story by Michele Toberer At 13 years old, Lane Leeper has already marked earning world champion titles off of his bucket list. The Leon, Iowa […]
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Meet the Association Wild West Buckers
story by Michele Toberer
Paul Applegarth has a passion for the sport of rodeo, and after spending a lifetime competing in every rank up the rodeo ladder, he started Wild West Buckers to give back to a sport that has given him so much. Becoming a part of the International Miniature Rodeo Association was a perfect fit for Paul and his wife, Tawnya, and they look forward to continuing as a part of the growth the association is experiencing. “We just held the final IMRA rodeo in our series the last weekend of September, and we are sending several kids across all the age divisions to the IMRA IFR Tour Finals in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma in January.”
Paul competed in the NorCal Junior Rodeo Association in his youth, competing at the very first NCJRA finals in Hayward, California in 1981. He also enjoyed being a District 3 California High School Rodeo Competitor during his Sutter High School days before going on to rodeo for Lassen Community College in Susanville, California. Bareback riding was the thrill that kept him coming back rodeo. After getting his associates degree, he stepped right into the professional chutes, traveling with Rocky Steagall, and competing in the PRCA until retiring in 2002. Paul made the California Circuit finals, as a bareback rider, every year of his professional career and went to the Dodge National Circuit Finals 6 times.
Paul and Tawnya have a daughter, Jessica, that is 23 and now married and living in Nebraska; and a son, Brent, 16, who is a big part of the Wild West Buckers in both the competition and production side of the association. “My wife, Brent, and I work together in all aspects of the rodeos, and it’s something we love to do. I also depend on my lifelong friend, Chad Justice, who helps at every rodeo we are a part of.” Brent competes in the novice bareback riding, now riding on full-size horses instead of ponies. When he’s not competing he’s helping pull flanks or whatever else may need done to put the rodeo on. Tawnya has worked for many years at the UC Davis Animal Hospital; but prior to that, she worked for the Flying U Rodeo Company riding horses as a flag girl, and in opening acts. With a love for rodeo and the lifestyle it embodies, giving back to the sport was at the forefront of their decision to host a free rodeo school just before Easter in 2015. “We offered free instruction, free food, free everything; we held the school on Thursday and Friday, and then had the first rodeo of the season on Saturday, before Easter Sunday.” The first school had 13 participants, and they filled the school to capacity with 60 students this year. “We have NFR contestants helping teach the school, this year we had Wyatt Denny, Clayton Biglow, and Nick Ledoux. Jeff Sharer was also there helping teach and pick-up. Joel Kokel, of Outlaw Ponies from Oregon, brought stock and helped all week, and altogether we had 150 horses for the school and rodeo this year. We have Easter egg hunts and jumpy houses for the kids during the rodeo, we really make it a fun time.”
Besides holding 5 IMRA sanctioned rodeos to qualify members to the finals this season, Wild West Buckers also holds multiple association and open rodeos throughout the year. This year Brent, a sophomore at Sutter High School, has qualified in bareback riding for the IMRA finals and the JR NFR finals that will be held in Las Vegas, Nevada in December. He is also a CHSRA D3 competitor. “A lot of us were old before we really got good. My son is lightyears ahead of where I was at his age because of the opportunities he’s had to ride in these associations. We try to position things for the kids to build them up, we don’t need to buck them all off all the time. We have stock perfect for the little guys on up.” Wild West Buckers looks forward to what the future will bring with the IMRA. “Rodeo has been so good to me, and if I can give back anything for the future of rodeo, that would be a great thing to me.”