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Meet the Member Denton Ward
story by Ruth Nicolaus
As a kid, Denton Ward got to see a lot of rodeo life.
Alongside his brother, Dalton, the boys helped their dad, Billy Ward, a pickup man, with his horses at pro rodeos across the nation. They’d saddle and unsaddle horses, warm them up, cool them down, grain and feed. And wherever their dad was, they’d tag along, helping with whatever he was doing: sorting cattle, chasing cattle out of the arena during slack, and more.
Now, as a Colorado Pro Rodeo Association member, Denton competes in the saddle bronc riding.
A native of La Grange, Wyo., he is a December 2020 graduate of Oklahoma Panhandle State University in Goodwell, with a major in ag business.
It was rodeo greats Dan Etbauer and Lewis Feild who gave “permission” for Denton to get on his first bronc. The men insisted he must wait till he was sixteen years old, and if he didn’t, “I’d end up breaking an egg and they’d never help me again,” Denton remembered.
His first few broncs didn’t go well. “I just did not get along with it,” he said. “I tried to get murdered more times than it seemed, and it was not as fun as I was expecting it to be. I decided maybe this wasn’t for me.” That could have been the end of his rodeo career, but at a ranch rodeo, his brother entered him and talked him into getting on the bronc. That trip was better, with Denton thinking, “Boy, that’s kind of fun.” He was a student at Laramie County Community College in Cheyenne, Wyo. at the time, so he joined the rodeo team.
Then Robert Etbauer, a coach at Panhandle State, got wind that Denton was getting on broncs. So he and Dan convinced him to come to Oklahoma, and Denton did.
Saddle bronc riding got better for him. “It took me a long time to really start enjoying it,” he said. “It was more of a frustration that I couldn’t figure out how to do it. That drove me to get better, and once I got better, it started to be more fun and kept pulling me back.”
Riding saddle broncs isn’t easy. “There are so many things you have to do and think about, but you can’t think about too many things because you’ll stub your toe and get bucked off.”
Denton is beyond the “stub your toe” phase in bronc riding; since he bought his CPRA membership four years ago, he’s won the year-end title three times (2018-2020).
He also is a Wyoming Rodeo Association member and won the WRA year-end title in 2019.
In 2019, he bought his PRCA permit. Rodeo was tough last year, with fewer events due to the pandemic. The pro rodeos were stuffed with talent. “There was no way of sneaking off and competing against a few guys. If you got to go, you were playing with the best in the world,” Denton said.
Now that he’s graduated from college, he and fiancée Kacey Clark ride and train horses. They take in a lot of outside horses and work with a ranch near Laramie, riding horses for them.
Currently, he and Kacey plan on staying in Goodwell, although that’s subject to change. Being near the college is an advantage, Denton said. He can practice with the college kids and benefit from the knowledge of Dan Etbauer and his brothers. “The Etbauers have taught me more stuff than I thought was possible,” he said.
His fiancée, Kacey, is a breakaway roper in the CPRA and the WPRA.