Cowboys Steer Clear

By June 1, 2012
Steer wrestler Ethen Thouvenell caugth in a dramatic moment hovering between his horse and a steer.

Ethen Thouvenell, ranked No. 1 among steer wrestlers as of May. (Photo by William Mancebo)

Ethen Thouvenell loves to win rodeos – but he especially loves to win them when he’s in his home state of California. The Napa  native turned in a 6.7-second effort to edge past Ty Gonsalves and Billy        Bugenig and win the Woodlake Lions Rodeo, May 12-13, earning $1,083.

This vaults Thouvenell to the top of the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Assn.’s world standings in steer wrestling by almost $10,000. “I love California – it’s the best state in the country,” the 32-year-old said. “Winning a rodeo anywhere is always a great thing, but winning it here, and just being out here, makes it even better.”

Although 2012 sees him off to the best start in his career, Thouvenell stays grounded and humble, attributing much of his success to luck, being in the right place at the right time and, of course, jumping the right steer. “My run today was a little bit lucky,” he said. “Billy Bugenig had a better run than I did, but I had an easier steer.”

While most cowboys revel in the spotlight of being No. 1 in the world, Thouvenell takes a different approach. “It’s been a while since I was first in the standings and I’m still kind of getting used to it,” he said. “To be honest, I’d rather not be first because I like to be behind in the standings, chasing somebody else.”

At his current pace, Thouvenell might want to get used to being the guy with the bull’s eye on his back. He’s won five of the 20 rodeos in which he has competed, including a giant win at the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo.
“Winning at rodeos now helps you for later on in the season, but we’ve got a long way to go,” he said.

Meanwhile, reigning and three-time world champion steer wrestler Luke Branquinho from Los Alamos is mounting an intense catch-up campaign, coming out of his winter hibernation to win at three different rodeos―Redding, Ramona and Las Vegas Helldorado Days―during the period of May 17-21. In Ramona, he broke his own arena record with a time of 3.5 seconds.

Luke Branquinho hoers in mid-air between his horse and a steer.

Luke Branquinho vaulted to 12th from 29th place in the PRCA world standings within a one-week period in May. (Photo by Gene Hyder)

Another check at the Rowell Ranch Rodeo in Hayward, CA, put Branquinho at $7,303 for the weekend, moving up from 29th to 12th in the PRCA World Standings. That’s a bit lower than might be expected for a guy whose average finish in the world standings the past six seasons has been 2.16 – including two of those three gold buckle seasons – but a whole lot better than the way his season had gone through the winter months. As recently as April 16th, Branquinho was 42nd in the standings with just $7,074 and he had not climbed inside the Top 30 until a week ago.

“You expect to have occasional dry spells,” Branquinho said, “and mine seemed to start right after I left Las Vegas in December [from the Wrangler NFR]. I went home after the Ram [National Circuit Finals Rodeo] in early April and I’ve spent a lot of time practicing between rodeos. This week it just all seemed to come together. I drew well, scored well and won some money. It feels good to have some momentum coming into this part of the season.”

Immediately afterward Branquinho hopped a plane to Australia, to do three clinics Down Under. It is the cowboy’s third trip to Australia. “It’s fun to see the different styles of bulldogging and the different types of cattle,” Branquinho said. “I look forward to going down there each year to work with those guys.”

The month prior, the California PRCA circuit finished second in the nation at the Ram National Circuit Finals for the year 2011, with $66,794 in winnings. The Finals took place March 29-April 1 at the State Fair Arena in Oklahoma City, OK. The Wilderness Circuit (UT, CO, ID, NV) took home the team title with a total of $84,733, its fourth win in the last six years.

In other rodeo news, RAM has sponsored an informational video about the history of rodeo for the ProRodeo Hall of Fame and Museum of the American Cowboy in Colorado Springs, CO. The video will be approximately 12 minutes in length and give an overview of how the sport began and how it has evolved to the $40 million in prize money competition circuit  it is today.

The last update of the ProRodeo Hall of Fame video was in 1995, in the laser disc format! The new educational video presentation will be in high definition video. The project premiered in June “just in time for the Hall of Fame’s tourist season and the Hall of Fame’s induction festivities, July 13-14,” ProRodeo Hall of Fame director Sammi Snow said.

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