By Lura Roti for SDFU
It doesn’t surprise Rustin or Kama Bruns that their children love rodeo.
“Our kids grew up on horses,” Kama explained. “I would be pregnant riding horses and they would be babies and riding with us. So, it was pretty natural just to go in and start rodeoing.”
The family raises Angus and Hereford cattle with Rustin’s parents, Bob and Roberta, near Plankinton. So, horses are part of everyday life for the Bruns family because they use them year-round to help with cattle work – to move feedlot cattle, to sort pairs, to move cows from one pasture to the next, to do health and calving checks. And when the workday is over, they and their horses head to the arena to practice for the upcoming rodeo.
“We ride horse every day and rope every other day and rope the dummy every evening,” explained 17-year-old Royce.
Royce is focused on training for the 2023 South Dakota High School Rodeo Association State Finals. He recently qualified to compete in calf roping and team roping during the event held June 13-17 in Ft. Pierre.
His sister, Layce, 15, competes in breakaway roping, but hasn’t qualified for the High School Rodeo Finals yet, so she has a lot riding on the upcoming June 10 and 11 regional rodeo held in Watertown.
“I missed my calf both days during the regional rodeo in Huron, so I don’t have any points right now, but hopefully we can get some points,” Layce explained.
Rodeo athletes need to earn three points in their event at a regional rodeo to qualify for the High School Rodeo Finals. And there are only four regional rodeos.
Like all rodeo events, breakaway roping requires skill and perfect timing. To win the three points she needs to qualify requires Layce to rope the calf and do it faster than most of the other competitors.
“Rodeo makes you tougher… mentally tougher. If you miss, you’re always thinking, “I can get them next time,’” Layce said.
Along with training for her upcoming event, Layce and her older brother, Royce, also make time to help their younger brothers, Tyce, 11 and Chayce, 10, get ready for their events.
“It’s nice because they teach me things, and I can see what they do and it makes me better,” explained Tyce, who team-ropes with his friend, Grace Saienga.
And even though the younger brothers are not yet old enough to compete in the upcoming High School Rodeo Finals, they will definitely be in the crowds cheering. Chayce said his best words of advice for his older siblings are: “Go get-em!”
Sportsmanship, mentorship, optimism, perseverance, goal setting and responsibility are among the reasons Kama and Rustin are happy their children enjoy rodeo.
“The actual rodeo is a competition, but it’s mostly a competition with each individual. Each kid gets their personal records and they have goals – they want to be faster or ride harder,” Kama explained.
And unlike school-sanctioned sports, Rustin explained that rodeo places more responsibility on the individual athlete.
“It’s different than a sport in town. The school gives you your uniform and you get on the bus and they take care of you and get you there. It’s a whole different deal with rodeo. I mean you need to take care of a horse. You need to have all the equipment – you can’t just throw a horse in a trailer and go there.
You need to make sure you have your saddles, your water buckets, your hay.”
“You need to know what is going on and be ready,” Kama added. “Each event has a certain order. And you get three calls, and if you are not there when they call your name the third time, you are out.”
Rustin grew up competing in rodeo with his family. His Uncle Vernon Niles taught him to rope in his grandparents’ arena. He was competing at the collegiate rodeo level when he and Kama met. They were agriculture business students at Western Dakota Technical College.
“I grew up showing cattle and sheep and we ran cattle, we always used horses, but we never roped or did any of that, when we started dating he taught me how to rope, then I was team roping with him just for fun, that is how I got to know it and love it,” Kama said.
The fact that rodeo is a sport the entire family does together is another reason the couple love it. Throughout the summer, it provides them with an opportunity to take a break from ranch chores and spend time together and with other farm and ranch families.
“It’s like a huge family. All the guys and gals I used to rodeo with are there and now it’s their kids competing. It’s very generational,” Rustin said. “At night you sit around your trailers and campers and all eat and grill together. You know, it’s basically like a camping trip with a rodeo event thrown in.”
To learn more about why the Bruns family enjoys rodeo, visit the South Dakota Farmers Union website, www.sdfu.org. As a grassroots family farm and ranch organization, South Dakota Farmers Union supports rodeo families by providing a meal to all during the South Dakota Rodeo Finals.