Saddle bronc riding has the deepest roots in the sport of rodeo. This event began on ranches throughout the American West as early as the 1800s. Cowboys competed amongst each other to see who had the skill and style when riding untrained horses. While strength and skill are important in this event, many cowboys believe that saddle bronc riding is the toughest event to master because of the technical work behind it. Learn more about the riders behind ProRodeo’s toughest event with Parker Kempfer, the Southeastern Circuit Finals year-end saddle bronc champion!
Getting started in rodeo
Sitting on the back of the bucking chutes at the original Silver Spurs Arena nearly 20 years ago, Parker idolized the rough stock cowboys that came to compete. As he grew, his love and admiration for the sport grew too. Parker traveled with his dad, George, and Uncle Doug to several rodeos across the state hauling bucking bulls. Parker and his family have always been involved in the rodeo industry. Though his mom wouldn’t allow him to rodeo as a child, he eventually found his way as a champion saddle bronc rider.
The first bronc broke the plane of the chute when he was a senior in high school. Parker said, “My mom couldn’t tell me no anymore,” so he cinched up a borrowed saddle and nodded for the chute gate to open at a bronc riding school. Shortly after, he got on in Kenansville two days in a row. A retired Silver Spurs Rodeo bronc, “Little Man,” led him to ride in the Florida High School Rodeo Association and to eventually haul older Silver Spurs broncs to those events. He qualified for the National High School Rodeo finals that summer and was awarded a scholarship to Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas. After his freshman year, Parker transferred to Sam Houston State University for a better bronc riding opportunity. The move brought different practice broncs and more amateur rodeos to compete in.
Even when saddle bronc riding sparked an interest, Parker continued to play football exclusively to not let the team down if he were to get hurt. As a football player, you’re conditioned to acquire injuries, maintain a competitive attitude, and give it your best effort regardless of the situation. Though the technical aspects of the sports are different, preparing mentally and physically are the same.
Knowledge and confidence go hand in hand. The more you have, the better you will ride. Parker struggled with what worked best for qualified rides. After asking for some advice, making the switch to ride in a saddle one inch larger, and practicing on the spur board, his riding reflected his efforts to succeed.
Fulfilling gold buckle dreams
Earning a gold buckle, or any buckle for that matter is no easy task. It takes a wealth of time, travel, and determination before you can slip new hardware onto a belt. Throughout the year, you may be able to catch Parker competing at the Cheyenne Frontier Days, Pendleton Round-Up, San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo, and his hometown rodeo, Silver Spurs in Kissimmee, FL.
One of the most memorable rides as Parker made his way down the rodeo road started at the College National Finals Rodeo in Casper, Wyoming. He drew Happy Valley of Vold Rodeo Company during his junior year of college but got bucked off. In Prescott, Arizona, the chute gate opened for a second chance as Parker went head to head with Happy Valley. As the buzzer went off, Parker found himself still in the saddle. However, instead of celebrating a victory, the officials flagged him for failing to mark out. Even though he left with a no score, it was a turning point in his career. The confidence booster was just what he needed to have a successful summer run!
In January 2021, Parker headed south to Davie, Florida to compete at the Southeastern Circuit Finals. In the first round, he climbed down into the chute onboard Girl Crush, a mare hauled by 5 Star Rodeo. When the chute gate swung open, Girl Crush stalled before carrying Parker to 3rd place. Dakota Twist of Hi-Lo Pro Rodeo proved to be a handful in the second round, but a 77 was good enough for another 3rd place! Parker went 2-for-2 to earn the title as the Southeastern Circuit year-end saddle bronc champion and a qualification to the RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo on April 9 and 10!
What sets the RAM NCFR apart from the rest?
Upon completing the regional circuit finals, the event winner and year-end champion qualify for the RAM National Circuit Finals in Kissimmee at Osceola Heritage Park. The RAM National Circuit Finals Rodeo in Kissimmee is unique compared to other PRCA sanctioned rodeos because of the amount of money up for grabs. Contrary to other rodeos throughout the year, the cowboys and cowgirls competing at the RAM NCFR must qualify.
Contestants from across the United States can be seen competing in the seven traditional rodeo events: bareback riding, steer wrestling, team roping, saddle bronc riding, tie-down roping, barrel racing, and bull riding! Though most contestants come from all over the country to compete, the RAM NCFR is held in Kissimmee, Florida on the same plot of land Parker fell in love with the sport of rodeo. Will you be at the RAM NCFR at OHP to witness history in the making?