CLAREMORE, Okla. – The Etbauer name remains synonymous with saddle bronc riding, but it’s the next generation that is taking the game to the top of the leaderboard.
On May 27 during the first performance of the Will Rogers Stampede Pro Rodeo, 22-year-old Shade Etbauer rode Pete Carr’s Classic Pro Rodeo’s The Darkness for 85 points to take the early bronc riding lead. If the score holds up through the final two performances, it will mark the third straight year that cowboys have won Claremore’s rodeo on the black gelding.
“I knew Nat Stratton won it here on him last year, and Nat said he was really good,” said Etbauer, who also competed in tie-down roping Friday. “I remember watching him in Guymon (three weeks before) and just knew he was a really nice horse to ride and a fun horse to get on.”
He should know. His father, Robert, is a two-time world champion bronc rider; his uncle, Billy, owns five gold buckles in the discipline, while a third uncle, Dan, also has multiple qualifications to the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo.
More importantly, though, the Etbauers are cowboys one generation to the next. Robert, Billy and Dan may have made their names on the backs of bucking horses, but they were all-around talents growing up in South Dakota.
“Ever since we were little, we’ve done a whole mess of events,” Shade Etbauer said of his siblings, older sister, Chancy, and older brother, Trell. “We’ve done as many events as we could. Dad always said the more events you could do, the better of a cowboy it makes you. Just to be successful in more than one event at a rodeo is a lot of fun and teaches you a lot.”
That education is paying off. Shade Etbauer finished the 2015-16 National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association season as the Central Plains Region’s all-around champion.
“I just treat all rodeos the same,” he said. “I try to do the best I can and make the best out of it.
“I’ve been doing it ever since I started rodeoing. I do at least three to five events, so I’m used to it by now. It keeps the adrenaline running and keeps you on your toes.”
While his father and uncles focused on bronc riding in their professional careers and did very well at it, Etbauer prefers earning his living on multiple fronts. He’d like to earn his qualifications to the NFR the same way.
“I’d really like to make it in as many events as I can,” Etbauer said. “I really like calf roping and bronc riding, so I’d for sure like to make it in both of them. Those are the two I mainly focus on, but I wouldn’t mind making it in team roping, too.”
His career is still in the starting blocks, but Etbauer has a solid foundation to set him up for success. Trell Etbauer is a four-time winner of the Linderman Award, which showcases success in both timed events and roughstock events. Then there are the things he learned from the previous generation of Etbauers and their longtime traveling partner, Craig Latham.
“They’ve all been really good help,” Shade Etbauer said. “We’ve learned so much from them. I don’t know if I’d ever be as good as Dad or Billy or Danny or Craig, but I always look up to them. I’m glad I’m related to them.”