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Meet the Member: Ryan Yergey
story by Lily Weinacht
Lawrence, Kan., native Ryan Yergey climbed on his first bareback bronc two years ago, joining the KHSRA soon after. He rode plenty of rank horses prior to that, however. “I started breaking horses a long time ago, and I always got stuck with the ones that might as well have been the rank bucking horses,” says the 18 year old. “I thought if I could ride those, I might as well rodeo!” With encouragement from his dad, Daniel Yergey, who used to ride bulls and bareback horses, Ryan headed to George Steinberger’s rodeo school in Richmond, Kan. “Jesse Pope helped me a lot with introducing me to George, and Wes Scott has also helped me out,” says Ryan.
“Bareback is real rough on you and very physically demanding – that’s what I like about it. I’m a competitive person, and I used to play football and baseball, but that doesn’t compare to the adrenaline rush of bareback riding and the competitiveness you need to stay up in the sport.” Ryan received a double dose of bareback riding’s rougher side last year in Topeka, Kan., during the Rodeo Stampede, where he set a personal record for three trips to the hospital in two days. “The first day of the rodeo, I tore a bunch of ligaments and fractured my ankle, and the second day, I had a severe concussion and broke my wrist,” he explains. “Thankfully, my girlfriend, Kelty, took care of me, but that put me out for a while.”
No matter the rodeo, Ryan always prays before he rides and wears his lucky pair of jeans. “They’re the only pair I ride in, and I’ve had them for two years, so they’re pretty torn up. Then I just patch them!” These days, he never rides without a unique pair of chaps, worn in honor of his step-mom, Tammy Yergey, who is fighting cancer. “Her name is engraved on them, and they have zebra stripes because of her carcinoid cancer. We got them at Christmas, so they’re a good luck charm for us,” says Ryan. “My dad and mom, Stacy Burnell, have helped me a lot with getting to rodeos, and so has my step-mom. She wants to be at all of them, but I always have someone video my rides so I can go home and watch them with her.”
The Yergey family makes their home outside of Lawrence. Ryan has a younger brother and sister, along with two older brothers and two older sisters. He’s the only one of his family still competing in rodeo, though his dad team ropes, as does Ryan. A header, he enters local jackpots and plans to rope in the USTRC while keeping up with his high school, URA, and KPRA rodeos. He rides a mare named Ginger, whom he bought as a yearling and trained. “She was a real handful – she should have been a bucking horse – but she’s turned out to be one of the most athletic horses anyone could ever rope on,” Ryan says. He continues to train horses, many of them for cutting, but trains all of them to be soft for any discipline.
Since graduating from Lawrence High School in May, Ryan plans to spend his summer rodeoing, haying, and working on welding projects. Horseshoes are his favorite medium. He also lifts weights and puts in time on the spur board, and he’ll be taking care of the home while his dad and step-mom are in Miami for a multivisceral transplant. Ryan is further considering college rodeo and possibly a welding degree. “I’m working toward Nationals and getting my techniques down so I can go big,” he concludes. “I want to fill my PRCA permit in the next few years and make it to the NFR.”