer. It kind of hasn’t been going real well, so this run felt pretty good. He’s been making good runs, but he just hasn’t been clocking. This time it finally came together.
“It was a good day. A fun rodeo, a fun atmosphere, and I think a good crowd gets him fired up.”
Then, to finish things off, the craziest event of all: bull riding.
Bull riding is the same as bareback riding, except it’s a bull. There’s not much else to be said about that.
Incredibly, nobody got badly hurt riding the bulls, who were as mean and angry as one might imagine. The winners tied with scores of 81: Ryan Knutson and Coy Thorson.
“I had a sweet bull drawn,” Knutson said. “I knew he’d be a good one. It turned out all right I guess.”
Knutson said he’d seen the bull before, but had never ridden him.
“He just kind of turned back into my hand there,” Knutson said. “I just kind of sat square.”
Knutson’s been riding bulls about 12 years, he said.
“Takes a lot of trying, maybe a little bit of a brain I guess,” he said. “Or maybe not any.”
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Rodeo rides offer few surprises
For the rough stock contestants at the Dacotah Stampede Rodeo on Aug. 15 during the Brown County Fair, the keys to success were relatively simple: don’t get surprised, and beat the rain.
Such was the case for Levi Berends, who scored an 85 on his bull Heart Ache during the final event of the night, the bull riding.
That score beat out a pair of 81-point rides from the Aug. 14 performance.
“I’d seen (the bull) on Sunday in Sioux Falls, and he wasn’t as good as he was (Aug. 15),” Berends said.
The difference? Speed.
“He pretty much did the same thing,” Berends said. “He was just a little faster (Aug. 15). It all worked out.”
Berends was the first of nine bull riders to go in the final round, which was moved up in an effort to beat pending rain moving into the area. That decision was just fine with the Maynard, Minn., rider.
“That’s what I was nervous about the whole time,” he said.
While Berends finished under heavy cloud cover, the night began with pleasant conditions where Joe Gunderson of Gettysburg scored a 79 on a bareback bronc named Professor Snape.
Though not an overall winner, Gunderson had the high score of the day and finished third overall.
“I wish I could have done a little bit more, but that’s the way it goes,” Gunderson said. “It’s a nice horse. I’ve seen it a few times. I actually saw it in Sioux Falls the other day and it bucked a kid off, so I knew he was going to be good. I just had to do my side.”
Gunderson said he had a good game plan going into the matchup.
“I knew he was going to be a little wild out front and go down the pen,” he said.
The one element of surprise Professor Snape had came in the form of a stumble early on in the 8-second affair. The horse faltered slightly, but Gunderson rode through it.
“I was just hoping he was going to stay on his feet,” he said.
For Carter Elshere, meanwhile, the playbook was clear on his ride Bandito Gold.
“I actually just got on that horse two days ago at Sioux Falls, so I kind of knew what to expect,” Elshere said. “They said he has the same trip every time. Exact same. Nice little horse. Glad to have him twice.”
Elshere ended up with a score of 80.5. Like Gunderson, Elshere’s score was not enough to overtake an 82-point effort during the Aug. 14 go, but was enough to finish second overall.
Elsewhere, Shaw Loiseau of Flandreau and Tel Schaack of Edgemont took first in team roping with a time of 5.9 seconds. Jayce Doan of McKenzie, N.D., won the steer wrestling competition with a 4.4-second effort, while Trey Young of Dupree won his third straight tie-down competition with a time of 8.6 seconds.
Jessica Routier of Buffalo had the top time in barrel racing with a 14.30, edging out Kara Posch of Holdingford, Minn., who had a 14.37 during the slack competition on Aug. 15.
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