2017 Champions

Bareback riding champion – Austin Foss

Austin Foss – Bareback

Austin Foss rode the Beutler and Son Rodeo horse Pendleton Whisky’s Red Bandanna for 86.5 points at the 2017 Buffalo Bill Rodeo to win the buckle. The bareback rider had never drawn the horse, a ten-year-old mare, but was pleased with the draw. “She was a little bit stronger,” Foss said. “She leaves the chute really hard. She’s a stout horse. If you show up and get on her, you’re going to win.”

It was the second time for the Terrebonne, Ore. man to compete in North Platte, and the first time for him to win money. The buckle is special, he said, not only because he won it, but because it is inscribed with his name. “It’s one of the few buckles that has my name on it.”

For relaxation and to stay in shape on the road, Foss and his traveling buddies like to exercise and work out. They often find a local gym or work out with resistance bands, with which one of his buddies travels.

Foss, who is 26 years old, admires four-time world champion bareback rider Bobby Mote. “He’s someone I’ve always looked up to,” Foss said, “someone I’ve watched ride and tried to build my style off of.” Foss appreciates the unique-ness of Motes’ style and his attitude. “He has a lot of control, and when he was riding, it was hard to beat him. He was always good to be around and compete with.” Foss loves the people in North Platte and the state. “I like Nebraska. It’s cattle country, and there’s a lot of beef out there. It’s good, friendly country and good people.”

Steer wrestling champion – Taz Olson

Taz Olson left North Platte with a gold buckle. The Prairie City, S.D. steer wrestler had a time of 8.8 seconds on two head to win the steer wrestling average at the 2017 Buffalo Bill Rodeo.

Olson, who is 25 years old, rode a horse owned by his traveling partner, Kody Woodward. Pacman, a fourteen-year-old sorrel with a blaze face, “is just a good, honest horse,” Olson said. “He gives you a good shot every time. He’s kind of a fun little horse.”

When he’s not rodeoing, Olson is ranching with his dad and granddad in the northwest corner of South Dakota. The Olsons have 350 head of Angus cattle and 450 head of sheep, and Taz looks up to his dad, Casey Olson. Casey, a former steer wrestler who won the 1996 Badlands Circuit title, still hazes for Taz and other bulldoggers, and Taz can always call him for advice. “He’s been there, he’s taught me everything I know about rodeoing,” Taz said. “He still goes to practice with us when we’re home, he hazes for us, and helps the guys out around here. He’s a lot of help, and easy to talk to about it, when you have a problem or it isn’t going good. He’ll set you straight.”

Olson also enjoys his family, wife Amanda and his baby daughter Copper when he’s home. Having a child has changed his world. “She’s pretty special. It makes leaving home a lot harder, I know that much.”

Taz has qualified for the Badlands Circuit Finals Rodeo in Minot, N.D. three times.

Tie-down roping champion – Cody Quaney

Cody Quaney owns two Buffalo Bill Rodeo buckles. The Cheney, Kan. tie-down roper won his first title in 2012, and repeated the feat last year.

His winning time of 19.7 seconds on two head was aboard a fourteen-year-old horse named Spook. Quaney bought the horse six years ago, and the sorrel has matured since then. “When I first got him, he lived up to his name,” Quaney said. “But since then, he’s seen a bunch of miles and a lot of things, and he’s usually pretty calm.” Spook used to freak out if someone climbed up on the fence next to him, or if someone walked up to him, but he’s gotten better. He is a great roping horse. “He makes the same trip every time. There’s no wondering if he’ll be tight or not run to the right spot. It makes it easy not to have to think about him. I can focus on the calf and what I have to do.”

Quaney, who is 29 years old, was the Kansas High School Rodeo tie-down roping champion in 2008. He earned an accounting degree from Southwestern Oklahoma State in Weatherford, and became a PRCA card holder in 2013. He rodeos full time and finished the 2017 season in seventeenth place in the world. He spends his winters at his home in Texas.

To relax on the rodeo road, Quaney likes to golf or play basketball. He and his friends like to find a YMCA or outdoor court to play, and last year, they played basketball in North Platte when they were in town.

Quaney wore the first Buffalo Bill rodeo he won in 2012, but last year’s is going in a trophy case. “The first one, I wore for a long time,” he said. “This one, I’ll keep it nice.”

Saddle bronc riding champion–Hardy Braden

North Platte was one of several big stages for Hardy Braden last year.

The saddle bronc rider not only won his event at the Buffalo Bill Rodeo, but he also won rodeos in Red Bluff, Calif.; Coffeyville and Eureka, Kan.; Claremore and Vinita, Okla.; and Dalhart, Texas, to go on to compete at his first Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.

In North Platte, he scored 86.5 points on the Beutler and Son horse Painted Desert for the buckle. It was his second time to ride the gelding. “I’d been on that horse a couple years ago,” he said, “and it didn’t go so good. I messed him up at the start. But I was happy to draw him, especially there. He’ll always give you a shot to place. Things worked out, and (the score) was good enough to win.”

Braden’s father, Butch, works as a pickup man and worked the North Platte rodeo last year while Hardy was there. His mom, Tammy, was also there to see her son ride. Hardy loves the support. “My family, they’re pretty awesome. It’s kind of a family affair.”

At the 2017 Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, Braden placed in eight of ten rounds, winning the first and seventh rounds and finishing second in the average. He was mentally prepared for the bright lights and pressure of competing at the WNFR. “I’d been thinking about it for a while,” he said. “It’s no different than any other rodeo as far as what you’re getting on, and pressure-wise. I tried to think about that a lot. Everybody was telling me, good luck, it won’t be possible. But it really was.”

When he’s on the road, he and his traveling partner, (oftentimes Will Smith), like to golf, hike, fish, or bowl, “anything to get away from it all.”

He loves the rodeo fans in North Platte. “It’s a country town with good people. At other rodeos, some people don’t understand the rodeo part of it. But you get to North Platte, and they’re excited about it. It’s a ranching area and they know more about rodeo than most people do.”

Team Roping champions – Coleman Proctor, header, and Billie Jack Saebens, heeler

The best part about Coleman Proctor and Billie Jack Saebens’ time in North Platte were the gold buckles they earned for winning the team roping at the Buffalo Bill Rodeo.

Other than that, the rest of the trip they’d like to forget.

As Saebens drove from his home in Nowata, Okla., he ran a tire off his trailer and ruined an axle near the Kansas-Nebraska state line. Proctor, who was in a separate rig, picked him and the horses up and came to North Platte, where they laid down a run of 4.8 seconds.

The next day, Saebens limped his rig to Kearney, Neb., then, while Proctor enjoyed some down time and a good Mexican meal, Saebens and a friend made an eleven-hour round trip to Oklahoma to pick up a new axle and bring it back to Kearney. The mechanic’s bill wasn’t cheap, Saebens said. “Good thing North Platte pays well.”

As for competition, Proctor said the team roping went well. “The steers were fresh and it was a great set-up. At the start of the summer, you want to be catching steers. I got a good start, made the steer handle a little wider, but Billie likes that. We kind of just put a run down.”

The run was faster than even Proctor realized. “Funny, when you make a good run, and it feels good. They said we were 4.8, and I thought, wow, I didn’t realize it was that good. It was a nice, smooth run.”

This is the third year the team has roped together and they have a high regard for each other. Saebens makes it fun, Proctor said, and is a hard worker. “He’s an outstanding horseman, and he rides horses so good. It makes him one of the best heelers in the world.” They both are busy; Saebens trains horses and Proctor has a herd of cattle, but that makes their schedules seem to work together. “We have a lot of fun,” Saebens said. “It’s fun going with him. He’s easy to travel with.”

Proctor has two people he considers as role models. He roped with eight-time world champ Speed Williams, heeling for him which taught him how to head. Proctor also considers Shane Boston of Maypearl, Texas, another of his role models. Boston, a World Series Team Roping champion, offers advice when Proctor needs it.

Saebens looks up to seven-time world champion team roper Clay O’Brien Cooper. “He’s been a student of the game for a long time, and he’s a great guy. I’ve had the chance to visit with him, and he’s exactly what you’d want him to be. A really nice guy, and modest. For as long as he’s been roping, that’s impressive.”

Proctor has competed at the Wrangler National Finals four times (2014-2017). Saebens has competed there twice (2016-2017). The two roped together at the Wrangler NFR in 16-17.

Barrel racing champion – Stevi Hillman

Stevi Hillman’s win in North Platte was a great way to kick off her summer rodeo run.

Her time of 17.17 seconds rounding the barrels at the Buffalo Bill Rodeo won her the gold buckle, and “was a big confidence boost in taking off for the summer,” she said.

The Weatherford, Texas woman is the first in her family to rodeo. She has a radiologic technician degree but spends her time training horses and running barrels.

A special horse, Truck, whose registered name is Cuatro Fame, has enabled her to rodeo full time. Truck, who is eleven years old, was purchased three years ago and is also owned by Jason and Melissa Mouton of Louisiana. With Truck, a sixteen hand “stout” bay gelding as her primary mount, Hillman qualified for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in 2016 and 2017.

Truck has a big personality, she said. “He’s just a big cartoon character, is what my husband says. He’s funny. He’ll head butt you. He thinks he’s small but he’s big. He has such a playful young heart. He’s a very personable horse.”

There’s a special relationship between Truck and his rider. “He’s my bud, and we have quite a bond. We’ve grown through the last couple years of rodeoing. He owes me absolutely nothing. He’s given me his whole heart every time I run him, and that’s what I love about him. He has so much heart and try.”

Hillman has had less time to train horses the last few years, but has a three year old and a two year old currently at her and her husband’s ranch. She loves training. “That’s a huge passion of mine. It keeps me relaxed. Training young horses is a huge part of who I am and it’s what keeps me going.”

She has a deep respect for her step-dad, Dave Salzbrenner, who trained horses for AQHA competition. “He was my mentor growing up, as far as learning how to train a horse. He shaped who I am today with my training, and laid a good foundation.”

Stevi’s husband Ty, who is a life coach, travels with her, and they love to try out local restaurants and wineries. In 2017, their time in town was limited, as Stevi competed at morning slack and was in Pleasant Grove, Utah for the performance that evening. But they had time to stop at Runza. “My husband loves Runza. We definitely hit that place up.”

Bull riding champion – Trevor Kastner

For bull rider Trevor Kastner, he made his first trip to North Platte count.

The Ardmore, Okla. cowboy put 87 points on the board with his ride on the Beutler and Son Rodeo bull #124 to win the gold buckle. He hadn’t competed at the Buffalo Bill Rodeo before, but he was glad to be there. Last year, he and his traveling partners went to several different rodeos for the first time. “It seems like we knock out the same tracks every year,” he said, “so it was nice to change it up a little bit.”

Kastner, who is thirty years old, has qualified for the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo three times (2011-2013) and finished the 2017 season in sixteenth place, one spot out of qualifying for his fourth WNFR. He didn’t count it as too much of a loss, though. “It wasn’t a bad year,” he said. “I had a lot of fun and got to hang out with my buddies, so you can’t complain about that.”

In 2017, he sat out of competition for a couple months in the early spring for cracked ribs and a torn meniscus, for which he had surgery.

Kastner admires the riding style of Clint Branger, eight-time WNFR qualifier. “He had good form and rode good.”

NEBRASKAland Days June 12-22, 2019