Life at the top a big challenge

Bob GarnantCountryman

Competing in the big leagues on the US world rodeo circuit is a dream for many of WA’s chap-wearing cowboys and girls.

After all, most sports stars have it high on their wish list to turn the activity they dearly love into a full-time career.

But does going full-time in rodeo really offer such an attractive lifestyle, or are Australia’s young men and women being roped into a false belief that there is room for them to make a living by being at the top of the leader board?

US world champion saddle bronc rider Jesse Kruse, who visited WA recently, gave Countryman an insight into the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA).

With a very long list of career highlights, Kruse, who stands only 5 foot 3 inches tall, would make the most highly decorated all-round cowboys stand up and take notice.

Born in Great Falls, Montana, the 24-year-old has PRCA four-year career earnings of $US417,000.

“Although I have realised my all-inspiring rodeo goal to become a world champion, most of my financial rewards are spent on travelling to and from rodeos all over the US, ” Kruse said.

Kruse admits winning the 2009 world champion saddle bronc title was the ultimate prize, but he said more so rodeo had given him a very enjoyable lifestyle of comradeship and adventure along the way that was unmatched in many other careers.

“I may have never made it to Australia otherwise, ” he said.

Kruse and his fellow countryman, Shane Moran, gave a bronc riding clinic while on their WA visit.

“Remember, bronc riding is like dating a woman — you can actually die on your first encounter, ” Moran said.

Moran was referring mostly to how dangerous the sport of rodeo can be, likening it to a frightening part from the movie Fatal Attraction.

The 33-year-old was speaking out of experience, having broken limbs several times throughout his career.

“At my age, I am not as hungry as I was in my younger years, ” he said. “These days I am just taking things easy so I can continue to enjoy the sport.”

Moran teaches rodeo at the College of Great Falls, Montana, and has competed since he was 11.

He said rodeo in the US had reached an extremely high level both in rider ability and stock performance.

“I actually don’t know how it can get any better, ” he said.

Kruse agreed, saying it was becoming more difficult to compete at major rodeos because so many top riders were vying for limited invitations.

“It is still a great sport to participate in, but competitors need to rationalise where rodeo fits in best with their lives, ” he said.

The US cowboys’ take-home message was to stay back in the saddle and learn how to spur.

“Keep the saddle strap one-finger tight — too tight will take the buck out of the horse, ” Moran said.

He said the American Indians were the best at getting away with a loose saddle.

“They have excellent balance. Use quick and smooth action when working your spurs and by lifting your upper body, you will be able to move your feet easier.”

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