Bronc riders aim to boost contestant numbers
July 1, 2013
For a number of years, bronc riding, rodeo's classic event, has been in decline.
The popularity among rodeo fans is not diminishing, rather the number of contestants is dwindling.
Former bronc rider, Jon Suttee saw the problem and along with his wife, Heidi, and Wyoming stock contractor, Joe Middleton, formed the Rocky Mountain Bronc Riders Association.
The Association is now in its second year of full operation and shows no signs of slowing down.
"One thing I noticed as I traveled around, it seemed like there was getting to be fewer and fewer bronc riders, fewer and fewer good horses to get on, and fewer and fewer good bronc ridings to go to," said Jon Suttee. "So I thought somebody has got to do something about this.
"Nobody else was doing anything. So I did something. And the other reason is that there are a lot of fairs and communities that cannot support a big rodeo anymore, so why not let them have a big nice bronc riding for their fair or their activity that they can afford and hopefully make money on?"
Suttee and his partners have big plans for the RMBRA, but they also have a solid business plan to back up their commitment to the sport of bronc riding.
Right now they are spreading the word on the Western Slope and in southern Wyoming.
"It just seemed like an area that we can work in," Sutte continued. "We're close enough to the communities that we have some ties to them, and we understand the community's needs for their activity.
"Like I said, some of these communities, they don't have a $50,000 budget to work with, so we find out what kind of budget they have to work with and we give them a show."
Colorado State University agriculture graduate, Heidi Suttee, takes care of the day-to-day business of the RMBRA and supports the mission of the Association.
"We started the association for the bronc rider," she said. "We felt as though bronc riding was declining because there just wasn't enough stock to get on.
"It's so difficult to get your foot in the door without having smaller events to get built up on. So we just wanted to create opportunities for the bronc rider. Jon's an old bronc rider and we have the utmost respect for the contestants.
"We know how much they put into it, how much they sacrifice to do this sport, and that's why we do it. It's for them more than anything else."
The principals are not the only ones that think there is a place for the only association in rodeo to feature saddle and ranch bronc riding only.
Both ranch and saddle bronc riders are excited about the prospects of the new association.
"I like these events," said PRCA saddle bronc rider Shane Menefee. "I've been coming to these bronc rides that Jon (Suttee) has been putting on for several years now, ever since they were in Encampment. They have become friends of mine, and I like their horses."
The most recent event that included the Rocky Mountain Bronc Riders was the Wild West Weekend, a celebration of the culture of Moffat County and held in Craig, Colo.
"As far as the events here in Craig, I really give most of the credit to Donny Hayes and Glenda Bellio," said Heidi Suttee. "They really were the ones that invited us and got behind it, supported it, and really helped to build this event.
"It's been a great set up, it's a great arena, good chutes, and most important, great people to work with."
Whether it is for the love of the sport, the competition, or the fellowship of seeing old friends, it is the contestants that will have a major role to play in the success of the Rocky Mountain Bronc Riders Association.
"I like the events, and I like the idea that Jon and Heidi are putting something into it," said Shane Menefee, who finished first in the open bronc division. "I know that they have put a lot of time and effort and their own money into it to try and help build it.
"I appreciate it and I think every bronc rider should appreciate it."
"I work for Sombrero in the springtime, for the gather, and the drive, and to get all the horses ready for summer leases," said Alex Christofferson, finished second in the Ranch Bronc. "I actually ride bareback horses. At this rodeo they didn't have bareback — just saddle bronc and ranch bronc, and I've rode lot of the colts for Sombrero. That's basically what we do."
"I came out here to have a good time, and hopefully make a ride, see some good friends that I cowboyed with for many years," said Moses Sidhu, who won the Ranch Bronc division. "I personally don't have the privilege to cowboy full-time anymore, so whenever I get a chance, I'll do some day work at whatever rodeo comes around.
"I'll see my cowboy buddies that I used to work with. I'll come out and have a good time with them."
Described as committed with a solid business model, and smart enough to stick with it during their growth phase, the Rocky Mountain Bronc Riders Association is believed to have the potential to grow and become a solid organization in the sport of rodeo.
Jon Suttee and his partners have dedicated themselves to making the RMBRA a success.
"I think I offer the most equal opportunity to win of anyone," Suttee said. "I think that it really doesn't matter which one of my horses that you draw, you've got a an opportunity to win on that horse and I think with the division system it allows guys to get started and they don't have to buy a bunch of equipment.
"You can start off with ranch bronc riding and give it a try and see how it goes. If you decide that it works pretty good, you might want to try and get on some rookie broncs."
It's an evolution," Suttee continued, "You don't have to start out at the top. You don't have to go out and get matched up against somebody's best horses or somebody's colts to get started. With the Rocky Mountain Bronc Riders, contestants have the opportunity to get on good horses that are at their level every time and not waste their entry fee money." ❖