Kurt Manke wins Senior Pro Rodeo World Championship in saddle broncs
What would make a man decide, after almost 30 years, to return to the roughstock arena and start riding saddle broncs again? Well, it turns out that Kurt Manke of Belle Fourche, SD, was inspired by his grandson riding sheep and winning a buckle.
Manke, 52, had ridden saddle broncs in his youth and enjoyed it, but the responsibilities of family and work put the pursuit of rodeo out of his plans. After his grandson’s success in the arena, Kurt started thinking of riding broncs again. “A person has to have your mind in the right place. I had to think on it for a couple of years before I was ready,” said Manke. “Of course, I had to go get in shape, too. That’s important for anyone who wants to seriously compete, but especially at my age.”
So, the process of getting fit began. Swimming was an important part of his workouts at the Rec Center, and as he got in better shape, he started getting more focused on competing. Some of his friends from his former rodeo days encouraged him and one even had some practice horses he could get on, so he started practicing. “I tried to get them to start riding again too, but they didn’t want to go through all of the work of getting in shape,” he chuckled, “But they sure were willing to help me.”
Once he was in shape, both physically and mentally, he joined the National Senior Pro Rodeo Association and started down the rodeo road. “It’s such a great organization,” Manke said. “There are lifetime rodeo people in it, former PRCA hands, and they are all really helpful and have great attitudes, so I’ve really liked that part of it.”
The Senior Pros are more laid back, according to Manke, with many rodeos lasting three days. This slower pace is really fun and the camaraderie is great. “It’s not about the money,” he said. “But it’s still about the gold buckle, so the competition is there.”
The best part of the season was winning the Frontier Circuit buckle and coat. “That’s when I really knew it was happening and that I was going to the Finals,” Manke said.
At the National Senior Pro Rodeo Finals in Las Vegas, NV on Oct. 5-8, Manke had his dreams come true when he won the average at the Finals, plus was named the World Champion Saddle Bronc rider in the 50 and over division for the year. The gold buckle, saddle and other awards were ample reward for the work it took to get back to the top of his game.
With good sponsorship help from Scott Peterson Motors, Eaton Construction/Wayne Eaton and Black Hills Tractor, Kurt is planning on returning to the arena for the 2012 season. “It starts the end of February in Arizona, so I’ll go at least another season, maybe two,” stated Manke. “The only thing better than one gold buckle is two,” he added.
Manke has his family behind him as well. His wife Joan, sons Josh and Brad, and his three grandkids are all on board with his decision to ride another season. “I’m going to get back in the pool and swim to get in shape again. I bruised some ribs pretty good on my last horse at the Finals, but I’m about healed up and ready to get back to work,” he said.
The owner of Black Hills Tractor, Manke shared this wisdom: “If you’ve got a dream, you’ve got to chase it. It’s hard work but it’s possible to fulfill a dream if you want it bad enough,” before adding, “There’s pain and soreness, for sure, but you work around it. I really encourage people to get into the rough stock again, if that’s their dream.
“I’ve been really lucky and have really enjoyed getting back on the saddle broncs,” he said. With one gold buckle, he’s already working toward another one. It’s amazing how often luck and hard work are found together.
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