Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
OGDEN — Steven Anding isn't getting rich riding bucking horses. He's never been to the National Finals Rodeo and he's far from a rodeo celebrity.
In fact, the Texas resident relies on his job in telecommunications to pay his bills and support his young family.
But his passion for trying to stay on the back of a horse who would rather see him face down in the dirt runs so deep the 37-year-old is willing to spend most of his summer far from his Texas home.
"I look at it as my job because I take it serious," said the bareback rider who earned the highest score in the first night of competition at the Ogden Pioneer Days Rodeo on Thursday. "If you think of it as a hobby, you end up getting hurt."
He was in Nampa, Idaho, on Wednesday and Ogden on Thursday and he'll be traveling to another rodeo on Friday. It's a tough life, but one he's grateful to be living.
If he didn't love it, he couldn't continue to do one of the roughest sports there is.
"It's very demanding on the body," he said as he unwrapped the tape on his wrist and elbow. "There really is no exercise you can do to make you a better bareback rider. It takes a toll on your entire body."
Anding is having a fairly successful season this year and he hopes to ride bucking horses at least another year or two. As difficult as it is to handle the aches and pains that come with growing older, it is more gut-wrenching to hear his children cry for him when he calls home from the road.
"It's hard to call home when they're crying because they miss you," he said of his children ages 4, 2, and 1.
So what keeps him on the road — especially when he isn't winning?
"My passion for it," he said with a grin. "I like to go to battle with something. I'm not really competing against my peers, the other riders. We're just family out here. I just like to go to battle with a bucking horse."
Anding's story isn't unique as most of the cowboys competing in rodeos all across the West this month are not only doing what they love, they're trying to earn enough money to either make rent or make their National Finals Rodeo dreams come true.
For steer wrestler Chason Floyd, 23, the road isn't a lonely place. He doesn't have a wife and kids yet, so he's enjoying his first year as a professional rodeo cowboy.
"It's easy if I go broke, because I'm only taking myself out," he said with a laugh. "If I can stay healthy I would love to do it for a couple of years. Hopefully I can win enough to get by."
And by get by, he means pay for the cost of traveling with horses, which is more expensive than being a bull rider or a bronc rider. He works on his father's ranch in Ludlow, South Dakota, as well as working in the oil fields when he's not trying to drop a steer by jumping from the back of a sprinting horse.
"I like that I can do both," he said of ranching and competing in rodeo. "It's nice to go home to the ranch."
But a childhood dream lured him out onto the road full time this year.
"It's been a life-long dream to make the NFR," he said.
He said he gravitated to steer wrestling because he "got too big for bronc riding" and he happened to be pretty good. He earned the second fastest time of the night — 4 seconds. Dane Hanna led the event with 3.9 seconds.
"It's a mental game," he said. "You've got to believe in yourself."
He played football and basketball in high school but saw rodeo as a way to pay for college — and maybe a little more.
"I liked football, but I saw a future in rodeo," he said with another wide grin. "That was more within my reach than the NFL. But both sports require the same thing. You've go to be tough."
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