The true beauty of cowboys riding bucking beasts is in the unbelievable athleticism that is displayed.
It’s melodic, yet powerful. It’s romantic, yet frightening.
It’s part of the fascination that comes with the Professional Roughstock Series’ Midwest Classic, set for 7:30 p.m. this Saturday night at the Bicentennial Center in Salina.
The event will feature dozens of the greatest cowboys in the world matching their skills against some of the most athletic bucking horses and bulls Western sports.
“I think the PRS is a good deal,” said bareback rider Steven Peebles, a five-time National Finals Rodeo qualifier from Redmond, Ore. “It’s a cool show and a great change to rodeo. It’s like the PBR and how big and popular it got.”
Peebles spoke of the Professional Bull Riders tour, which was developed more than two decades ago and blossomed into one of the most popular Western sports; its premier tour, the Built Ford Tough Series, features the PBR’s elite against the toughest bulls.
“I think that by having two more roughstock events, it’s going to be an even better show for the fans,” Peebles said. “They’re just awesome shows. The PRS has it set up where the show will blow the fans away. Fans really get into it.”
That’s one attractive asset sports enthusiasts in north-central Kansas. These are 160-pound men who utilize their own athleticism to maintain as much control as possible while riding animals typically weighing between 1,100 and 1,800 pounds. Scores are based on a 100-point scale, with riders and their mounts being judged from 1-50.
That’s why the cowboys hunger to ride the best, which is what they’ll find inside the Bicentennial Center.
“This is going to be the future of roughstock and rodeo,” said saddle bronc rider Cody DeMoss, a 10-time NFR qualifier from Heflin, La. “This series is going to be the next best thing, and I sure want to be with them.”
He’s not alone. The Midwest Classic field will include numerous NFR qualifiers in each event, including at least eight cowboys in bareback riding, five in bronc riding and four in bull riding; in addition, the bull riding field features six who have ridden at the PBR World Finals.
It’s similar to a late-season all-star game in Major League Baseball, where every ride and every failed score is important.
“I rodeo for a living, so if I have any chance to make some more money, I’m going to take advantage of it,” said all-around cowboy Steven Dent, a six-time NFR qualifier in bareback riding from Mullen, Neb.
That’s one of the things that’s drawn Justin McBride out of retirement. McBride, a two-time world champion bull rider who earned more than $5 million in the PBR, has returned to his roots in bareback riding and will try to beat a talented field in Salina.
Of course, this is just the first step for McBride, who is hoping to utilize his run in the PRS into a qualification to the richest one-day rodeo in the world, The American, set for March 2 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The Salina event will serve as a qualifier for bareback riders and bronc riders, with the top five in each event advancing to the semifinals in Mesquite, Texas. From there, four will then qualify for The American, where a qualifier can earn a $1 million payday by winning his/her respective event.
“Not only are events like these going to help the sport out, but I just like the fact it’s going to give these guys a chance to make some money,” McBride said.
While most professional athletes receive a guaranteed wage, rodeo cowboys only get paid if they ride well enough to beat most of the field. In addition, they must cover their own travel expenses and pay a fee in order to compete. For instance, Dent earned nearly $75,000 in ProRodeo during the 2013 regular season, but he spent close to that much to travel all across the country in an effort to compete.
“It’s a great move for the PRS to have jumped on board for The American,” Dent said. “I feel like, in rodeo, that the roughstock events sell tickets, so why not have events like this that focus on roughstock?”
The Midwest Classic is a showcase of men who ride bucking beasts. It’s a showcase of oversized athleticism and a true demonstration of old fashioned cowboy attitude.
No wonder fans love it.
Story by Ted Harbin