Riding in the Rain- Iconic Athletes and Broncs Graced Sentinel Butte at the ‘Home on the Range Match of Champions’

The competition was as hot as the August sun when the world’s elite saddle bronc riders matched up with the best buckers in the business near Sentinel Butte, North Dakota. But in a rare twist, the sun hid behind rainclouds that gathered and then burst over the rodeo grounds to “freshen up” the exciting event.

Codi Miller, committee volunteer and grand entry coordinator, says improvements to the grounds over the past six decades have made a great event even better.

“For the past ten years, I have watched this event grow from the old arena to the new arena (built and completed in 2021 for last year’s match). Watching influential bronc riders like Cody Wright win it, to present day, his three sons competing at it. It is so good and so real, the whole mission behind the HOTR is touching. This working therapeutic ranch gives children a chance to be around a group of people that can change and make an impact in their lives. They evolve from disengagement to helping, working, and having a purpose,” said Miller.

Not only is the history and entertainment of Champions Ride epic, but the mission, itself, HOTC, is nothing short of pure goodness. HOTR is a nonprofit organization which helps neglected, abused, homeless and traumatized teenage boys and girls. The ranch itself, which was established in 1950 by Father Elwood Cassedy as a home for neglected and homeless boys, is observing its 73rd anniversary in 2022.

“I couldn’t believe the attendance and the people that stayed to watch this event (this year). I have been bringing horses here since 1998 and it has never rained until this year. We were tickled on how well the horses bucked in the mud and performed as well as the die-hard fans that stayed throughout” said Sparky Dreesen of J Bar J Pro Rodeo Company of Circle, MT.

During the 1950s, HOTC relied upon donations to care for the children. Sentinel Butte ranchers and rodeo cowboys, Jim and Tom Tescher, came up with the thought of a saddle bronc match to raise money for Cassedy’s kids. Alvin Nelson, 1957 World Champion Saddle Bronc rider of Grassy Butte, ND helped with the first match along with Ed Doherty, Bill Martin, Harley Roth, and Bill Law. Former ND Lietuenant Governor Ray Schnell and his sons, Raymond and Willard, managed the event.

The competition hosts the Jim and Tom Tescher Memorial long-go round. The top twelve bronc riders came back for the Alvin Nelson Memorial short-go round. This was the eighth year the event has been sanctioned with the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) with money won counting towards the PRCA World Standings. Six of the best stock contracting companies including: J Bar J Rodeo, Pickett Pro Rodeo, Muddy Creek Pro Rodeo, Stace Smith Pro Rodeo, Outlawbuckers Rodeo and Burch Rodeo all hit the trail bringing their best bucking horses to the scenic, ‘made-by-nature’ venue.

Rodeo fans, groups, and businesses had the chance to on bid on their favorite cowboy and win back some serious cash. The Calcutta and sponsor reception was held at the ND Cowboy Hall Fame in Medora the evening prior to the bronc match. A short-go calcutta had bidders waving their hands high between the intermission of long and short-goes.

Jim Tescher

Jim Tescher was a PRCA All-around Champion Cowboy in 1957 and 1966 competing in the Saddle Bronc riding and steer wrestling. He was born in 1929 at Beach, ND where he grew up around horses and cattle on a ranch near Sentinel Butte. He was inducted into the ND Cowboy Hall of Fame in 2004. Tescher never followed the sport of rodeo full-time. He was devoted to his ranch and family, but when cattle prices fell in the 1950’s, he managed to sustain the ranch with his rodeo winnings. In later years, he served as a rodeo arena judge at the Denver and Fort Worth Stock Show rodeos and National Finals Rodeo. Tescher is a past three-time ‘Match of Champions’ winner.

Zeke Thurston, two-time world champion saddle bronc rider-7-time NFR, qualifier brought spectators to their feet. Marking a 91-point ride in the short-go aboard J-J Pro Rodeo’s mare, Straight Moonshine, solidifying the win. Thurston was awarded a trophy bronc saddle made by Randy George of G Bar G Saddlery, a Henry 30-30 trophy rifle, and the title of HOTR 2022 Bronc Riding Champion. Thurston of Big Valley, Alberta rodeos with his wife, Jayne and their children.

“Straight Moonshine stacked up and circled around tight for the crowd and judges in the short go. She was the highest marked horse of the match and handled the conditions like a champ” explained Dreesen. The bucking mare is by the stud, Straight Jacket and out of a Moon Hawk mare. The eight-year-old bucking horse went to the National Finals Rodeo in the bareback riding two times and has just been switched to the saddle bronc pen. “She is something special” added Dreesen.

“It was a great day to dance in the rain,” commented PRCA photographer, Jackie Jensen of Winnett, MT.

The Home On the Range (HOTR) Match Saddle Bronc Riding took place Saturday, August 6, 2022, hosting thirty-two of the top cowboys in the world and 1,600 fans in attendance. The natural amphitheater of the ND countryside, matched with only the finest bucking horses in the US and Canada represents true notstalgia of the western way of life.

HOTR’s program goal is simple– To help the child and family, so they can be reunited as a strong and healthy family unit. To learn more about HOTR and help, visit:

Zeke Thurston braves the rain and mud to come out as the champion of the Home on the Range bronc match, Aug. 6, 2022, near Sentinel Butte, North Dakota. Thurston rode Straight Moonshine for 91 points in the short go. Jackie Jensen Photography
Courtesy photo

Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.

User Legend: iconModerator iconTrusted User