Quietly, rodeo season cranks up: Winter events keep cowboys chasing cash across country
In rodeo, the season never really ends. Heck, the next season starts before the last one even ends.
Because of that, many fall and winter rodeos play a mostly unheralded, yet crucial role in a cowboy's season.
"When you can get that type of a jump early in the season, that makes your odds of winning the world title, I wouldn't say easier, but you have the momentum and you've got a jump on everybody," said Ardie Maier, a two-time National Finals Rodeo bull riding qualifier from Timber Lake, S.D. "You don't have to play catch-up, so the winter rodeos are real important in that aspect of the game."
Even those North and South Dakota cowboys who took a bit of a break over the fall and early winter -- a vacation, so to speak -- have already saddled up and are beginning their winter runs.
"Some of them guys take a little break now, just because they've been busy, they're sore and they take a little break. You kind of get a little head start," said Mandan bareback rider Casey Breuer. "There's a bunch that still do all the winter rodeos, but it's pretty important to get out there and get going right away."
Breuer, 20, is hitting the road hard for the first time in his career with his sights set on the PRCA's rookie of the year crown in the bareback riding. But, he knows if he stands any chance of winning that honor, his season had to start early.
So he did. As early as October, Breuer was hitting the road and getting to as many rodeos as he possibly could.
He's still going strong, sitting 14th in the world standings this week with $2,523 earned so far.
He and his older brother Ty Breuer, eighth in the world with $3,004 in earnings so far, are up Sunday at the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo in Denver. The big-money event in the Mile High City began Thursday and concludes Jan. 27.
Last week, the brothers drove from Gillette, Wyo. -- where Casey attends and competes for Gillette College -- to Odessa, Texas, for the Sand Hills Stock Show & Rodeo.
Ty scored an 83 and won $1,510 and Casey tied for eighth with an 81, winning a paltry $137.
Still, every dollar counts and there's a finite amount of good opportunities in the winter.
"In the summertime, there's so many rodeos," Casey Breuer said. "When you go down, you make what we call a run where you hit four or five (rodeos). You've got four or five chances to pull a check. This time, we drove 16 hours or more down to Odessa and you get one nod at it and then it's turn around and drive all the way back home.
"You've got to decide. A lot of the winter rodeos depend on how you draw. If you don't draw that good, it's not really worth putting all that time and money into going down there."
Maier, 27, said many bull riders, most of whom also compete in the Championship Bull Riding circuit, try to get an early start to the season and accumulate some prize money in case they're set back by an injury in the heart of the season.
"Bull riding is pretty dangerous," said Maier, who travels with his brothers Rorey and Corey. "If you have an injury throughout the summer months or something, you might get a good enough jump on everybody where you can take a month off, get healed back up -- whatever it takes -- and still have a shot to make the finals.
"That's one of the main things, to get a good start so if something like that would happen, you have the opportunity to make it."
The Southwestern Exposition Stock Show Rodeo in Fort Worth, Texas, which begins Jan. 24, and the Black Hills Stock Show Rodeo that begins Jan. 26. in Rapid City, S.D., are two of the next big rodeos.
The Bismarck PRCA Championship Rodeo, a decidedly Badlands Circuit event, is on Feb. 8 and 9 at the Bismarck Civic Center.
While Casey Breuer said while he wouldn't mind riding in front of the hometown fans that weekend, he has a rodeo in mind that has a much higher payout.
"We're actually hoping we don't make it," Breuer said with a laugh. "The short round of Fort Worth is at the same time."
Getting an early start
Pro rodeo leaders through Jan. 13 from North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana and Minnesota in Top 20 are listed.
Bareback Riding: 1. George Gillespie IV, Placerville, Calif., $5,263. 8. Ty Breuer, Mandan, $3,004. 14. Casey Breuer, Mandan, $2,523. 15. Tanner Aus, Granite Falls, Minn., $2,362. 19. Chase Erickson, Helena, Mont., $2,138
Barrel Racing: 1. Fallon Taylor, Whitesboro, Texas, $16,007.
Bull Riding: 1. Scottie Knapp, Albuquerque, N.M., $15,618. 6. Ardie Maier, Timber Lake, S.D., $6,325.
Saddle Bronc Riding: 1. Cody Wright, Milford, Utah, $6,933. 3. Tyrel Larsen, Inglis, Manitoba, $4,345. 6. Cole Elshere, Faith, S.D., $3,096. 7. Troy Crowser, Whitewood, S.D., $2,990. 9. Jesse Bail, Camp Crook, S.D., $2,830. 10. Chuck Schmidt, Keldron, S.D., $2,603. 15. Louie Brunson, Interior, S.D., $2,076
Steer Roping: 1. Cody Lee, Gatesville, Texas, $11,207. 11. Coy Thompson, Whitewood, S.D., $3,017.
Steer Wrestling: 1. Ty Erickson, Helena, Mont., $5,509. 16. Jason Schaffer, Broadus, Mont., $2,475. 19. Todd Suhn, Hermosa, S.D., $2,349.
Team Roping (header): 1. B.J. Campbell, Aguila, Ariz., $6,589. 7. Logan Olson, Flandreau, S.D., $4,357.
Team Roping (heeler): 1. Kory Koontz, Sudan, Texas, $6,071. 15. John Robertson, Polson, Mont., $3,229.
Tie-down Roping: 1. Justin Maass, Giddings, Texas, $9,556. 4. Dane Kissack, Spearfish, S.D., $4,663. 12. Boe Brown, Harrold, S.D., $2,910.