Meet the Member Emily Finney
story by Lindsay Humphrey Last summer, Emily changed her last name from Vinton to Finney when she married Doug. It was a match made at […]
story by Lindsay King
Once a calf roper, always a tie-down man. Rusty Kluender threw his first loop out in a pasture with his uncle at just seven years old. Back then, Little Britches was huge, much like it is today. At ten years old, Rusty started entering rodeos and never looked back. “Calf roping was always my specialty, even in junior high. When I got up to high school, I had really solid coaching from my dad and my uncle Court. I made nationals all four years of high school. As a senior in high school (1984) I was the Nebraska state calf roping champion. It was pretty neat,” said the Valentine, Nebraska, native. A few college recruits hounded Rusty for his rodeo talent. He ended up in Torrington, Wyoming, at Eastern Wyoming College where he met his wife Cherie. “We got married before we moved to Chadron State College and finished our last two years of school.”
Both Rusty and Cherie graduated with degrees in education and became teachers. For a a year, the couple rodeoed in South Dakota and Nebraska and then moved south. “We got recruited to Texas to teach. My wife and I had dreamed about all the rodeos in Texas and the warmer temps, so we picked up and moved.” The couple taught in the Fort Worth district while they pursued rodeo in a new region. “We had a lot of success down there but there were tons of people and the grandparents were still up north. We wanted to be closer to them and our roots.”
After 12 years, Rusty moved his family back to Nebraska. He got his masters of education from the University of Nebraska–Omaha. “I was a fourth-grade teacher and then I was a principal for five years before moving to Broken Bow High School as their principal. This will be my seventh year here.” Teaching comes naturally for Rusty as he is an accomplished calf horse trainer. “I trained my first really good horse when we moved to Texas, but when we moved back north I was more determined to train a lot of horses. The main horses I ride and train are from Weber Quarter Horses.”
Rusty almost always has a new, young horse that he’s getting ready to sell. “I love a good challenge of getting a horse ready to go and compete. It is a ton of fun and a big accomplishment to get a young one going. I always get asked what I am riding.” Right before the M-SRA finals last year, Rusty sold his top horse. This forced him to compete on a three-year-old. “People told me I was crazy. It was a bit tricky, but I won enough at the finals to take home the saddle.” For the last six years in a row, Rusty has won the saddle in the 45 and over calf roping. He’s only used the same horse twice to do it.
“The mid states association is a blessing because it gives us a different place to go than just jackpots for the older guys.” The M-SRA is the only association in the state that has the 45 and over calf roping. This year they added 16 and up to the age bracket. “I just love that in Nebraska you can go to the NSRA and M-SRA and have a good variety of events. Some people don’t think we need both associations, but I think we do so we can have a variety for families and people to still do what they love.” The NSRA is one of only a few amateur associations with steer roping. Ever since arriving from Texas, Rusty and Cherie have been hosting cowboy church services in central Nebraska and the M-SRA finals. “We have been doing those off and on for the last 10-15 years. It is a lot of fun to see people at those gatherings.”
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