Rough and tumble
Area teenager quickly discovers the rodeo life is a rough one
Steer wrestling and bareback riding may be Rylie Hoffman's rodeo events of choice, but he concedes they're not too popular with other rodeo riders.
"Steer wrestling takes a lot of technique," said the high school senior, who lives in Linwood. "It's usually a big man's sport -- I'm not a big man.
"People don't like bareback because your hand is locked in, and you can't get it out unless you move it."
With a smirk, he added, "I guess they're scared."
But not Hoffman, a Basehor-Linwood High School student. Although having competed in high school rodeo competitions for just two years, Hoffman had the opportunity to attend a national competition as an alternate state winner earlier this month.
"This year I had a goal to make it nationals," he said.
Although tragic circumstances -- the death of another contestant -- allowed the alternate to go to the national competition in New Mexico, Hoffman said he felt fortunate to have the opportunity. But his luck ran out at competition time.
"The horse didn't buck that well, and I didn't ride that well," he said.
He said his fortunes in steer wrestling were much the same, but he'll still have another shot at high school competition next year, even as a graduate. After that, Hoffman said he hoped to continue rodeo at one of several colleges that offer rodeo scholarships. Beyond that, Hoffman said he wanted to get more involved in professional competitions that presented more challenges.
And even though his high school doesn't have a rodeo program, that didn't stop the school from awarding both Hoffman and his sister letters for rodeo. But unlike football or basketball, the rodeo season straddles both semesters and often takes Hoffman as far south as Oklahoma or as far west as Oakley.
"Traveling's the fun part," he said. "You get your buddies in the truck and screw around for a few hours."
The competitions can pay off, both in prizes, scholarships and cash, the latter of which Hoffman said he fell a few points short at one competition.
Making for stiff competition, Hoffman said, was how each horse or steer demonstrated a different temperament.
"You've got the big horses that throw you around," he said. "I like the little colts. They're fun to ride."
Even as he rattles off tales of pulled muscles, bruises and concussions, Hoffman downplays his injuries.
"I haven't been knocked all the way out yet," he said. "I've just been dazed."
Being in a rodeo family has helped Hoffman develop his skills. His grandfather has a rodeo school, where Hoffman learned the ins and outs. And his uncle has about 40 head of horses for him to practice bareback.
"I've been around it all my life," he said. "I used to mutton bust. I kind of got scared of it for a while. I just stayed out, then I guess I grew up."