Love and rodeo
In an inspirational life ride for a top-ranked rodeo cowboy and — his wife; a major source of encouragement who was a National Basketball Champion in her own right making it to the Elite 8 and Final Four … this story is about riding, deep support and zest for life.
Right on the heels of earning the No. 6 ranking at the 2017 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in December 2017, bareback bronc cowboy Steven Dent of Mullen, Neb., is back at it; digging those heels into the 2018 pro rodeo circuit. Bronc riding is a full-time career for Dent, who also earned ninth place in the world with over $1 million in PRCA career earnings.
The 31-year old is kicking off this new year with his eyes on the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo in Denver followed by competing at the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo in Texas.
“It’s an adrenalin rush; a challenge. I like to compete. I’m a competitive person,” said Dent, who has a long list of rodeo titles almost as long as the fence at the family ranch. Born in North Platte, Neb., the bareback cowboy joined the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association in 2006, and qualified for the NFR eight times (2007-08 and 2010-2017.)
Dent used to ride saddle broncs, as well as bareback broncs, but prefers bareback. “I’ve always done both, and just had more success with bareback riding,” he said.
The professional cowboy also gets strength and immense support from his wife Kay, whom he dated for two years before they married.
“Rodeo is all I really know,” said Kay Dent, who doesn’t get nervous watching Steven on bucking horses. “I don’t get nervous unless the horse he has is bad in the chutes. He has done it for so long and rode horses all his life, that he has a good feel for what they’re going to do.”
MEANT TO BE
How they met is a fairy-tale romance story. “I played basketball with his sister at Hastings College (Nebraska) and we were out in western Nebraska putting on basketball camps, Kay said. “We stayed with Steven’s folks, and he just happened to come home for a few days. We met and talked all night. When we left the next morning to put on another camp then head back home, I️ thought he is a great guy but he lives in Texas and is on the road all the time, so I probably won’t see him again. Then he just happened to be in Hastings over Christmas break, we went on our first date, and the rest is history.”
Kay traveled to rodeos with Steven as much as she could while she was still in college. “In the summer, we traveled a lot together,” said Kay, who triple majored in psychology, health promotions management and exercise science at Hastings College, graduating in 2009, and was a National Basketball Champion/NAIA Division ll. “I️ played basketball and ran track all four years.” Kay was an All-American in both sports.
Steven also has a deep background in competitive sports. He was the Mullen High School state champion in eight-man football during his junior year, and he led the state with 2,488 yards rushing. Dent was also a state wrestling champion during his senior year. He graduated from Ranger College in Ranger, Texas, in 2007.
Before Steven and Kay married, she frequently traveled with him to rodeos, and the trips were almost like a bronc ride itself; with a rush of excitement one minute, then down time the next. “It seemed like when we were busy, we were really busy,” Kay said. “We’d drive forever, then he’d ride, then we’d hop back in the car and drive for 15 hours. But when he had down time for several days, it was like we were on vacation. We’d always find good places to eat, and visit friends along the way.”
“I do miss it, seemed like in winter he was always with (now-retired bareback rider) Jason Havens and we had a lot of fun,” said Kay, noting it’s different being home now with three young children; son Cylas 4 years old, and daughters Emri 2, and Dailie, 10-months old. “It was fun when I was younger to go out on the road, but now it’s easier for us to stay here, and he flies home. But we’ll go with him on the bigger rodeos for a week at a time.”
Since the family has a cow/calf herd, Kay also handles all the ranch chores when Steven is on the circuit. “We ranch, which is another reason why I stay home,” she said. “I feed, run salt, check water and when he’s not around I calve out. It’s busy and we’ve grown our cow/calf herd quite a bit. We save back all our yearlings.”
Regarding Steven’s exhilarating but intense moments preparing to bust out of the chute, “I just try to be sure I have good pressure on my hips and my riggin’s good, and my markout’s good,” Dent said. (The ‘markout rule’ states: the cowboy must mark a horse out; having his feet above his shoulders when leaving the chute, to get a score.)
Highlights from Dent’s 2017 professional rides include:
• Won the all-around at the Elk City (Okla.) Rodeo Of Champions
• Won the Pasadena (Texas) Livestock Show & Rodeo
• Won the Kansas (Phillipsburg) Biggest Rodeo
• Won the Spanish Fork (Utah) Fiesta Days Rodeo
• Won the American Royal Rodeo (Kansas City, Mo.)
• Won the Yuma (Colo.) County Fair & Rodeo
• Won the Jayhawker Roundup Rodeo (Hill City, Kan.)
• Won the XIT Rodeo & Reunion (Dalhart, Texas)
• Won the Norco (Calif.) Mounted Posse Rodeo
• Won the Industry (Calif.) Hills Charity Pro Rodeo
• Co-champion at the Amarillo (Texas) Tri-State Fair and Rodeo
• Co-champion at the Inter-State Rodeo (Coffeyville, Kan.)
At the NWSS in Denver, in 2015, Dent won the All-Around, and won the West of the Pecos (Texas) Rodeo that year.
And 2014 was also a banner year for Dent, featuring this staggering list: placed in four rounds of the WNFR in 2014. He won the bareback riding at the Heart of the North Rodeo (Spooner, Wis.); the Cowboy Capital of the World PRCA Rodeo (Stephenville, Texas); the Sheriff’s PRCA Rodeo (San Bernardino, Calif.). Won the all-around and bareback riding at the West Texas Fair & Rodeo (Abilene, Texas) and the Inter-State Rodeo (Coffeyville, Kan.); the Elizabeth (Colo.) and the Stampede at the Douglas County Fair and Rodeo (Castle Rock, Colo.). Won the all-around at the Greeley (Colo.) Stampede; the Old Fort Days Rodeo (Fort Smith, Ark.); the Oregon Trail Rodeo (Hastings, Neb.) and the Fourth of July Celebration & PRCA Rodeo (Window Rock, Ariz.). Won the all-around and was co-champion in the bareback riding at the Waller County Fair & Rodeo (Hempstead, Texas). Won the all-around at the Beef Empire Days PRCA Rodeo (Garden City, Kan.) and the Pony Express Rodeo (Eagle Mountain, Utah). Won the All-Around and saddle bronc riding at the Elk City (Okla.) Rodeo of Champions. Co-champion at the Lawton (Okla.) Rangers Rodeo and the Laramie (Wyo.) Jubilee Days. Finished 13th in the world standings that year with $108,651
Dent got an early start in the rodeo business. He began riding sheep, then entered junior rodeos at 4 years old. His dad, Steve Dent, was a PRCA competitor in saddle bronc riding. Parents, Steve and Erin Dent own a 12,000-acre ranch just north of Mullen, Neb.
Rodeoing provides opportunities for camaraderie and close friendships, as cowboys typically can travel many distances; putting on the miles to reach rodeos across the U.S. “Last summer, J.R. Vezain (bareback bronc cowboy) and I started traveling together. Then, in the fall, Ty Breuer and I rodeoed. The plan is to travel with J.R. again this year probably with Justin McDaniel,” Dent said.
Dent is modest about acknowledging a bronze sculpture of him riding a bucking horse, which was unveiled at the 2009 Ellensburg Rodeo in Ellensburg, Wash.
“They picked it out of a picture, and somehow my picture got chosen to use.” The bareback riding sculpture culminated a collection for that rodeo.
Like any sport or career, Dent likes to keep current.
“Anybody going to the NFR works at it,” he said. “I do something everyday to get better and improve my riding, but I don’t practice ever. I work out and do things on my bucking machine, and spur board and there are other things that I do.”
For this cowboy ranked No. 6 and his family of 5, and wife who made it to the Final 4, these numbers are just a fraction of the bigger picture; a front row seat to life itself.
For more information: http://prorodeo.com/prorodeo/find-a-rodeo/rodeo-schedule. ❖
— Hadachek is a freelance writer who lives on a farm with her husband in north central Kansas and is also a meteorologist and storm chaser. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.