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Rodeo

Wyoming native Karen Herbst has experienced success with her rope horses in Texas, and this year her 19-year-old Sweetness, two-time PRCA-AQHA Tie Down Roping Horse of the Year, is competing once again at the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (WNFR).
    “Joe Beaver says to take a horse to the Finals who’s old enough to vote,” says Herbst of her horse’s age.
    Sweetness, whose registered name is Eighty’s Sport, is competing with Clint Cooper, who once again qualified for the WNFR along with his brothers Tuf and Clif.
    Cooper was fifth in calf roping heading into the Finals, and, along with Sweetness, he’ll take one of Herbst’s nine-year-old rope horses as a backup.
    “We’ll watch all 10 nights and cheer them on,” says Herbst of her trip to Las Vegas, Nev., which will include accepting the 2011 Tie Down Roping Horse of the Year award.
    Herbst grew up on a ranch in central Wyoming as what she describes as her dad’s “right-hand man,” and when she graduated from college in 1981 she was determined to take a break from the hard work of ranch life and get an office job.
    “I lucked out and got a job in oil and gas. I moved to Texas and ended up eventually working with Roy Cooper on a country music project. The first evening Roy asked if he should saddle a horse, and I rode around his place and realized how much I missed it,” says Herbst. “I didn’t realize the stress relief that I was missing.”
    She says from there she went “overboard” picking up horses, and she now lives in the Dallas area while her horses are kept near Whitesboro. After growing up with a Three Bars cowhorse, Herbst now features the Quarter Horse stud as a prominent bloodline in her rope horses, as well as cutting horse breeding.
    “I would prefer to be out there full-time, but I stay in town during the week,” says Herbst, who still works in the energy industry as a partner in an oil and gas company.
    “It’s great, and I love them,” she says of her horses. “I love watching them compete in the arena.”
    Herbst says she didn’t rope growing up, but now she is learning to head and breakaway rope.
    “I have access to some good guys to teach me, and I love it,” she notes.
    Of her partnership with Cooper, Herbst says he’s dedicated, and that he’s been able to add heading and heeling to her calf roping horses to make them more marketable to high school and college rodeo contestants.
    “The professionals want a different horse for each event, but he’s made three of them into horses for both ends of a steer as well as calf roping,” she says.
    Herbst says she has another rope horse she calls Cat Daddy, registered name Fletchable, that she was hoping Cooper would take to Las Vegas, but she describes him as “the freshman who thinks he’s a senior in the locker room.”
    “We’re still trying to get him tamed down in the box. Blair Burke took him to the Finals for the grand entry several years ago, and he’s a pistol,” she describes.
    Other than the WNFR, Herbst says she plans her vacation throughout the rest of the year around the country’s major rodeos.
    “I always come back to Cheyenne, and I’ve gone to Pendleton in the past, and Calgary this year. That’s where my friends are, is out on the road,” she notes.
    Herbst says 2011 was a rough year that included losing a horse to colic at the Houston Stock Show and Rodeo and battling salmonella, which turned into founder, with another she calls her second-best.
    “He’s a cutting horse reject I bought from Zeke Griffith in 2007,” she says of the foundered horse, an 18-year-old whose registered name is Little Bo Bo Hickory but who is known as Boo. “Trevor Brazil, Fred Whitfield, Cody Ohl, Tuf, Clint and Clif Cooper, Houston Hutto and Trent Creagor all have won money on him prior to this bout with salmonella poisoning and founder.”
    Boo is now in recovery and growing new hooves, and Herbst hopes he’ll return to soundness enough for light riding.
    “It breaks my heart – he is such a warrior in and outside the arena. He loves cookie treats too – he thinks all women have cookie treats in their pocket,” she says.
    Herbst hopes for the best at the Finals, and she says she looks forward to the excitement and the anticipation of winning.
    “The calf roping event has gotten so competitive,” she says, noting the young talent that qualified, along with the more seasoned competitors who returned this year.
    “Hopefully Clint can win the world, and be the number one man when it’s all done in December,” says Herbst.
    Of her plans for 2012, Herbst says she’ll start all over again. “After WNFR the slate gets wiped clean, and they all have to go down the road and try again for next year.”
    Christy Martinez is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

After experiencing success over the last three years with their RodeoTeam fantasy rodeo game during the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (WNFR), in early 2011 Jason and Natasha Vohs branched out into the PBR and started hosting games with BuckinFantasy.
In only a month of playing, Jason says they’re impressed with the response they’ve gotten. The fantasy season games began Feb. 4 with the Portland Invitational PBR and will continue through April 9 with the PBR in Tampa, Fla.
“Everyone that’s playing absolutely loves it, and continues to play,” he says. “It’s a good format, the people are great and they love the game.”
Jason says some people at the WNFR had suggested they start a game for the PBR, and that his dad also mentioned it.
“My wife and I talked about it, and thought that, if it worked, we could have a job year round, instead of once a year,” says Jason. “I love rodeo, and I love to watch bull riding, so we created the game.”
Jason says something like BuckingFantasy brings a lot more excitement to the sport of bull riding, and that they have a wide range of people participate in the games.
“We have people from A to Z, and what’s neat about PBR fans is they know the bull breeders, the heritage of the bulls and everything. They know what kind of feed the bull’s eating, where the riders are from and how old they are and how much they weigh. It’s amazing how much they know about the sport,” he notes.
“We’ve had a lot of people play the game that know what they’re doing, and others who barely know how to spell ‘bullriding,’” he continues. “They’re the ones who pick the riders because they like their names, and they do win that way. On any given day, any of these guys can win. No matter what team you pick, you’ve got a chance. They’re the best in the world, and that’s why they’re there.”
In the last five games Jason says they’ve had about 400 people participate.
“Advertising is key, and we’ll start working harder with a media group to advise us on where we should put our money to promote our game in the best spots,” he says. “Word of mouth has been our biggest promotion so far. That and Facebook have been our biggest advertising.”
Of the original fantasy game venture, RodeoTeam, Jason says it grows by 50 percent every year.
“We have a lot of great sponsors – Cinch and Ariat came on board this last year, and we gave away boots every round, as well as Cinch jackets and jeans,” he explains, adding that they also host a live game every year at the Monte Carlo. “People can come in, pick a team and watch the NFR live. It’s free, and we give away prizes at the end of the night, and people really enjoyed that.”
Jason says they’re planning another party for the 2011 WNFR.
On BuckinFantasy the prizes include $500 cash for first place, and the game pays down through 15th.
“The payoff is listed, and there’s a guaranteed prize line, no matter if we get one player or 50,” explains Jason, noting that they always give away Bob Berg belt buckles for the season winner. “People only have to participate in six games, or take their best six out of nine games, and that’s been pretty fun.”
Of starting their own business, Jason says, “I thought it would be a whole lot easier than it is. I thought we’d jump in and have thousands of people playing, but it turns out starting a new business is a lot tougher than I anticipated. The people who start out with their own business and continue on and become rich – I’m not jealous of them anymore, because they deserve it.”
“I rodeo and love the sport, and that’s why I do it,” he says. “My idea is to bring more spotlight to the cowboy – to get people one-on-one with the cowboys and highlight them, because they’re the centerpiece of rodeo. If we could do that, our sport would do nothing but grow.”
Currently BuckinFantasy is running a promotion where if members sign someone else up they’re given a free team.
For game rules and terms, visit buckinfantasy.com. For more information email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 702-239-1168. Christy Martinez is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Laramie — University of Wyoming senior Nikki Steffes won the all-around women’s championship at the College National Finals Rodeo (CNFR) in Casper after placing second in goat tying, 11th in breakaway roping, and 18th in barrel racing.
        Steffes, of Vale, S.D., is double majoring in molecular biology and medical microbiology in the College of Agriculture.
    Steffes helped lead the Cowgirls to their second national team championship in three years. Teammate Sarah Mulholland, a senior nursing major from Richland Center, Wis., won the goat tying crown and was third in all-around. The rodeo was June 14-20 at the Casper Events Center.
    “This one was a little sweeter because of the quality of the women we had competing for us,” says UW rodeo coach George Howard. “We were knocking on the door last year, and it would have been nice to have it three years in a row – I hate to say it – but they don’t come together like this, and that’s what makes it so special. I’ll probably never see another group of girls like this, all at once.”
      Mulholland is no longer eligible to compete on the team, while Steffes will participate in college rodeos this fall though her points will not count in the Cowgirls’ team standings. Steffes was granted another year of eligibility because she is a student director of the Central Rocky Mountain Region of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association (NIRA).
Howard is already speaking highly about the Cowgirls’ opportunity for continued success as he recruited star rodeo athlete Dana Weiser of Wheatland, who placed fourth in the all-around standings at this year’s CNFR.
    Weiser transferred to UW this semester from South Plains College in Levelland, Texas. She is a junior majoring in computer science.
    “Our team will be young but should be very competitive,” Howard says. “Dana is an outstanding young lady, an outstanding rodeo athlete, and that’s a good base to build on.”
    Howard is confident Weiser and the other young athletes will learn from Steffes, who will go down as arguably the greatest all-around Cowgirl in team history. She is the school’s all-time leading scorer and won the regional all-around title in each of her four years at UW.
    The Cowgirls and Cowboys opened their fall season at the Chadron State College rodeo Sept. 11-13 in Chadron, Neb.  
    Upcoming rodeos include: Central Wyoming College, Riverton, Sept. 18-20; Sheridan College, Sheridan, Sept. 25-27; Lamar Community College, Lamar, Colo., Oct. 2-4; and Laramie County Community College, Cheyenne, Oct. 16-18.
    UW hosts its rodeo the first weekend of May during the spring season of the NIRA’s Central Rocky Mountain Region.
    For more about UW rodeo, go to www.uwyo.edu/Rodeo.

Casper – The College National Finals Rodeo celebrated its 66th year in Casper June 15-21, and over 400 cowboys and cowgirls from more than 100 colleges across the national are competing in the event. 

With performances each night on June 17-21 and slack during the day, the contestants have worked hard in the attempt to score a top spot at the event. 

Wyoming competitors held their own, scoring high in each event. The following contestants were in the top 10 of their events following the June 18 performance. 

Saddle Bronc Riding

2 – Zeke Thurston of Sheridan College

10 – Jade Blackwell of Gillette College

Bull Riding

4 – Taygen Schuelke of Sheridan College

10 – Tyler Williams of Casper College

Steer Wrestling

3 – Riley Krassin of Casper College

Team Roping

6 – Seth Andersen of Gillette College

6 – Brit Ellerman of University of Wyoming

Men’s All Around

1 – Taygen Schuelke of Sheridan College

Men’s Team

5 – Sheridan College

Women’s Team

10 – Gillette College

For the most up-to-date results, visit cnfr.com. Look for complete results and more photos in next week’s Roundup.

Lander – On March 27 HOWL Rodeo Bulls held its latest in the Ultimate Miniature Bull Riding (UMB) event series in Lander, with 24 contestants spread across the Mutton Bustin, PeeWee BullRiding and miniature bull riding divisions.
“Miniature bull riding is gaining popularity as an extreme sport and training aid for aspiring young bull riders,” says Tim O’Neal, owner of HOWL Rodeo Bulls. “Though small, the bulls buck similar to full-sized bulls.”
“I bought our first mini bull two years ago when my eight-year-old son Cole became interested in bull riding,” continues O’Neal. “Now we have 30 head and I have purchased them from as far away as Alabama and Texas.”
The UMB was founded for young bull riders ages nine to 14 and weighing under 130 pounds. The Professional Bull Riders-style events allow members to accumulate points throughout the season to qualify for the UMB Finals.
“We also have a Mutton Bustin for ages six and under, and PeeWee BullRiding for seven- to eight-year-olds,” says O’Neal. “To participate in these events you do not have to be a member of the UMB association. We have a special set of miniature bulls that don’t buck very hard for the PeeWee division. They allow the youngest bull riders to gain experience in the chutes and develop confidence and riding skills.”
According to UMB information, the miniature bulls are more beneficial to aspiring riders than getting on roping cattle or calves.
“Professional bullriders are seeing the benefits of the miniatures as well, with bull riding greats such as Wiley Peterson, Chris Shivers and Matt Austin using them in their bull riding schools,” says UMB. “The miniature bulls are a huge crowd pleaser.”
The American Bucking Bull Inc. registry for bucking bulls also recently began to register miniature bucking bulls. Eventually, mini bull competitions could coexist with full size bulls at PBR events.
As the contestants’ abilities grow they’re able to ride more challenging bulls. These bulls, ranging from 32 to 48 inches tall, have power, speed, kick and spin; all the elements of their full size counterparts. Bulls are available for any level rider, from the first-timers to those ready to move on to full-size bulls.
Brandyn Shane, 9, of Casper, was one of the first-timers at the Lander event. His brother, Jarron Shane, 12, and cousin, Bryan Harrison, 11, also of Casper, are experienced UMB riders at one and two years in competition, respectively.
“I’m excited about riding,” says Brandyn. “Bryan and Jarron, and the rest of my family, have given me a lot of pointers.”
While the miniature bull riders describe their experience in years, those riding the peewee bulls do so in number of rides.
“This will be my 30th time riding a bull,” says Cole O’Neal, 8, of Lander. “My dad has the mini bulls, so I get to practice sometimes.”
“Wylee has ridden five times,” says Cole, referring to his friend Wylee Simonson, 7, of Pavillion.
This is the first year O’Neal has produced a series with a UMB event every month, culminating with the finals at the end of the summer. The top five miniature bull riders in each event advance to the short go, where they draw to ride a second bull. 
The top eight competitors from the UMB Finals will represent Wyoming at the Northwest Miniature Bull Riding Finals in Helena, Mont. in November. Colorado, Utah, Montana and Idaho will also send their top eight to the Northwest Finals. Contestants have a chance at around $7,000in prize money, as well as about $12,000 in prizes.
“Mini bulls are becoming more well known,” says O’Neal. “I have contracts for mine in Idaho, Colorado, Montana and Wyoming this summer.”
“The kids competing right now have talent,” he adds. “We have about a dozen contestants in the mini bull division this year. Hopefully, we’ll get some PBR stars out of this group.
Melissa Hemken is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..