story by Lillian Landreth Thayne Elshere represented South Dakota and his family’s favorite event of saddle bronc riding at the 2022 NHSFR this summer, where […]
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Meet the Member Mary Risse
story by Lily Weinacht
Mary Risse of Martin, South Dakota, heads southeast to Omaha, Nebraska, this month to make her debut at the high school invitational of the Champions Challenge Rodeo. The invitational takes rodeo athletes from six states leading the high school standings, and Mary is competing in the goat tying, which she calls her best and favorite event. The 17 year old won her first saddle in the event at the 4-H State Finals Rodeo in August, and finished 20th in the nation in goat tying at the 2016 NHSFR, her second trip to Nationals, where she finished sixth in the nation in goat tying the year before. She plans to ride her champion saddle, the first she’s won – and the first saddle to her name.”I’ve always had to borrow a saddle, so winning it was pretty cool!” says Mary. “I’ve been goat tying longer than some of my other events, but I also like breakaway. When I do well in it, it’s equal with goat tying.” She also team ropes occasionally in 4-H rodeo as a header.
Everyone in the Risse family rodeos, and the practice pen is one of their central stomping grounds. “Our family owns a ranch – part of it is in Martin and the other part is north of Allen – and we all run it together, including my uncles and aunt,” says Mary. “I have a little sister, two nephews, and two cousins that practice with me, and our dads and grandpa are out there. There’s a lot of us in the arena to make practice fun. We usually meet three times a week, but I’m out there most nights working on a younger horse to take to college.”
Denny, her four-year-old gelding in training, will eventually become her main mount in the goat tying. She’s been competing off her older brother’s horse, Snip, whom her older sisters tied goats off of before Mary. “He’s 20 years old and still going at it like he’s two. When I’m in the arena goat tying off Denny, Snip is at the gate pawing and nickering because he hates to miss out. At every rodeo, he gives it his all, which gives me a shot to be the best I can.”
The Risse family also has a dog, but they call the horses their pride and joy. “My favorite job is riding horses in the pastures and keeping them limbered up for rodeoing,” says Mary. “I also help work cows. We help our neighbors with branding, and they do the same for us.” Any free time is spent tying goats or roping, which turns into a family competition. “We like to see who can tie goats the fastest, or rope the dummy the most times in a row. My dad always wins! He’s inspired me the most and pushes me all the time so I can be the best I can be.” She and her parents, Rocky and Joan, haul together to her regional rodeos, while her extended family comes to Nationals to support her. Mary always wears an angel pin on her hat when she competes, given to her by her Grandpa Kocer, who passed away in 2005.
A senior at Bennett County High School, Mary is taking two college level classes – English and intermediate Algebra. She plans to become a math professor, and is considering several colleges where she plans to rodeo as well. “I’m looking at Douglas, Arizona, Stephenville, Texas, and Goodwell, Oklahoma. Hopefully by December I’ll have it narrowed down,” she finishes. “My mom and sister and I are going to visit some of the schools this fall – I love to see new places. After that, I’ll apply for scholarships and see where it takes me!