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Meet the Member Ronnie Ward
story by Lindsay King
As the reigning world champion saddle bronc rider in the NSPRA, Ronnie Ward is living out his childhood rodeo dreams. However, the stars in Ronnie’s eyes were and are actually for bull riding. “My identical twin brother (Donnie) and I always wanted to rodeo growing up, but our parents wouldn’t let us. We had some cousins that rode bulls that we both looked up to,” said the Southwest City, Missouri, bull rider. If they hadn’t set their hearts on the roughstock events, Ronnie’s parents may have let the boys rodeo long before their 18th birthday. “They just didn’t want us to get hurt.”
When Ronnie first got on a bull it was at Johnny Williams’ house just down the road, who operated Tick Hill Rodeo Company back in the day. “On Sunday afternoons Johnny had an open practice pen at his house. We got on his bulls and anything else he had. Johnny helped a lot of people become better competitors.” Donnie only stuck with bull riding for two years before deciding he would rather fight them instead. As for Ronnie, he married Candice and they started a family while he began his career in the construction business and continued to rodeo.
He was hitting the trail hard in the 90s for the IPRA, ACRA and CRRA when a torn ACL sidelined him in 1996. After recovering, Ronnie hit a few more rodeos before taking a 13-year break from bull riding. “Life just kind of got in the way of rodeo. I needed to focus on getting everything raised: a family and our small farm.” At the same time, Ronnie became a journeyman plumber, master carpenter and a licensed general contractor which allowed him to become an entrepreneur. “We have a small cattle herd – about 50 momma cows – and my wife works in town while I work on a pipeline. I have been in the gas utility business for the last five years.”
In 2015, Ronnie found his way back to rodeo through a senior association where he competed for a year before stumbling upon the NSPRA. After attending some performances as a spectator, Ronnie fell in love with the sport all over again. “This is absolutely a professional association for competitors of my age. It was kind of a dream come true for me. I stayed home in my prime and I didn’t get to make the circuit finals or NFR. When I made the SNFR that first year, I felt like I had finally gotten to live my dream.”
Ronnie has made the SNFR every year since 2016 and last year was his best yet. After attending a saddle bronc school last November, he decided to give it a shot for a year. “I rode bareback horses and bulls when I first got into rodeo. I love the horse events, I think they are great. But they are way harder on your body. I know I have a longer career riding bulls than I do with the horse events.” For the 2019 season, Ronnie is putting everything he has – and a little bit more – into bull riding in the NSPRA. Now that he has tasted the high of winning a world title, he is hungry for one in his favorite event. Ronnie knows he wouldn’t have gotten that first one if it wasn’t for his family and rodeo friends. Amid all this success, Ronnie keeps everything in perspective. “Put God first and everything else will fall into place.”