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Legend Billy Etbauer still atop NFR record book after 20 years

Billy Etbauer
Courtesy of PRCA

Billy Etbauer is a retired American professional rodeo cowboy who competed in the sport of saddle bronc riding. He was born on March 9, 1966, in Ree Heights, South Dakota, and grew up on a ranch in western South Dakota. Etbauer comes from a family of rodeo cowboys, including his brothers Robert and Dan, who are also accomplished saddle bronc riders.

During his career, Etbauer won three Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA) world championships in saddle bronc riding, in 1992, 1996, and 1999. He also won the all-around cowboy title at the National Finals Rodeo (NFR) in 1999, which is awarded to the competitor who earns the most money across all events at the NFR.

Etbauer retired from professional rodeo in 2016 after a long and successful career. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest saddle bronc riders of all time, and his accomplishments have earned him induction into the ProRodeo Hall of Fame.

Over the course of his career, Etbauer reset numerous NFR-related records. In 2005, he broke the record for most saddle bronc earnings at NFR, a record he had already reset the year before. In 2007, he passed Tom Reeves for most NFR qualifications all-time in the event and continued to add to it, reaching 21 trips before concluding his career.

But even Etbauer acknowledges that after 20 years it’s surprising that his 93 has only been tied, not broken. Stetson Wright pulled even with the mark in 2021 on Vitalix Ricky Bobby from Cervi Championship Rodeo.

And despite those two incredible rides that have stood the test of time, Etbauer will argue they could have been better. That’s the mindset that made him a world champion then and helps him keep a grip on world records two decades later.

“Whether it was actually a 93 or not, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you how much it was one way or another, but I can assure you I was always picking it apart, looking for where I could have done something else a whole lot better,” Etbauer said. “Anytime I got off, I always thought there was something I could have done better.”