by Jim Bainbridge | Aug 15, 2015
By Ruth Nicolaus/for the Inter-State Rodeo committee
COFFEYVILLE, Kan. – Tim O’Connell can handle pain.
The bareback rider shared first place with traveling partner Winn Ratliff at the Inter-State Rodeo on Aug. 15, despite having to compete with a recently broken left hand.
Six weeks ago, he broke the third metacarpal in half, from his knuckle to his wrist, and tore two ligaments and sprained three tendons in his front knuckle, all on his riding hand, in a bareback riding accident in Canada.
The Zwingle, Iowa, cowboy had been ranked number two in the world for two months prior to the accident, and it was a tough injury, right in the middle of the busiest part of the rodeo season. He sat out of competition for four weeks to let it heal.
“It was a hard month,” he said, “sitting at home, watching me go all the way from second to 13th (in the Windham Weaponry High Performance PRCA World Standings.) I finally said, ‘you know what, it’s either time to get on the bus or get off.’”
So, O’Connell came back to rodeo competition in time for the Sikeston, Mo., rodeo in early August, but he wasn’t mentally ready. He was bucked off his horse, because he was thinking about the injured hand.
“To be honest, I was thinking about (the hand) when I was riding instead of going out there and doing my job,” he said.
Since then, he’s ridden for 83 points in Hermiston, Ore., in Fergus Falls, Minn., and Saturday night in Coffeyville; Ratliff, who has been traveling partners with O’Connell since May, had beaten him in Hermiston and Fergus Falls with 84 point rides.
“Winn has been borrowing my shirts, and I think he took my lucky one,” O’Connell joked.
O’Connell rode Beutler and Son Rodeo’s Forward Motion, while Ratliff rode the Beutler horse named Rage. O’Connell qualified for his first Wrangler National Finals Rodeo (WNFR) last year; Ratliff has been to two of them, in 2012 and 2014.
Ratliff entered the week ranked 11th in the world standings, and the money won this weekend should help him move up even higher.
Ratliff loves to rodeo this time of year, even though the rodeo season is nearly over and cowboys are tired, worn out and physically drained.
“This time of year, I enjoy rodeo,” he said. “I love going. It’s a chance to earn money, and this is part of my job.”
Ratliff, who is 26 and a native of Leesville, La., loves traveling with O’Connell, who is 23. “I’ve always admired his style and it’s always motivated me. No matter where we’re at, I always enjoy watching him ride, because he gets my motor running. We’re competing in the same event, and we’re trying to give it our best. I’ve always said, if you have good traveling partners it makes being on the road easier.”
The saddle bronc riding title was also split two ways. Steven Dent, Mullen, Neb., and Roper Kiesner, Ripley, Okla., each scored 80 points. Dent, a seven-time WNFR qualifier as a bareback rider, won the all-around title in Coffeyville last year, winning the bareback riding and placing eighth in the saddle bronc riding. Dent did not compete in the bareback riding in Coffeyville this year.
Kiesner, who is 21, grew up traveling across the nation with the Kiesner Family Wild West Revue, which included his parents, Phillip and Julie, and his older brother, Rider. Roper’s part of the entertainment was as a trick rider. He began riding saddle broncs less than three years ago, and credits trick riding for shortening the learning curve in mastering saddle bronc riding, and says that the skills used in trick riding translate to riding saddle broncs.
“Staying moving, and working through my problems,” is what has helped him on horseback. He began Roman riding a team of Shetlands as a youngster. “A lot of times, while I was Roman riding, I’d slip a foot between the horses and I was able to work my way out of the problem. Stuff happens fast when you’re riding broncs and trick riding, and trick riding from a young age has helped me to think through my actions.”
Kiesner has qualified for the Prairie Circuit Finals Rodeo twice and is headed to his third finals this October.
Dent rode Beutler and Son Rodeo’s Painted Flower; Kiesner rode the horse Night Latch.
Other champions crowned include steer wrestlers Tyler Pearson, Louisville, Miss. and Cody Metsker, Taylorville, Ill. (9.7 seconds each on two head), tie-down roper Ryan Watkins, Bluff Dale, Texas (17.8 seconds on two head); team ropers Dylan Gordon, Comanche, Okla., and Gage Williams, Foster, Okla. (12.5 seconds on two head); steer roper Brodie Poppino, Big Cabin, Okla. (24.1 seconds on two head); barrel racer Paige Willis, Goshen, Ala. (17.38 seconds), and bull rider Trevor Reiste, Linden, Iowa (72 points.)
The dates for the 2016 Inter-State Fair and Rodeo are tentatively set for August 6-13. For complete results from all fair activities, visit the website at FairandRodeo.com.
Courtesy of PRCA