Size forces Etbauer to buck the family bronco-busting tradition

July 13, 2013 Updated: July 13, 2013 at 11:05 pm

His dad, Robert, won two world saddle bronc riding championships and last year was inducted into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame.

His uncle, Billy, also earned membership in rodeo's hallowed hall in 2012 after claiming five world titles, also riding saddle bronc horses to a $3-million career.

And another uncle, Danny, qualified 10 times for rodeo's Super Bowl, the National Finals Rodeo, in saddle bronc riding, of course.

So when Trell Etbauer grew up on a Goodwell, Okla., ranch, he dreamed of following in their footsteps, and did so with much success until the inevitable happened.

First, he got hurt, preventing him from climbing aboard the back of a bucking horse for the past three years.

Then he realized the other side of his family tree had given this 28-year-old cowboy a 6-1, 210-pound frame, not the typical physique for rodeo's classic event.

"I'm built more like a bulldogger, so that's what I'm focusing on," said Etbauer, who finished out of the money after a 15.9-second steer wrestling run Saturday night, and finished with a solid, 8.9-second run in tie-down roping in the final performance of Pikes Peak or Bust Rodeo Days. "I wish I was a little smaller so I could be a bronc rider."

Before his initial injury in 2010, a buckoff in Deadwood, S.D. which required three surgeries to repair his wrist, Etbauer was one of the most versatile cowboys in professional rodeo. He made history by winning the prestigious Linderman Award - in which a cowboy must earn at least $1,000 in three events, including one roughstock and one timed-event - in each of the first three years of his career.

Since returning for the 2012 season, Etbauer has focused his efforts on the timed-event end of the arena. Those who didn't know the whole story must have done a double take when seeing a cowboy of such pedigree not riding broncs.

But the riding Etbauers didn't always ride, either.

"A lot of people don't know that my dad and two uncles worked every event in college, and my dad's favorite event is roping calves," Etbauer said. "That's how he filled his permit. My dad ropes calves every day and they all did well in the timed events. Billy is pretty good at team roping and Danny at bulldogging. They taught me all of them, and I kept working on all of them."

While his wallet took a hit while licking his wounds and missing time riding broncs, his versatility saved, and resurrected, his career as a steer wrestler and tie-down roper.

He hasn't completely given up on his dreams to ride broncs, either, despite not possessing the slender build of most of his colleagues in that event.

"I have a few broncs coming up, and my plan is to bring that along slowly," Etbauer said. "I love doing it, but it's probably one of my weaker events because I'm so big. Hopefully, I can keep getting on and riding a little bit longer."

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