Cowboy hats and boots for German student |

Cowboy hats and boots for German student

Ruth Nicolaus
Courtesy of the Adams County
Ag Society

When Jan ter Horst leaves Nebraska after his year as a foreign exchange student, the German native will own a cowboy hat and a pair of cowboy boots.

Two pairs, that is. Jan, an 18-year-old high school student who lives with the Bump and Leesa Kraeger host family in Avoca, Neb., has turned into a rodeo competitor.

He came to Nebraska in August of last year and joined the Kraegers, who own horses and cattle and compete in rodeo. Bump is a steer wrestler and sons Hoyt, 18, and Reed, 16, compete in high school rodeo. Youngest son Gage, 13, rides horses but doesn’t compete yet.

Once he saw his host brothers steer wrestle and ride bucking horses, he was interested. “I thought it was crazy at first,” he remembers. “Why are they jumping on the steer? Why are they sitting on the horse while it is bucking? But the sport interested him and he decided to try it. He told himself, “even if you don’t like it, just try it. It looks pretty fun.”

So he tried it. After learning how to steer wrestle from his host father, Bump, and attending two bronc riding schools, he has competed at high school rodeos in McCook, Burwell and Atkinson. So far, he’s gotten bucked off his bronc and hasn’t received a time in the steer wrestling.

But it doesn’t matter how well Jan has done at rodeos. He loves the experience and will have stories to tell when he returns to Germany in June. He’s met a lot of people and has enjoyed it, and his goal is to win a buckle. “If I win a buckle, the experience and all I’ve done here, it’s worth it. I will never forget this year.”

After he returns to Berlin, Jan will finish his high school in Germany and will attend college either in Germany or in the U.S. He may earn a degree in business and marketing, and if he comes back to America, he’d like to rodeo. “I really like this country here,” he says.

When Jan wears his hat and boots on the streets of Berlin, he’ll stand out, but he doesn’t mind. It’ll be a reminder of his time spent in Nebraska. “I’ve had a good year. It was exciting and fun.”