Meet the Member Ryan Bestol
story by Lindsay Humphrey “I’m not much of a planner,” said Ryan Bestol of his storied rodeo career so far. “When I get something in […]
story by Lily Weinacht
Rodeoing with the NSRA has become a kind of tradition for Dan Barner in the last 20 years. In that time, the 39-year-old steer wrestler from Hershey, Nebraska, has won five year-end titles and placed first in the average numerous times, including this year at the 2016 NSRA finals in Valentine, Nebraska. He even met his wife of 14 years, Kellie Barner, following the NSRA finals, and has served on the association’s board of directors. “I’ve always set goals every year, and trying to meet those goals is one of the main challenges to keep myself motivated and in the right state of mind,” says Dan. His goal each year is to make the NSRA, KPRA, and M-SRA finals, which he’s also won several times in the steer wrestling, though the KPRA year-end title has proved elusive thus far. “I don’t travel as far as I used to, though I have made the Prairie Circuit Finals two times in my career,” he explains. “I go to six or eight pro rodeos a year.”
A first generation rodeo competitor, Dan came to love rodeo through his friends the Holmes in high school. “The Holmes asked me if I wanted to come over and throw some steers down. I didn’t know anything about it, but I went and practiced with them and jumped my first steer, and they got me hooked!” Dan recalls. “Swede Swanson was also a close friend and we practiced and travelled together a lot of years. After he passed away, I started rodeoing with Harrison Halligan, and I bought my good horse Tonka from him, who I’ve won most of my titles off of. Now I travel down the road with Wylie Current. He hazes for me and we practice together a lot.”
While Dan also enters the occasional jackpot team roping and even tested his mettle at bull riding, steer wrestling has always been his preferred event. “I think it’s because of my size and the challenge of wrestling steers – I got more of an adrenaline rush from my first steer wrestling run than I did riding bulls.” Today, most of his nerves emerge while watching his seven-year-old son, Braxton, compete. “He’s been junior rodeoing for three years and won three all-around buckles,” says Dan. “I probably get more nervous watching him compete than I do steer wrestling! He started out on my good rope horse, Mini Me, and now he’s riding a horse he calls Superman.” Dan has since retired Tonka and rides a gelding named Hector in the steer wrestling. “I started him three years ago and he’s catching on to it and getting more consistent. I think he’ll be a real good mount for the NSRA and maybe even some of the pro rodeos.”
During the week, Dan is a switchman for Union Pacific Railroad in North Platte, home of the largest train yard in the world, covering 2,850 acres. He’s worked for Union Pacific since 1998, while also running Barner Quarter Horses with his wife. Dan raises colored ranch geldings, specifically buckskins, and sells them three years old and up. His stud is Done Looking For Paddy, also known as Whiskey, and Dan’s horses have won the futurity in Salina, Kansas, in both 2015 and 2016. In addition to his 30 head of horses, Dan runs 50 head of cows, and Braxton is proving a skilled hand working alongside his dad.
One of Dan’s goals is to qualify for the Prairie Circuit Finals at least once more, and enter Cheyenne Frontier Days again. “The last time I was there in 2009, I didn’t have much luck, but my horse ran right at the photo pit, and that picture was on the cover of Sports Illustrated that year. I’d also like to win the M-SRA again and finally win the KPRA,” he finishes, “and and I want to win at least one more NSRA title.”
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